Saturday, February 14, 2009


Photo: Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.
The fleet departed from Qingdao at 1300 (0500 GMT) for the longest leg in the history of the race, that will see the fleet sail one third way around the world in order to secure valuable points. Before the fleet departed, the dockside and sea front was crowded, as over 900 drummers bid farewell to the crews. Crew by crew, the sailors walked the huge model of the Great Wall of China, striding across the last stretches of land before stepping on a boat for up to 40 days.

The skippers, like in the arrival ceremonies, were dressed in cloaks and helmets, axes in hands.
Conditions were light and visibility was good as the sun broke through on the race course. All four boats headed to the start however Telefonica Blue quickly dropped their mainsail and headed back towards port. They were forced to return to the dock after sustaining keel damage after encountering a shallow patch of water off Qingdao harbour.

Green Dragon got the best of the start from the middle of the line, PUMA at the committee boat end, and Ericsson 4 a little late at the pin end. There was a little right hand wind shift which put PUMA into a controlling position. The fleet headed off in a five mile loop, out to the west along the city front and back, before they set off south on their 12,500 nautical mile odyssey. At the turning block Puma were leading comfortably with Green Dragon holding off Ericsson 4. There was about six to eight knots of breeze, and with the big sails up they were all moving pretty nicely on a reach to that mark. - Read more news at or