Volume 14, Issue 14 ~ April 6 - April 12, 2006

Riding with the Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo 70 racers speed our way

by Kat Bennett

Fast squalls and sudden calms add to the excitement as the seven Volvo 70 racers hopscotch past each other to reach the first scoring point at Brazil’s Fernando de Noronha Archipelago just below the equator. With only eight accumulated points separating second place from fifth, stakes are high in the 5,000 nautical miles of Leg 5 of the Volvo Round the World Ocean Race.

Finding good wind is critical.

“End up on the wrong side and all of a sudden you are sitting in no breeze, pointing in a direction you really don’t want to go with torrential rain filling your boots as you try and get the boat going again,” writes Simon Fisher of ABN AMRO TWO.

Knocked back at this leg’s start by a broken halyard, ABN AMRO ONE made a quick fix and promptly stole the lead. Resplendent in yellow jerseys from the children of Brazil, Pirates of the Caribbean suddenly slowed when a large stick caught in the rudder, foreshadowing potential problems with the Chesapeake’s crab pots. Movistar also had to work to remove entangling debris while Capt. Bouwe Bekking battled a raging headache after a nasty blow from the boom.

Instead of high waves and freezing winds, heat will be a major problem for the sailors now.

“This leg can be very hot and sticky and at times unbearable,” says Ericsson skipper John Kostecki, of the United States. “When I sailed this leg eight years ago, many of the crew had skin problems and I got infections in my legs. You have to be very careful with hygiene and make sure you stay healthy.”

After crossing the equator, the next scoring gate lies at the entrance to the Chesapeake. Racers collect their leg points after racing up the Bay to Baltimore. Local sailors will be paying close attention as the racers enter Chesapeake Bay. The final approach to Baltimore will be a hard-fought obstacle course of crab pots, fish traps, commercial shipping, naval warships and recreational traffic complicated by fickle winds and tricky currents. Follow the Volvo Ocean Race at www.volvooceanrace.org.

Anticipated arrival of the racers is between April 17 and 20.

Back in Maryland, tickets and reservations are flying as fast as the Volvo 70 Ocean race boats as local residents sign up early for a bevy of concerts, dinners and local events. Read about them next week.

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