It was like the end of a school term at the skippers' press conference in Stockholm today as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet prepares to tackle leg ten, a final, short, sprint to the overall finish line in St. Petersburg.
With just 400 miles remaining in a race around the world that measures over 37,000 nautical miles, and the leaderboard almost entirely decided, the finish line – the real one – is now in sight.
One leaderboard duel does remain. With a maximum of eight points available to the winner of the leg, PUMA leads Telefónica Blue by 6.5 points in the battle to finish second overall in the race.
The forecast is promising for the start on Thursday afternoon. A light northeasterly breeze of 8-10 knots is expected. But, as the leg progresses, the wind is forecast to ease. It could be a long 400 miles.
“This weather forecast is not perfect for us,” said PUMA skipper Ken Read. “We don't want it to turn into a light air crap shoot because anything can happen that way. Telefónica can go and win the leg by 100 miles if they want; (but) we just have to beat one boat.”
“I think, realistically, they have sewn it up,” countered Telefónica Blue skipper Bouwe Bekking. “But it's yacht racing and hopefully they sail the wrong way, come last and we come first. There would be a lot written if that happened. We'll certainly be pushing hard for a win.”
Also making an appearance at the press conference today was Team Russia skipper Stig Westergaard, who brought the Russian boat, Kosatka, into Stockholm last night. They haven't competed since leg three and the team is now engaged in a race against time to get rule compliant ahead of the start.
With Ericsson 4 having mathematically won the Volvo Ocean Race on the leg into Stockholm, the rest of the teams are sailing for pride. And, according to Telefónica Black skipper Fernando Echávarri, that will be motivation enough.
“This is the last chance we have to win a leg and we'll try to do that,” he said. “It's more about personal pressure and trying to finish with a leg win, rather than pressure on the overall standing. It's going to be good (weather) conditions for our boats so we'll try to do our best to arrive in St Petersburg in the top position.”
Ericsson 4 skipper Torben Grael agreed it will be a competitive race: “We all owe it to our sponsors to get a good result and we are all very competitive people. A win is important to us.”