Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bouwe Bekking's preview of Leg 4

The Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 fleet is getting ready to face Leg 4 starting out from Singapore next Sunday. The Leg takes them 2,500 miles north, where they must overcome the tough and uncomfortable upwind sailing of the China Sea while fighting against currents and a steady drop in temperatures that will dive well below zero degrees. After adding another three points to the basket of TELEFONICA BLUE last week in the in-port race, Bouwe Bekking reflects on this new challenge.

This is the third unknown leg for the VOR crews. But unknown doesn't mean the teams will leave the dock of Sentosa Island without knowing what to expect. Bouwe Bekking gives us a preview of the environment they expect to face: "There is a permanent high pressure system over Mongolia, which is extremely strong in the winter, with readings of 1055 millibar. Then there is a low pressure system to the east over the ocean, and this creates very strong Northeast trade winds. That means that since Qingdao lies Northeast of Singapore, this will be a predominantly upwind leg."

That's exactly what all the forecasts say: "predominantly upwind leg." In theory, a nightmare for the sailors and their racing machines. "It is going to be tough, but it gets blown up a bit, like all the talk about pirates," Bouwe explains. "In general, nobody likes to go upwind for such a long time. I think we will be just fine as long as we go in the right direction. The speeds are all similar, so the team that doesn't have downtime and goes in the right direction will win, it's very 'simple'."

The TELEFONICA BLUE team is basing their work on a forecast of medium to high breezes. "It looks like we'll be going upwind in 10-15 knots for the first three days, then there should be an increase to 30-35, then it may slack off again," Bouwe Bekking says. "We can expect big breeze, and when the current is with us there is chance that we'll get huge, steep waves. If we are lucky there is going to be a front passage in the last 600 miles, which means a change in wind direction going into the finish." -

For more information about Bouwe Bekking, including exclusive reports throughout the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/09, pictures, audio interviews and videos, please visit