The great and the good of the Volvo Ocean Race gathered on Monday night in Stockholm's beautiful 'Stadshuset' (City Hall) to celebrate the achievements of the teams on Leg Nine, the Swedish sprint from Marstrand to Stockholm. The prizegiving dinner was held in the building's Blue Hall, which is the venue of the banquet held following the annual Nobel Prize award ceremony.
It was a bittersweet evening for Telefonica Blue, who were awarded the best 24-hour run on the leg, along with the Inmarsat Media Prize, which went to Gabriele Olivo. His win was at least in part due to the great material he had to work with, which came after the Blue boat dramatically ran aground on a rock less than a mile from Marstrand.
In awarding the media prize, Inmarsat's Vice-President of External Affairs, Chris McLaughlin paid tribute to each of the media crew members, who have brought the story of the race ashore to sailing fans as never before.
"These short legs, with their triumph and tragedy, have been brought to millions by the work of the Media Crew Members," McLaughlin said. "We could not have hoped for greater professionalism from the Media Crew Members, and the now, incredibly close fight between them for the overall prize."
He is referring to the battle between PUMA's Rick Deppe and Ericsson 3's Gustav Morin, who are separated by just one point (Media Crew Members win a point whenever they are nominated in any given leg). Rick Deppe has eight points to Morin's seven points heading in to the final leg. The top ranked MCM at the end of the race will be recognised with a 10,000 euro award at the final prizegiving in St. Petersburg.
Also singled out for both their seamanship and sportsmanship were four of the shore crew members from PUMA. Bouwe Bekking, the skipper of Telefonica Blue, nominated the quartet for the Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics Seamanship Award, for the assistance they rendered to his team after Telefonica Blue ran aground and was stuck hard on the rock.
Although Telefonica Blue and PUMA were locked in a close battle for second place on the overall leaderboard at the time, the first RIB on the scene to offer help was from PUMA, with Neil Cox, Sean Healey, Will Oxley and Kimo Worthington, playing an active role in getting Blue off the rock and back into port for repairs.
The leg awards were not without significance either. Ericsson 4's third place finish on leg nine gave the team enough points to secure top ranking on the overall leaderboard of the Volvo Ocean Race, while the Nordic crew on Ericsson 3 was justifiably proud of a second place finish on home waters coming in to Marstrand.
And of course, it was a special night for PUMA as well, who secured their first leg win of the race, on the short Swedish sprint.
Leg Nine prizes
Best 24-hour run - Telefonica Blue, 312.04 miles
Inmarsat Media Prize - Gabriele Olivo, Telefonica Blue
Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics Seamanship Award - PUMA Ocean Racing shore crew
Leg Nine, 3rd place - Ericsson 4
Leg Nine, 2nd place - Ericsson 3
Leg Nine, 1st place - PUMA