CHINA...HERE WE COME
Ericsson 4 led the Volvo Ocean Race fleet round the short triangle race course in Singapore before heading out to sea at the start of the fourth leg to Qingdao.
By the time the fleet passed by the Race Committee boat for the second time and sped out into the open waters, the gap between them and Delta Lloyd at the back of the fleet had already opened up to the equivalent of half a dozen of the numerous supertankers dispersed around the port.
PUMA were hot on Ericsson 4's heels while Green Dragon, which had once again hogged the right side of the track to good effect on the short upwind leg, were in third. Telefonica Blue were trailing in fifth place, behind Ericsson 3, after a start that skipper Bouwe Bekking later described as a "shocker".
Searing heat, a good breeze and flat waters made for perfect conditions for a large spectator fleet of local sailing boats, day boats and personal watercraft which did their best to match the speeds of the Volvo 70s, but without a lot of success.
They included competitors in the annual Singapore Straits Regatta, who were racing to Nongsa Point Marina on the second day of the regatta in the helpful northeasterly trade winds.
There were also two Chinese junks, chartered by team sponsore and race organisers and populated by hoards of supporters which cruised down the shoreline giving spectators on board a bird's eye view.
The view from the East Coast Park, which ran parallel to one of the legs of the triangle, became spectacular when Telefonica Black gybed and headed into shore followed by Delta Lloyd. Both hurtled down the coast with kites flying, just a few metres from the beach.
Against a backdrop of skyscrapers and the famous Singapore flyer, the flotilla of spectator boats weaved their way through the container park where hundreds of cargo ships and tankers were anchored and chased the fleet out on their way to China.