High spirits as fleet rattles south on Volvo Day 8

Jeremy Elliott below decks on Team Russia’s Kosatka, fixing the A4 kite. Mark Covell/Team Russia

After last night’s evacuation of Tony Mutter from Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA), the eight-strong fleet racing in leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race is rattling south towards the Doldrums at 15+ knots.

Anders Lewander/SWE is making sure that his boat, Ericsson 3, currently in second place, is attached to the leading team, PUMA (Ken Read/USA) by a piece of elastic. Wherever PUMA goes, Ericsson 3 is sure to follow. It’s working because the team has been consistently near the top of the leader board for the whole week, except for two-day blip on days three and four, when they were leading the field and started slipping backwards with an adverse current. 'A feeling of frustration that I hope we will not need to experience again,' says Gustav Morin (MCM).

Ericsson 4 dropped to third yesterday when they made a quick detour to the Cape Verde islands to drop off New Zealander Tony Mutter who had an infected knee. The team now continues this leg with a man down.

Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) is storming up through the fleet from their westerly position and navigator, Ian Moore/IRL, is smiling at last. According to Moore, the team has paid a high price to be the most westerly boat in the fleet and the crew have been gybing the boat almost as if it were an inshore race.

'I guess we will know in the next 24 hours if our strategy pays off,' wrote Moore last night. 'If not the boys will be dark.' Every time the call comes to gybe or tack the boat, the whole crew has to be on deck, including those who are off watch and asleep. The stack of sails and gear below has to be moved to the new windward side and the off-watch crew misses sleep too. 'You forget how a simple tack or gybe is actually the most gruelling manoeuvre we have to do,' says Moore.

Today Green Dragon’s risk is looking like it will pay off as the team claws back the miles, moving from sixth position on day seven at around 1800 GMT to fourth place this morning. They are now 80nm behind PUMA, but Delta Lloyd (Ger O’Rourke/IRL) is only nine miles behind. Team Russia (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) has also dropped a place in the last 24 hours, but is still in touch with Delta Lloyd, just four miles behind her.

Michael Joubert takes a picture of Team Russia’s Kosatka, from up the mast on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Michael Joubert/Team Russia
At the back of the fleet, fortunes for the two Spanish boats are beginning to turn. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) in seventh position this afternoon, has dared to fly their repaired spinnaker. 'For the first time, we are back up to our potential numbers, making us all smile,' wrote Bekking in the early hours of this morning. 'We are crossing our fingers that the repair will last,' he said.

Life is looking better onboard the black Spanish boat (eighth place) too. The crew of Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri) are now sailing like demons after their disastrous move west earlier in the week, but they are still 155 nm behind the leader.

As the fleet sets up for a complex Doldrums crossing, conditions are becoming hot and steamy down below, making sleep harder and tiredness is having its effect, although, according to Bekking it is not a good excuse as all the other teams have to struggle with the minimum amount of sleep. To combat this on Telefónica Blue, the crew has changed their watch system, and taken their navigator, Simon Fisher/GBR, out of it completely.

Heat means nearing the Equator, and skipper of Green Dragon, Ian Walker, has not crossed it before. He is not looking forward to the inevitable visit from King Neptune. 'I am more worried about this right now than any sched (position report),' he says.

In the hour preceding the 1300 GMT position report, it was Telefonica Black who had averaged the highest boat speed of 19.5 knots. The Spanish team also claimed the highest 24-hour run of 365nm.

Joao Signorini helming Ericsson 4 on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Guy Salter/Ericsson 4
Leg One Day 8: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to leader)

PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) 5056 DTF
Ericsson 3 SWE (Anders Lewander/SWE) +4
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +56
Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) +80
Delta Lloyd IRL (Ger O'Rourke/IRL) +89
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) +93
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +146
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) +155