NÄSTA

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

Maj 24, 2009 @ 15:57:48   Foto Dave Kneale / Volvo Ocean Race Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

Fernando Echavarri's Telefonica Black team was sixth into Galway

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An amazing end to an amazing leg.


Such was the incredible tightness of the fleet in the seven days it took the yachts to travel 2,550 miles from Boston to Galway, just five hours and four minutes separated first from last.

More pertinently, each of the final three boats to finish leg seven held the lead at some point or other and could have finished higher than they ultimately did but for a string of sorry tales.

For Delta Lloyd it was the A6 that tore when they were among the front runners, leaving them reeling in the aftermath and "only" taking fifth for their troubles. For sixth-placed Telefonica Black, the leaders after four days, it was the familiar foe of poor downwind performance in heavy weather. And Ericsson 3? They hit a whale two days in and lost an estimated 10% of their speed over the remainder of the race. They took seventh and it was obvious that a team accustomed to offshore success was not entirely overjoyed.

"We've been doing really well and this leg looked good for us," explained navigator Aksel Magdahl, whose team took second in the last leg and first on leg five. "The conditions would have been right for our boat to do well. But we were unfortunate."

The Nordic crew had been part of the leading group heading towards the scoring gate when it all went wrong.

"It was very thick fog, hard to see more than 20 metres in front of the boat," Magdahl added. "We saw one whale and took some evasive action to avoid that and then hit the next one. I was in a bunk and flew all the way to the next one. It was a hard hit; I thought we had hit a rock or ice or something."

It left the team with a broken daggerboard - which they replaced - but also damage to the keel fin fairings.

"It had different effects in different conditions." He said. "We were able to sail between 88% and 92% so on average we were probably about 10% down. It's surprising that we managed to stick on the end like we did."

Skipper Magnus Olsson, whose team are fourth overall, insisted his men would bounce back.

"We are a little disappointed with the result, but that's life," he said. "We are going to have a big comeback, don't worry. I think we sailed almost the best we have done because we are learning all the time. If we continue to do this there is a big future for us."

The future is also looking good for Delta Lloyd. It is a measure of how far they have come that fifth place was considered disappointing, despite it being their best offshore result so far.

Part of the frustration was derived from their promise during the leg. They led the fleet on Thursday, but then lost their A6 and struggled.

"We were sailing really well so we were quite confident for a top three finish, so I guess we are a bit disappointed," said watch leader Stu Wilson. "We broke a sail two or three mornings ago so we were on the wrong sail for a while and we fell off the boil a bit. When we were getting that repaired we got a bit behind. One small thing can do that. But everyone probably broke a sail this leg. It's just something we have to get better as a crew in dealing with.

"But we sailed well. It was good so we are pretty happy."

The mood in the Black camp also carried a hint of frustration. Fernando Echavarri's crew had led the fleet as they passed beyond the ice exclusion zone on Wednesday, but their notorious issues when running in heavy air resurfaced.

Navigator Roger Nilson said they were "demolished", but Echavarri remained upbeat. "It was an exciting leg," he said. "We performed quite well. In the first half we were very comfortable with the boat and we did well. But we knew it was going to be really hard downwind.

"At the end we were really close to passing Delta Lloyd, but we could not. It was a very exciting racing, very close."



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