The Ericsson Racing Team arrived into Gothenburg in fifth place this evening, concluding leg nine of the Volvo Ocean Race. It was not the finish the team had dreamed of as it sailed into its home waters in Sweden, concluding an eventful and highly competitive circumnavigation. The sailors were greeted and their spirits lifted by thousands of supporters, amongst them HRH Crown Princess Victoria, Godmother of the Ericsson yacht, who stepped onboard for the final hours of their 32,000 nautical mile journey.
There were many spectator boats out on the water to welcome the local team home, after eight months of epic racing around the world. The team's most avid supporter, HRH Crown Princess Victoria, was delighted to be onboard Ericsson today.
'I am extremely happy and proud to have crossed the finish line with a team that has sailed around the world,' said Her Royal Highness as she arrived on the dock. 'I realized when I sailed with the team during the Rio de Janeiro in-port race, how difficult and technical racing at this level is. I find it incredible that they can sail at such a competitive level offshore as well. I am very proud of my team and to have been involved with the project since the very beginning.'
The last leg of the Volvo Ocean Race started from Rotterdam (NED) on Thursday 15 June; a 500 nautical mile ride around the coast of Denmark and across the Skagerrak to Gothenburg. The leg was full of ups and downs for all the competitors, with very unpredictable weather. For Ericsson, it all started with a great comeback during the first night. She moved from sixth to third place by day break on Friday, and carried on climbing through the closely packed fleet.
'We had a good night and gained on everyone,' explained Ericsson skipper Neal McDonald (GBR). 'We had some really enjoyable sailing and then the fog came in and the fleet got split.'
'We were set up nicely in the middle of the pack, about a mile behind Brasil 1,' said Ken Read (USA). 'Brunel, ABN Amro Two and the Pirates were behind us and we were well ahead of ABN Amro One, to our left. Then all the boats started to sheer off to the right. We were like the meat in the sandwich, stuck with no wind, whilst our competitors reached some breeze and sailed away. This was really the turning point in the race.'
Pirates of the Caribbean decided to bail out and took a huge loss to go right, following new leaders ABN Amro Two and Brasil 1, whilst Ericsson and ABN Amro One stayed offshore waiting for the shift. 'We hadn't planned to separate from ABN Amro Two or any of the other boats,' explained Read. 'But the wind gods dealt us a hand that we could do nothing about.'
After that, despite making good progress on the fleet, Ericsson never managed to gain further places. The eventual winner was Pirates of the Caribbean, followed by ABN Amro Two and Brasil 1 in third. Ericsson finished fifth on leg nine, placing the team fifth overall in the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-06.
'We are disappointed for ourselves and for our supporters in Sweden, not to have got a better result' said McDonald. 'It's a strange feeling that this project which I have worked on - lived, breathed and slept for a year and a half - has come to an end. We didn't get off to a great start in the race, but we battled on. It's too late to look back at what we would have done differently. We have given it our best shot, worked hard at it, and improved along the way, just unfortunately not quite quickly enough.'
Magnus Woxén (SWE): 'We chose to go left at the start and got the wind shift, but there was too much current and the others got in front. We sailed well after this and went right through the fleet until we were second behind Brasil 1. A couple of hours after that the wind sheered off and everyone to the right of us had breeze, whilst we were stuck offshore with very little breeze. Sadly this is where we lost the race.
'It's great to be home in Sweden and to be welcomed by such a fantastic reception. It has been a hard leg - being behind and not being able to get back in front. It is a wonderful feeling to have sailed around the world and we must look on the bright side and remember all the good times and the great sailing that we have done. We improved in many areas, as all the campaigns have, but we didn't get the result that we were hoping for.'
Neal McDonald (GBR): 'We are disappointed for ourselves and for our supporters in Sweden, not to have got a better result. It's a strange feeling that this project which I have worked on - lived, breathed and slept for a year and a half - has come to an end. We didn't get off to a great start in the race, but we battled on. It's too late to look back at what we would have done differently. We have given it our best shot, worked hard at it, and improved along the way, just unfortunately not quite quickly enough.'
Andrew Cape (NZL): 'It has been an interesting race and I am pleased to have finished it with the rest of the fleet. I have only sailed two legs with this team and already I feel like I have been with them a long time.'
Carl-Henric Svanberg (President and CEO of Ericsson): 'I fully understand how sad the team must feel, but the campaign is a great success from a commercial point of view. Ericsson is also very happy to learn that Volvo has committed to organizing a new race in 2008, because it is a great event. On a personal level, it was very special to sail the last miles with the team today, because I always wondered how they would feel after finishing a round the world race.'