Green Dragon leads Volvo across equator

Ben Costello mends a sail onboard Team Russia, leg 1 Volvo Ocean Race

One by one, the eight boats racing in leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race popped out the other side of the Doldrums and hooked into the south-easterly trade winds. In a drag race south, the fleet is steadily clicking off the miles towards Fernando de Noronha, around 253 nautical miles ahead of Ian Walker’s Green Dragon and the chance to score more points.

After the painful drifting of the Doldrums, when the fleet all but came to a standstill, now onboard everyone is interested in the position reports and the universal question is: ‘Do we still have a chance?’ And, everyone is watching the Dragons, as they continue to hang onto their lead.

'There is full traffic by the nav station. Now everyone wants to have a look at the computers to see how the others are doing’, writes Gustav Morin MCM onboard Ericsson 3 (Anders Lewander/SWE).

Gone is the languishing on deck, searching for shade. Today the crews are reaching for their wet weather gear as speeds pick up again to around 12 knots. 'It looks like we are back to normal sailing then,' said the crew of third placed Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA).

Out to the west, Green Dragon is sailing fast and straight for the islands, reaping the rewards of the westerly position the team opted for, four days ago. Bouwe Bekking/NED in charge of Telefónica Blue observed, 'We all know by now that the west paid off hugely, but probably the best route has been by Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP). They will make some good gains on the leaders in the next 36 hours,' he said. And Bekking is right. Telefónica Black is now only 64 nm from Green Dragon.

'Life goes on as usual, except for the use of oilskins on deck, it is not very comfortable as you approach the Equator, but you can not have everything,' says Mikel Pasabant, the MCM. 'We have caught up with the fleet in front of us, and split a little bit more with the boats behind, as we have been the quickest boat since the last position report. GO BLACKIES GO,' he adds enthusiastically.

For EDITORIAL USE only, please credit: Mikel Pasabant/Equipo Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race The crew of Telefonica Black change sails, on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race The Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 will be the 10th running of this ocean marathon. Starting from Alicante in Spain, on 4 October 2008, it will, for the first time, take in Cochin, India, Singapore and Qingdao, China before finishing in St Petersburg, Russia for the first time in the history of the race. Spanning some 37,000 nautical
Although pleased about the success of their team mates, the Telefónica Blue team is disappointed about their own position. 'Of course we are not happy. We would have liked to be more west, but missed the boat, literally, when we parked up,' Bekking said.

From onboard seventh-placed Team Russia (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT), Telefónica Blue’s situation looks rather enviable. 'During the Doldrums we lost an awful amount of miles to our opponents. The worst example is Telefónica Blue who was 140 miles behind us and now is ahead. That should not be possible. Even Green Dragon was very far behind and now they are in the lead,' said Gustav Morin.

'It looks like they [Green Dragon] picked the winning side this time,' says Ger O’Rourke/IRL, skipper of Delta Lloyd who opted for the easterly side of the course and is 223 nm out of touch. Earlier today his team had a near miss with a 200 mtre ship who decided that power must not give way to sail. 'The watch-leader miscalculated our crossing, called for permission to cross, but the master of the 200m ship held his ground and speeded up, eventually passing us an embarrassing half a mile ahead. It was the source of much amusement,' O’Rourke added.

After 12 days at sea, as the sweat ran off the crews in the scorching heat, there has been time for reflection, especially among those who have dreamed about competing in this race, and have followed the progress of their heroes during previous races. 'Is it what I expected?' Nick Bubb, a trimmer with Team Russia asks himself? 'Every bit and more,' he said.

'It still feels a little surreal for me to be out here as a competitor. So many of my idols have cut their teeth on this race track and I’m ‘stoked’ to be given my chance,' he said. 'Each time I go offshore I am struck by how simplistic life can be. No ‘phone calls or emails, no day-to-day hassles. Just four hours on and four hours off.' For 6,500 nautical miles.

At the 13:00 GMT position report today, average boat speed for the hour preceding the report was up to around 12 knots with Telefónica Blue and Ericsson 3 both averaging 12.8 knots. The positions in the fleet have remained stable for 24 hours, and Green Dragon has clocked the highest 24-hour run of 254 nm. The team has 253 nm to run until she reaches Fernando de Noronha, which will take them about 24 hours if they maintain the current speeds.

Volvo Ocean Race - Leg One Day 12: 1300 GMT Positions

1 Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) DTF 3612
2 PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +30
3 Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +33
4 Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) +64
5 Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +138
6 Ericsson 3 SWE (Anders Lewander/SWE) +183
7 Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) +205
8 Delta Lloyd IRL (Ger O'Rourke/IRL) +223