Ireland’s entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, Green Dragon, is back in the water and preparing for Saturday’s in-shore racing in Singapore after the Christmas and New Year respite.
Despite a disappointing sixth place finish in the third leg from India’s Kochin to Singapore, the Irish entry remains in fifth place overall as they begin the countdown to the difficult upwind marathon to China’s Qingdao on January 10.
Saturday’s in port racing will provide the Green Dragon with an opportunity to capture more points. Two races are scheduled with the boats fully crewed in addition to a VIP guest.
Under the rules the Green Dragon has made the permitted changes to its crew and have welcomed back in port grinders David Carr and Julien Cressant for three days’ training before the racing starts.
Skipper Ian Walker says:“We are keen to do well here and in Qingdao to give maximum coverage to our Chinese sponsors while we are in Asia.”
Walker, who has been on holiday with his family in Indonesia, says he is delighted the boat has passed its weigh-in with flying colours.
“While I have been away enjoying myself the shore team has worked its socks off with maintenance and some optimisations. The good news is that the boat was re-weighed by the measurers and found to be 2kg under the maximum displacement.
“It is a big job getting these boats ready for weighing and will in total have taken nearly four days of work for all concerned. To be within 2kg in a 14 tonne boat is a pretty good effort and means we do not need to take any more lead out of our bulb. We could ill afford to have done this as we have a lot of upwind sailing to do.”
The Green Dragon will then head to China on leg four with a new crew member. Scottish sailor Ian Budgen will replace Ireland’s Damien Foxhall who will miss this fourth leg.
The 38-years-old all rounder, whose experience ranges from Olympic 49er campaigns to America's Cup and TP52s, returns to the Volvo Ocean Race after sailing for five legs with Paul Cayard's Pirates of the Caribbean in 2005-2006.
His arrival will give Foxall, who has been with the boat since the start in Alicante, a much needed rest.
"Damian came straight from the Barcelona World Race and understandably his wife took some persuading to let him go round again," says Walker.
"We did the same with navigator Ian Moore. If you can give these guys one leg off, especially when there is a longer stopover, it makes a big difference. Guys who have had time off like Tom Braidwood and Ian Moore have come back refreshed and raring to go.
“The last two legs have been tough on us and nobody is more disappointed at the results than me. Having said that, our performance has often been good and we have still been mixing it up with the bigger teams. We will continue to make our presence felt in this race.”
Walker says the crew has been heartened by the messages of goodwill from their Irish supporters.
“Reading all the messages of support is a great boost to everyone on the team. I personally re-read every one again and they brought a big smile to my face. We hope the Green Dragon puts a big smile on your faces in 2009.”
Missing from the eight-fleet race will be Team Russia, which has fallen victim to the economic recession.
The campaign, raised and funded by Russian supermarket entrepreneur Oleg Zherebtsov, was disbanded just hours after the crew arrived in Singapore at the end of the third leg when it was confirmed funds had run out as a direct consequence of the global economic crisis. They had been in seventh place, ahead of the second Irish boat Delta Lloyd.
According to race CEO Knut Frostad, hopes are running high Team Russia will attract sufficient funding to allow a return to the Volvo Ocean Race. It is estimated that the campaign needs a further €1.5 million to complete the race.