AFTER over 4,500 nautical miles of off shore racing, spanning some 16 days through the Indian Ocean, the finish of leg two in the Volvo Ocean Race could not have been closer for any of the teams involved. While Torben Grael and Ericsson 4 romped to victory with more than half a day between them and the second placed boat Telefonica Blue, things were much tighter and lighter for the remainder of the fleet including the Irish Dutch campaign of Team Delta Lloyd. With only 68 minutes separating Telefonica Black, Puma Ocean Racing (+ 22 minutes), Team Delta Lloyd (+ 7 minutes) and Green Dragon (+39 minutes), indications are very strong that the race for the podium finishes will be hotting up over the remainder of the legs.
Limerick man, ship’s engineer and sail trimmer, Edwin O’Connor, tells the tale of the race to Asia where the fleet was bound for Cochin in the southern Indian region of the Kerala coast.
“The leg to Cochin was a pretty tough ride from the word go. It started in a very gusty and unpredictable Cape Town where we saw almost all our sail inventory and that was before we even got out of the bay.
“Some of our sailing veterans on board described it as a pretty nice escape from Table Mountain as it creates a massive wind shadow as well as down drafts. We found this out on the way into Cape Town during the first leg. This is where we saw our top windspeed, for leg one, skip up over 40 knots.”
It certainly wasn’t all plain sailing, but the Volvo Ocean Race never is as the Delta Lloyd, as with other crews in the race, suffered damage along the way including the odd brush with a whale on day three of the second leg. Plenty of wind shifts and tough seas were the order of the day for the boats bound for India and Edwin ‘Edo’ O’Connor noted the arduous conditions.
“It certainly was a testing leg so far with relentless sail changes, but this made for the best and most hair raising sailing so far in the Volvo Ocean race for me. We had everything from pitch-black nights of zero visibility with sheets of water showering us as we ploughed through the waves with boat speed never dipping under 23kts for an entire night. This saw us make up quite a few places. Then, we had to face into the final stages of the leg searching the Indian Ocean for wind as we endeavoured to get the jump on the boats ahead. The last 500 miles were agonising for all crews as the wind almost evaporated on the approach to India.
Edwin went on to say; “The end of the leg had some really close racing where there was just metres between the boats. I remember that at one stage we were within 200 metres of the Green Dragon. That was after we worked our way back up through the fleet to a healthy fourth place, but that would go back and forth throughout the last 500 miles. You learn quite a lot on this boat as well as through the passages of the ocean that we cover through this race. I have now learned you cannot be over prepared for the cloud activity that happens in the doldrums of the Indian Ocean. They are more intense than the Atlantic doldrums.”
“It is as intense as it comes. I’ve been involved in up to four sail changes in under an hour where you get soaking wet, but I’m certainly loving every minute of it. Doing this race is probably one of the best experiences of my life and definitely one of the biggest challenges both physically and mentally. The good times are a real thrill and more than make up for being soaking wet inside your gear night after night in the freezing cold. The hunger to win is huge on board. We know the boat has really good legs and we’re slowly figuring out all the gears,” added the county Limerick native. The team now has 7.5 ocean racing points going into leg three.