It may be early days but Bouwe Bekking and his crew aboard Telefonica Blue have thrown down the gauntlet to their rivals on Leg 7 from Boston to Galway.
Thick fog, a shifty 10-12 knot breeze, and a slight postponement after the starting gun misfired, made for an eventful start. The sudden appearance of a massive oil tanker also hampered the progress of the fleet.
The start included a windward-leeward lap of Boston's inner harbour. Once underway a fog shrouded the turning mark at the eastern end of the start course. The tanker – the Nor’easter – muscled into the harbour and delayed Delta Lloyd’s rounding of the mark.
Prior to the start, watch captain Stu Wilson had unwittingly prophesized Delta Lloyd’s close encounter. "It will be hard to get out of the harbour, because there is a big tanker coming in," he had said.
The errant vessel also created a wind shadow as the Volvo Open 70s made good their escape. First out of the traps, with Iker Martinez at the controls, was Telefonica Blue.
As the 2,555-nautical mile transatlantic crossing enters its sixth hour, the fleet was in 16 knots and moderate seas.
Telefonica Blue topped the leaderboard with a two-mile gap to a gang of four which included her sistership, the Ericsson twins and PUMA.
On Delta Lloyd, Roberto Bermudez and his men have since recovered from their crude interruption to lie a further two miles adrift with Green Dragon bringing up the rear at +6 miles.
This leg is likely to throw up several challenges, according to Ericsson 3 helmsman Thomas Johanson. "You can never underestimate a transatlantic crossing," he said. "Although it's a short leg, it's going to be a tough leg. It's cold and we might have icebergs, fishing boats, fog, all of that."
The fog which enveloped Boston is a precursor to what is expected to be a chilly couple of days. "It's going to be cold and wet,” said Ericsson 3 veteran watch captain Richard Mason. “For the first 30 hours we're going to be doing some super-wet reaching in fog and 2- to 3-degree water. My bag's full of woolies."
In the first despatch from the fleet, PUMA’s Rick Deppe said there was all to play for on the leaderboard despite Ericsson 4’s grip on overall honours. “By the time we arrive in Galway there will be only about a week of actual sailing left to do,” he wrote.
"Having said that there are a ton of points on the table and I sense that this last part of the race will be hand to hand combat all the way to the finish in St Petersburg.”