April 27, 2009 @ 21:07:34   Foto Dave Kneale / Rick Tomlinson - Volvo Ocean Race

Telefonica Black on final approach to Boston

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They may have crossed the leg six finish line in fifth, but when it came to providing drama Telefonica Black blew their rivals out of the water.

Their trip began with an evacuation, Michael Pammenter needing hospital treatment for an injured ankle within two hours of the start, and it concluded with them overtaking Delta Lloyd within 40 miles of the finish.

But it’s what happened in between – specifically, on April 19 – that dominated discussion on the dock when they arrived early this morning.

The team, having rounded the scoring gate in fifth, had tight-reached their way to third on the back of a superb run of scheds. Then, as they were sailing over 500 miles off the city Cayenne, in French Guyana, “it all went quite awful,” as Roger Nilson recounted today.

“We were third and felt we were on the pace,” he said. “We got this stupid idea to put the A5 up, but we didn’t look at the radar. There was a squall, we got the sail up and it turned out to be the wrong call. That’s no big deal, you just take it down and put the J1 back up again.

“But the problem was that in this sequence we broke the sheet of the A5 and also had a problem with the halyard. This probably cost about four miles. We got going again and at about 0320 GMT we hit a whale.

"The whole boat just span around and it was scary. It was a hard impact. We thought it must be the keel or hull or rudder or something. We slowed the boat down and checked everything. That cost maybe four or five miles, I don’t know.

“We continued and then two hours later ‘bang’ the bullet that holds the jib halyard broke and down came the jib. We had to go downwind and put David (Vera) up the mast to sort it out.” The same thing happened a further two times in the next few hours. “A very bad night for us,” Nilson added. “You are not allowed to have those kind of technical problems.”

Skipper Fernando Echavarri took several positive elements from the leg. He had said ahead of the trip he would accept no excuses for under performance, keen as he was for a good result after missing leg five because of serious damage. His mood was helped by the team’s successful passing of Delta Lloyd in the early hours of this morning, the move coming almost at the very end of a 4,900-mile leg.

“We made quite a lot of mistakes during this leg, but at least we had a good ending,” he said. “We could pass DL and we are happy about this.

“But we did have a few problems. We didn't route well in some places, in others we were really good. But we're happy to be here in Boston with our families.

“From the beginning we had one less. Most of the leg was quite easy in terms of crew work. But at important moments, during the night, in the squalls, it was quite difficult to be with one less. And more because it was Mike (missing) who has quite a physical job on board.”

The result sees his team retain their sixth spot on the leaderboard, but Delta Lloyd are improving fast. They followed up their in-port race podium in Brazil with third at the scoring gate and sailed well despite taking sixth. The gap between the two is just eight points and praise for the team with a second generation boat has not been hard to find.

Nilson said: “This is a very fair race and I think we deserved to be fifth, but I must say Delta Lloyd sailed very, very well. There were situations where she was faster than we were. They have made amazing upgrades to their project. It is a fast boat and it is fantastic that an old generation boat can be competitive.”

Delta Lloyd’s skipper Roberto Bermudez was impressed by his team’s character. “We were fighting until the end,” he said. “That's the important thing. It's racing, so as long as you are fighting you can win.

“I am really happy with this leg. Tere is a good feeling onboard. Everyone is really happy for all the new people on the team who did a really good job of fighting right until the end. The boat is better now. Nothing important has broken and it's better prepared. We still have two months to try and improve more.”

You sense Black would be happy for a couple of trouble-free months.


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