The occasion of Earth Day sees Ericsson Racing Team and the Volvo Ocean Race fleet within 1,300 nautical miles of the Leg 6 finish in Boston, USA.
The fleet has already covered more than 30,000 nautical miles in this circumnavigation race over four of the world’s five oceans. The new racecourse through India, Southeast Asia and China has afforded the sailors a close look at the world’s climates, and they’ve seen everything from the sublime to the unbelievable.
On the previous leg across the Pacific and Southern oceans, Ericsson 3 skipper Magnus Olsson, who is competing in his sixth circumnavigation race, repeatedly remarked on the lack of wildlife.
On Leg 4, from Singapore to China, many of the sailors wrote of the need for constant vigilance for debris floating in the South China Sea, which in one case included the remnants of a house. It was on Leg 4 when Ericsson 3 struck a submerged object and had to call in Taiwan for two weeks to make repairs to the hull.
“I’ve been sailing around the world for the last 10 years and I think there are obvious indicators that things are changing,” said Richard Mason, a watch captain on Ericsson 3. “We see less albatross in the Southern Ocean. We see fewer whales in the Southern Ocean. For sure the weather systems are becoming more extreme and a little bit more unpredictable. Certainly the areas we’ve sailed to this race we see a lot more rubbish, we’ve seen a lot more of the effect of human activity in some of the very far-reach corners of the globe. It’s very hard to quantify these things, but that’s certainly a general impression and feeling you get.”
“Seeing as the course for this race has been dramatically different to the last round-the-world I competed in (2001-’02), it is hard to quantify the difference. But I’m certain that there is more man-made detritus in the water,” said Ericsson 4 media crewman Guy Salter.
“As an ever-keen biologist I’m always on the look out for a hint of wildlife, and am always surprised by the rest of the lads who let their tough exterior drop to admire life on and in the ocean,” Salter continued. “But we haven’t noticed much wildlife. This is maybe due to the boat we are on as it often screams from the water rushing past its appendages, or the fact that the keel is bright orange. But it may also be down to the fact that there is just less stuff out there to see.”
Then again, they’ve also seen brilliant sunrises and sunsets, the type which are dulled on land due to light pollution. They’ve also had very pleasant sailing, such as they are currently experiencing in the trade winds of the North Atlantic Ocean.
“We are back in wet mode after a couple of days of slightly lighter conditions, but it’s still extremely pleasant on deck,” Salter said. “The sun is out, water temperature is 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and we are averaging high teens and low 20s, so all good here.”
While the world’s population takes note of all things green, the yachting fraternity marks the 40th anniversary of an achievement akin to Sir Edmund Hillary climbing Mount Everest. Today in 1969 Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first man to circumnavigate the globe singlehanded and non-stop when he completed the Golden Globe race in 312 days.
“Although well before my time the achievement was a great one and has opened up many avenues for us yachtsmen and women since,” Salter said. “He has shown many of us a passion and belief which is unsurpassed, and is a great ambassador for the sport and leisure aspects of sailing. Nice work Robin!”
VOLVO OCEAN RACE LEG 6 LEADERBOARD
(At 1301 GMT, Apr. 22, 2009)
1. Telefónica Blue, 1,273 nautical miles to finish
2. Ericsson 4, +22 NM
3. Ericsson 3, +26 NM
4. Puma, +42 NM
5. Telefónica Black, +65 NM
6. Delta Lloyd, +70 NM
7. Green Dragon, +116 NM
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