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White Knight

The following excerpt from the penultimate chapter of "Spanish Castle to White Night, The Race Around the World," recounts Puma Ocean Racing's miraculous comeback in Leg 8 of the 2008-'09 Volvo Ocean Race.

December 8, 2009
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Mark Chisnell’s “Spanish Castle to White Night, The Race Around the World,” describes the thrills of the 2008-’09 Volvo Ocean Race, including Puma Ocean Racing’s heroic comeback in Leg 8 (above).

Mark Chisnell’s “Spanish Castle to White Night, The Race Around the World,” describes the thrills of the 2008-’09 Volvo Ocean Race, including Puma Ocean Racing’s heroic comeback in Leg 8 (above). Guy Salter/ericsson 4/volvo Ocean Race

Mark Chisnell’s new book, “Spanish Castle to White Night, The Race Around the World,” documents the 2008-’09 Volvo Ocean Race. The following excerpt from the penultimate chapter, White Night, recounts Puma Ocean Racing’s miraculous comeback on the mind-bending leg from Galway, Ireland to Marstrand, Sweden.

PUMA needed a Plan B, and navigator Andrew Cape was the man to deliver.

After 90 minutes of trying to escape to the east of the low’s centre, Cape convinced Ken Read that their best chance was to go out to the west, where they would find a strong northerly wind. They jibed back that way, resigned to more losses, massive separation from the fleet and an upwind slog to Marstrand in 30 knots of cold breeze.

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“[We’re] hoping beyond hope that this new tactic works …” wrote Ken Read.

With second place overall slipping away from them, Andrew Cape was under the cosh as never before. That night, Rick Deppe reported: “A tough night for all on board, cold and bumpy, while knowing that there is a huge deficit to make up creates for a somber mood, the grey sky adding the finishing touch to the misery.” But just after midnight, PUMA began to reverse her losses. Ken Read and his team were now sailing straight at the northern tip of Denmark in a solid 20 knots of northerly breeze, while everyone else was trickling up the Danish coast in an increasingly unreliable southerly wind, negotiating the centre of the low that was moving across their path.

| The gap between PUMA and the rest closed again as fast as it had opened. Jonathan Swain later recalled Telefonica Blue’s navigator, Tom Addis, coming on deck and starting to read the latest position report, before saying, “Something weird has gone on here …” PUMA’s gains were so big that he couldn’t believe it. He returned below to reanalyse the last four position reports to see if he could identify the problem. But the gains were real, and as Swain put it later, they were “dumbfounded” aboard Telefonica Blue.

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Everything now depended on the exact movement of that capricious low pressure. Initially it went against PUMA, and the leaders of the eastern group, Ericsson 4 and Green Dragon, popped out in front of Ken Read’s team at the northerntip of Denmark. These two leaders turned eastwards to where Marstrand lay across the Skagerrak. But then a rain squall arrived from the northwest. It reached PUMA first, pushing them ahead of Telefonica Blue and the rest of the eastern group. “The guys that do this gig tend towards the non-emotional, but I tell you people are singing to themselves right now…” reported an incredulous Rick Deppe from PUMA as they slipped into third place.

If that wasn’t bad enough for Bekking, Swain, Calafat and the rest, the squall put PUMA within chasing distance of Green Dragon. And the Dragon didn’t have the pace to hold off the challenge as they raced across the Skagerrak to the finish. PUMA passed her to snatch second place behind Ericsson 4, and gain two precious points on Telefonica Blue, who was eventually fourth into Marstrand. If that wasn’t a bad enough day for Team Telefonica, Delta Lloyd then sneaked past Black with some nerveless rock-dodging from navigator Wouter Verbraak. Ericsson 3 never recovered from the earlier error and finished last . . .

The 240-page, hardbound book, loaded with superb images and stories, comes with a 1.5-hour DVD with all race highlights.

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