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Ericsson 3 stalks Volvo leader PUMA

by Cameron Kelleher/Various VOR competitors on 17 Oct 2008
Photo credit: Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race. A beautiful morning with perfect breeze, 12-16 knots. Volvo Ocean Race© http://www.volvooceanrace.com

PUMA have made good their escape from the pack and headed for the open ocean following the tactical poker of the past 24 hours. But now it’s Ericsson 3, rather than Ericsson 4, doing the stalking.

Following a prolonged battle with the Ericsson duo soon after the Canary Islands, PUMA assumed the lead at 0700 and hold a margin of eight miles over the Nordics on Ericsson 3 with sistership Ericsson 4 at a Distance to Leader (DTL) of +45 miles.

At 1600 GMT, the queue behind them read thus: Green Dragon +53, Delta Lloyd +80, Team Russia +85, Telefónica Blue +137, Telefónica Black +217.

Of the front-runners, Torben Grael on Ericsson 4 was the first to blink and gybed westward away from the African coast at about 1000 GMT – ZULU time.

Telefonica Black had made their gamble the day before and it proved costly. But Ericsson 3 has bucked the trend and continues to favour the coastal option.

Their second place has been hard-earned, according to Norwegian navigator Aksel Magdahl. In an effort to chase down PUMA he wrote … 'We are screaming downwind along the African coast, with PUMA almost due south of us and E4 has split to the west a bit.

'PUMA will show us if there is a light spot off the coastline of Nouadhibou in Mauritania or not. It has been showing in one of our three weather models, but looks a bit special. We are still in 20-25 knots here, so fine for the moment.

'We are still on the big mast head chute, and as PUMA gained some miles on us on the last sked, I asked the guys on deck if it was possible to put some more pace on. Right as I am writing this, we are very close to a wipe-out, but recover nicely.

'The past two days has been interesting strategically. Before the Canaries we were with PUMA, E4, Green Dragon and Telefonica Black along the African coast looking for a nice shift and wind speed acceleration.

'Black and later Green Team gybed away, and we got into lighter and lighter breeze. Computer simulation was indifferent between the route east of the Canaries and through them, and we gybed off as well.

'We went very aggressive.'

'That cost us some miles to PUMA and E4, but we were happy to make a little comeback playing a huge wind acceleration and shift around Gran Canaria yesterday. As we approached the island in 14 knots breeze, it increased to 28 knots and at a very favourable angle.

'We went very aggressive into the shift and sailed just along the edge of Gran Canaria's wind shadow where the breeze was most favourable. We could keep this effect for the most of the day gaining all the way, making for a very happy crew as the position reports came in every third hour.'

Meanwhile, Ken Read on PUMA is pondering whose hand will be the strongest once the pack is shuffled. 'We will certainly find out in a couple of days who is right, and who is wrong,' he said.

'You never really know until the cards are dealt – sometimes days after the decisions are made, and this dash to the west is still starting for us all. Which team will pick the correct line? We will have to wait and see.

'PUMA clearly likes the 20-knot running conditions. Hopefully as we learn our strengths and weaknesses against the fleet, we will grow to love the ‘monster’ [il mostro].'

BOAT BLOGS:

ERICSSON 3 LEG ONE DAY 5 QFB: received 15.10.08 2338 GMT

If you like speed, open oceans and the feeling from surfing waves with overwhelming power. Then, a VO 70 is the boat to sail. There are faster boats, but this one is just as much about feeling as about speed.

Our skipper Anders Lewander was sailing the big catamaran Playstation/Cheyenne in a record-breaking attempt around the world. Today, when he stood behind the wheel, surfing down waves in 20 knots of breeze in a sunny Atlantic ocean, I asked how the VO 70 feels to sail in comparison. The answer came with a shout; 'It's like a bus compared to this!'

The big record-breaking catamarans like Cheyenne and Orange may be faster, but they cannot, by far, deliver the same intense feeling of closeness to the ocean and the wind as the boats we have the honour to sail and live on.

The weather conditions are still fantastic. Unfortunately we did not get as much breeze as we hoped on our track west of Lanzarote, while the rest of the fleet gained from their easterly route. But now we are gaining again.

We went close to the eastern shore of Gran Canaria to earn from the land effect. Four quick gybes and then we headed southeast, aiming for even more breeze.

Luckily it has now arrived. We have 15 to 20 knots of wind and a really nice wind angle on about 60 degrees, which is sweeping us down south in a nice pace.

Gustav Morin - MCM
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DELTA LLOYD LEG ONE DAY 5 QFB: received 15.10.08 16:54 GMT

Have gybed SW 8 nm of the Sahara 70 NM south of Canaries in 18 knots of wind,17 knots boat speed, heading 2,000 nm for Fernando of the coast of South America where we pass to port (left) & head another 3,000nm for Cape Town. Boat in good nick, all systems working, sailing to 97% polars feeling good.

Ericsson 4 and Puma are on the same left hand side of this huge race course with the rest of the fleet spread to the right. Green Dragon skipper Englishman Ian Walker decided to play his stealth card 9hrs ago where he can go blind off screen for 12 hrs to the rest of the fleet. I have decided to hold our StealthPlay until a more opportune time.

Position reports – (we are currently between 3rd and 4th and we wait an see where the dragon appears) are subjective and are done on a snap shot on the shortest distance to next scoring mark and may not reflect best position to capitalise on fastest route which may not be the shortest. One has to view in context with the weather models. If one takes the forgoing into account it gives a reasonable picture.

I am excited to say Betty, the only grandfathered boat in the fleet, is holding the pack and as well as enjoying the race, I enjoy the challenge of this project, the first generation, low budget campaign and taking on the big budget campaigns. The next smallest is four times our budget and the largest is 20 times ours. I hope this brings more first and second generation boats into the race in 2011. Chieftain Racing is in discussions with interested global brands for the next race.

Crew all well with the exception of Husty (Ryan Houston) who has a fever. The ship’s medics seem to be awaiting the chance to perfect their skills and are looking for such an opportunity and have offered to administer treatment. Husty seems not to trust in their skills as much as they do, has decided to sweat it out himself.

Missing wife and kids, family and friends. I am finding it quite strange to be not be able to contact them as to do so could be seen as outside assistance, it they read this, please send my Love.

Over & Out
Ger O’Rourke - skipper
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www.volvooceanrace.org

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