2008 - 09 Volvo Ocean Race
- Life at the Extreme
AY Malacca Straits Updates

VOR 08 Malacca Strait Photo GalleryBrowse the VOR 08 Photos taken off Port Dickson on Monday 22nd morning Click Here

Telefonica Blue keep there heads to triumph on Leg 3
Monday, 22 December 2008 22:51:22 Asian Time

VOR 08 Malacca Strait Photo GalleryTelefonica Blue won leg three but close behind, PUMA has grabbed second place, while the Nordic crew on board Ericsson 3 pushed their stable mates and overall race leader, Ericsson 4 into fourth place for the leg. It was among the closest leg finishes in the race history, with the top four boats finishing within 20 minutes following nearly 10 days of racing. Bouwe Bekking from the finish line: "A very happy bunch here on Telefonic Blue. We kept our heads cool today, and as predicted it wasn't over until close to the finish. We had all the excitement in the last 50 miles, dodging fishing nets, zig-zagging around tugboats, hundreds of commercial ships, and then the wind which was ranging from 20 knots to nearly zero. A real test for all the guys minds, as our nice advantage over the others nearly vanished, but we pulled it off and all the guys did a marvelous job. A better Xmas present we couldn't have wished for."

Footnote: If they thought Leg 3 was difficult going upwind in the Indian Ocean on a V70, then after 2500 NM directly into the teeth of strong NE tradewinds on the next leg, I think the call will be made to go back to the more sedate Southern Ocean next time.

VOR08 - AY Malacca Straits Photo GalleryGhosting down the Malacca Straits...
Monday, 22 December 2008 12:00 Asian Time
Overnight the yachts painfully made there way down past the entrance to Port Klang and by dawn had only covered around 50 nm to be abeam of Port Dickson. A little over sleeping and we nearly missed the battling quartet but managed to catch them as they rounded the infamous Cape Richardo or Tanjong Tuan as it is now known. Only cats paws of breeze could be seen on the water and an unfavorable tide was making progress difficult. First boat we came up to was Ken Read's PUMA that could not stem the current and had wisely anchored. Less than a couple hundred meters in front was Torben Grael's Ericsson 4 that was also anchored and awaiting another puff of wind. Further out to sea the large Code 0's on Anders Lewander's Ericsson 3 and Bouwe Bekking's Telefónica Blue where full and drawing the boats along to what seemed a jump on the others.

VOR 08 Malacca Strait Photo GalleryBut things can change very quickly in the Malacca Straits and as we made our way back to the other boats they had picked up a coastal zephyr and were making there way along in the shallow inshore waters. Don't know whether it was the early morning call or the frustration of stop starting the boat all night but the crews didn't seem to be in the mood for a hearty welcome to the Malacca Straits. If anything they will get a good look at every nook and cranny of the west Malaysian coastline. As we left them to there concentration and hard work we noticed a sail on the horizon well out to sea which turned out to be Fernando Echávarri's Telefónica Black making the most gains to be only seven miles behind the leaders at this point. As the conditions are expected to remain the same over the last 100 nm before the Singapore finish we can expect the lead to see saw between the four leaders and it may well come down to who gets the last puff to be victorious on this grueling Leg 3. Andreas Hanakamp's Kosatka Team Russia must have won the Pt Klang lottery to come within three miles of Ian Walker's Green Dragon but as the sea breeze kicks in, it will take a miracle for either these two boats to catch the leaders.

Browse the VOR 08 Photos taken off Port Dickson early Monday morning Click Here

The Luck of the Draw in the Malacca Straits...
Sunday, 21 December 2008 24:00 Asian Time
The inevitable has happened by 18:00 today, it was all change again and Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) snatched back the lead. Ericsson 3 (Anders Lewander/SWE) had moved into second place, just a mile behind and PUMA (Ken Read/USA) had clawed her way up to third, just four miles astern. Former leader Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA) had slipped to fourth, as the chasing pack takes it in turn to apply the pressure. The fleet is sailing up the Malaysian side of the shipping lane in the Malacca Strait. Closest to the shoreline is PUMA with Telefónica Blue and Ericsson 3 side by side. Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) and Ericsson 4 opted for the outside lane, but both teams have now tacked back towards the shore, Green Dragon taking a hit in doing so and letting Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) slip ahead. Kosatka Team Russia (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) is now also heading for the shore, but 60 miles further back.

As they approach One Fathom Bank the beginning of the traffic separation zone all the teams have activated their AIS system, which is mandatory when traveling in the Malacca Straits. This device sends the direction and speed of each racing yacht to all commercial shipping within a 20 nautical mile radius and for safety reasons are tracked by the Malaysian Marine Department for the entire length and breadth of the Straits. The wind has once again deserted them as the leading quartet could only manage less than five miles over the three hours coming up to midnight. They are coming up to the infamous Angsa Bank which has claimed many vessels over the years as it serves as a divider for ships entering Pt Klang or going on down the straits proper. The saving grace at the moment is that it is neap tides presently and only 1.3 meters between the rise and fall which should not produce to much current but in the present no wind circumstances maybe the only form of movement possible in the right direction. Everything has been postponed till Monday morning before the Port Dickson sailpast is likely to take place.

Closing in on the leaders
Sunday 21 December, 2008 12:30 Asian time

As we wait in great anticipation of the Volvo fleet to perform there sail past Port Dickson the leading boat Torben Grael’s Ericsson 4 could only manage a little over twelve miles between the 0900 and 1200 position reports. Ask any sailor that has been caught offshore from the Pangkor Islands after dawn on the first leg of the annual Raja Muda Regatta what it is like. Complete glass out! Telefonica Blue, Ericsson 3 and PUMA are within a mile of each other and have made a bee line for the shore for wind. Thereby halving the distance to the leader down to approximately twenty miles. Telefonica Black also found the offshore parking lot while Green Dragon and Team Russia are making good progress down the middle as they are still in the last of the NE tradewinds and can't be written of yet. The limping Delta Lloyd is 219 nm behind the leader favouring the Indonesian side of the Strait and expects to be able to sail all the way to Singapore. They have not retired from the race and depending on the conditions could also pose a problem despite the keel damage.

We were hoping for late this afternoon but with this sort of progress could be well into the night or even tomorrow morning.

What you see is what you get...
Sunday 21 December, 2008 00:30 Asian time
Ericsson 4 has stretched her lead as the fleet grapples with all the obstacles the Malacca Strait can throw at it – traffic jams, parking lots, fishing nets, strong currents, submerged debris and the threat of piracy. Even weather reports in these parts are unreliable and it is a case of 'What you see is what you get'.
By the midnight Position Report, Torben Grael’s men held a 42-mile advantage over their long-term adversary Telefonica Blue who in turn is involved in an arm wrestle with PUMA (+43) and Ericsson 3 (+46), who have dropped three places in as many hours, for the podium places. Telefonica Black (+73), meanwhile is handily positioned in fifth place and seeking to catch PUMA and co napping.

Green Dragon (+82) and Team Russia (+110) are also looking to make the most of the fickle conditions on the home straight. Meanwhile at the back, Delta Lloyd, hampered by a crippled port side hydraulic ram and with their keel centred as a result, crossed the scoring waypoint at Pulau We at 12:35 GMT today and are 227 miles off the pace of E4. Like their counterparts, Singapore can’t come soon enough for Roberto ‘Chuny’ Bermudez and his men. Speeds for the leading bunch are averaging between 11-13 knots and, based on current progress, computer routeing software is predicting a finish for the leading pack on Monday late afternoon GMT.

’This is by far the longest I have ever been sailing upwind’ This part of the world is one of the busiest commercial shipping routes. It is also littered with partially submerged objects, tree trunks among them. With the finish line in Singapore still 317 miles away, the strain of relentlessly pounding upwind on this 1,950 mile mental endurance test from Cochin is starting to show. We expect the leading yachts to pass Port Dickson late Sunday afternoon but could be delayed even further if the fickle conditions continue.

Welcome to the Malacca Straits lottery
Saturday 20 December, 2008 04:30 GMT
Overnight, the bulk of the fleet has passed the scoring waypoint and collected the valuable points on offer there. Last night Ericsson 4 led Telefonica Blue through the gate as the top two teams on the points leaderboard consolidated their position further. But behind, several battles were shaping up. The fight for third between Ericsson 3 and PUMA was the closest battle on the water, and Anders Lewander's team just managed to fight off Kenny Read's il mostro to collect third place. Ericsson 3 was able to hold off PUMA at the scoring gate by just 20 minutes, but subsequently, Read and co. have made the pass and currently hold third place on the leaderboard.

A close tussle was brewing for fifth place as well with Green Dragon making a late charge to overtake Telefonica Black. But in the end, Telefonica Black was able to hold on, pushing the Irish-Chinese entry down to sixth place. Behind, Team Russia didn't benefit as much as they hoped from their northern routing. They too had to tack for the gate, although for much less time than the others, but the net result is no real gain on the leaders. Kosatka crossed the gate at 00:40 GMT this morning, in seventh place, to collect one point.

The forecast for the Strait is for lighter, shiftier conditions and the proximity to land is expected to have a large influence over the local conditions for the rest of the leg. As they get deeper into the Straits were it is considerably narrower and return to the doldrum latitudes many of the teams are expecting a compression of the fleet before the finish, giving more opportunities to the back markers ahead of the finish. Initial estimates were to finish by the 23rd Dec and the leading yachts were expected to pass Port Dickson sometime on Sunday 21st but could be delayed if the fickle conditions continue.

Slogging it out for the lead
Friday, 19 December, 2008 05:00 GMT
With the situation on board Delta Lloyd stabilised following the dramatic accounts of damage to one of the keel rams yesterday (See Late Breaking News), attention again shifts back to the race course.

The leaders are less than 100 miles from the scoring gate, which runs directly north from Palau We. The battle for top honours at the gate is still between Ericsson 4 and Telefonica Blue, but overnight Torben Grael's Ericsson crew grabbed top spot when Bouwe Bekking's men threw in a tack to the north. Telefonica Blue was always going to need to get north to lay the gate and at shortly before 19:00 GMT yesterday, the team made its move. On their current headings, neither team appears as if they will lay the gate. The northerly leverage that Ericsson 4 enjoys will likely be converted into an additional lead if both boats need to tack to make the gate.

The leaders may have to keep a close eye on Andreas Hanakamp's Team Russia from pulling off a big surprise. Although trailing 85nm behind the leaders on the 2D tracking, their most northerly position, present heading and favourable wind angle may well bring them directly into the treacherous Malacca Straits in one shot. If the leaders are forced to tack for the gate and depending on how the hard chasing pack handle the strong currents and notoriously rough seas on their approaches to the passage between Northern Sumatra and the Great Nicobar Islands we may have a new leader by the time they enter the Malacca Straits proper.

Based on current performance and predicted conditions, the ETA for the leaders to finish in Singapore is in the early hours of the morning on the 23rd of December (GMT). We are expecting the boats to be approaching PT Dickson anytime from Saturday night and beyond.

Now a few reports from the skippers about sailing in Asian waters.

Dec. 18, 2008; Day 6 - PUMA skipper Ken Read is less than enamored by the new route for the Volvo Ocean Race. Said Ken, "Bringing these boats here for this leg is like using a Ferrari for a Tractor Pull." Slogging upwind, tacking on every shift for days. In fact, for one 24-hour period we had 51 squalls come through bringing rain, shift, no shift, wind, no wind etc. You get my drift. Mix in the heat and humidity and you have a real glamorous sailing spot at this moment in time.”

Green Dragon skipper Ian Walker was less kind, "Going upwind in a Volvo 70 sucks. I am beginning to question the merits of the new route through Asia if so much of it is upwind. The first problem is that these boats don't point very high so it takes forever to get anywhere truly upwind. The second is that the hulls have so little rocker and are so flat that they slam on every wave. The third is, of course, that the boats are so powerful that in any wind, the waves make life so uncomfortable come thick and fast. The next leg to China will be a nightmare."

As Leg 4 from Singapore to Qingdao, China is 2500 NM directly into the teeth of strong NE tradewinds, Volvo might yet rue the day they decided to come to Asia at this time of the year! Ask any of the near mutinous Clipper Race crew members when they finally arrived during the depths of winter at Qingdao's Olympic Sailing Center last year!

Late Breaking News
Friday, 19 December, 2008
AY Malacca Straits Updates Delta Lloyd, trailing the rest of the fleet for much of this third leg from Cochin to Singapore, are limping gingerly along at 9 knots towards the Malacca Straits after they were dealt a savage blow when they broke a hydraulic ram on their canting keel mechanism. They have implemented a temporary fix to center the keel using the starboard ram and the shore team is making plans for a repair in Singapore in time for the in-port race on 10 January. Perhaps if they can't make the distance consideration should be given to refueling in Indonesia if needed then pulling into Langkawi were all the lifting and repair facilities are the closest available once into the Malacca Straits.

Late Breaking News...
Friday, 18 December, 2008 05:00 GMT
At 7:30 this evening, Delta Lloyd (Roberto Bermudez/ESP) were sailing upwind in 20 knots of wind - pounding away in a short steep sea state with our J1 headsail and a reef in the main. All of a sudden, there was a massive breaking sound from inside the boat.
One of the hydraulic rams, that cants the keel from side to side, had ripped off the bulkhead that connects it to the boat. Immediately we put our safety plan into place. Everyone is safe and after consultations with the designer it was determined that we could continue to sail, with our keel locked in the centre position by using the starboard hydraulic ram. "Right now, we are sailing with our little J4 headsail and a reef in the main towards the northern tip of Indonesia, which also happens to be the location of the scoring gate. Using the sails to heel the boat helps to reduce the slamming loads on the hull. We are making decent headway at about nine knots of boat speed. Over the next two days, we will work with our shore team to figure out how we are going to get to Singapore.

Leg 3 Day Six wares on
18.12.08 1050 GMT

After browsing the extensive Volvo photo gallery, I couldn't help but make comparisons with the huge Code 0 headsails the yachts are carrying these days and the massive traditional Arab Dhow sails (See photos) used to propel them across the very same waters centuries ago. Arab trading ships were first to ply Asian waters and as they possessed the best sea going qualities there design was embraced by South East Asian boat builders and can still be seen working commercially in neighboring Indonesian waterways. Unlike the racers of today, the ancient traders used the monsoon seasons to their advantage. Crossing from India and Ceylon (Now Sri Lanka) with the SW tradewind (May - Oct) through the Malacca Straits and up to China, then returning when the NE tradewinds (Dec - April) reappeared and blew them all the way back home.

Unfortunately these high tech boats with professional crews don't have time to hang around and smell the flowers, they are hell bent on getting to Singapore as quickly as possible and will use every puff of wind to there advantage in achieving the desired results. It takes a special sort of person to possess all the sailing abilities needed to drive the boat on mercilessly and can live for weeks on end, usually in smelly, wet, cold and unbearable conditions, surviving on freeze dry food rations along with twelve other demented crew members with an iron resolution on winning the race. Welcome to the Volvo Ocean Race...

Meanwhile back on the race course Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA) is breathing down the neck of Telefónica Blue and has closed the deficit to just seven nautical miles. Whether Ericsson 4 will beat the blue boat to the scoring gate can only be determined by the wind Gods. In third position today, in a race that has seen the teams slide up and down the leaderboard on almost an hourly basis, is Ericsson 3 (Anders Lewander/SWE), just 28 nm behind the leader. Two miles behind her is PUMA (Ken Read/USA), who has found her way back in touch. PUMA has Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) two miles behind and Ericsson 3 to weather with both boats in sight. They at least have a good buffer over Team Russia (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) and Delta Lloyd (Roberto Bermudez/ESP), both of whom have a delta of over a 100 nm from the leader. This leg has been a big test of patience for the crews. An upwind slog for most of the leg, the ride is bumpy and unpleasant at best. The eight-strong fleet is currently pounding upwind in 20 knots of wind against a sometimes very nasty seaway, with a little over 850 nm to go to the finish for the leaders. Speeds are averaging around 12 knots. The next stage of this leg will see the fleet negotiate one of the busiest areas for shipping in the world. The Malacca Strait is the 500 nm channel between Sumatra (Indonesia) to the south and Malaysia to the north, which, at its narrowest point, is only 1.5 nm wide. There are, reportedly, masses of fishing boats, some of which may be unlit, all with fishing lines or nets. “Let the fun begin,” says Kenny Read, skipper of PUMA, when he thinks about this next challenge.

Drag Race to the Scoring Gate
Thursday, 18 December, 2008 05:30 GMT

Each team in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet has put its money on the table and lined up for the drag race to the scoring gate at Palau We, just under 400 miles away. Telefonica Blue, with 380 miles to the gate (at 04:00 GMT) is in the pole position with Ericsson 4 positioned 34 miles to the north, but just 18 miles back on distance to finish. Between the two on the north/south axis are Ericsson 3, PUMA, Telefonica Black and Green Dragon. Less than 20 miles separate these four boats so there are plenty of points at stake here, both at the scoring gate and at the leg finish. Conditions have stabilised with the entire fleet sailing in a moderate northeasterly of close to 20 knots. That puts the boats hard on the wind on port tack. If Telefonica Blue is vulnerable anywhere it is here. Have they set up short of the layline to the scoring gate? On the 2D tracker, Ericsson 4 looks safe to lay the gate, but Telefonica Blue may need a slight left shift to clear the point. If they have to tack, that could provide the opening Torben Grael needs to grab the lead. Behind the Dragons, Delta Lloyd and Team Russia are fighting to avoid last place. Team Russia is ahead by 12 miles on distance to finish, but Delta Lloyd navigator Matt Gregory likes where he's positioned but admits that they will have there work cut out for them. In the mean time it's going to be a long slug- fest of upwind sailing for the next couple days. Oh joy!

At current speeds, the scoring gate is about 30 hours away, and there's nothing in the forecast to suggest the boats will slow down much in that time. So by noon tomorrow GMT, we should know whether Telefonica Blue has been able to take a scalp off Ericsson 4 and become the first boat through the gate and into the Malacca Strait.

Life at the Extreme
17 December 2008
After battling adverse currents up to 3 and 4 Knots around the bottom of Sri Lanka the fleet are desperately trying to make their way across the Northern reaches of the Indian Ocean to Sumatra's north west tip. Unfortunately this time of the year the North East monsoon season is just taking shape and the infamous doldrums area extends up to 6-7 degrees North. Bouwe Bekking's Telefónica Blue team didn’t have a real opportunity to tack to the north along with the other boats, so they have sailed straight on into what seemed to be an area of light weather and scattered storms. Only to come out the other side with a favorable wind shift to the East and lead the northerly pack to windward by over 40 nautical miles. "We stuck to our guns and believe what we see on the weather charts.” is Bekking's spritly explanation. The Southern parts of the Indian Ocean has claimed a lot of scalps in recent days during the Vendee Globe solo race mainly between South Africa and Australia but this vast and notoriously dangerous Ocean is known for its inconsistency and can also dish up some surprises. Do something "against all odds" and it may reward you, but most of all get into the rhythm of Asian life by embracing patience and persistence especially in the balmy tropical regions.

Today has been described as a day of snakes and ladders for the fleet as they continue to move north in search of stronger wind and away from the adverse currents to the south. Approaching the half way mark across the Indian Ocean, the upwind conditions towards the scoring gate will continue to remain challenging and with the increased possibility of squalls, the remaining passage through the often fickle Malacca Straits and strong tidal currents to Singapore is likely to be slow and frustrating. Christmas at sea still looks a possibility for much of the fleet and if they are still milling around on Boxing Day could be in time for the annual AY Barbeque at PD World Marina.

AsianYachting Ventures Sdn. Bhd. (Co. No. 627106-T)
A 308 PD Perdana Condo Resort, Jln Pantai, 71050, Pt Dickson, Malaysia
Tel: 6 06 6477701 Email: info@asianyachting.com

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