Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4 left Sweden today and set sail on their mandatory race qualifier. The race crews will not return to Sweden until they return for the Marstrand stopover in mid-June 2009 during the Volvo Ocean Race. The 3,000 mile trip back to the team's training base in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, will be used by the two-boat Ericsson Racing Team, as their shakedown for the round-the-world race, and will be the first time that Ericsson 4 will head out on a long passage since its launch in late June.
'It's been a long-time coming to reach this point, but we're very excited to see how the two new boats perform against each other in the qualifying sail,' said yacht designer Juan Kouyoumdjian.
The 36-year-old Kouyoumdjian, better known to the sailing world as 'Juan K,' has a right to be anxious. The Argentinean designed the two new Ericsson yachts that will carry the livery of the world's largest supplier of mobile systems in the 37,000-mile circumnavigation Volvo Ocean Race, which begins Oct. 11 in Alicante, Spain.
Juan K designed the winning yacht in the 2005-'06 Volvo race, and has spent much time since then creating two new generation Volvo Ocean 70 yachts for Ericsson Racing Team..
'Each one is a progression and an evolution of what we did before. The racecourse around the world has changed so we had to adapt the parameters to the new wind and sailing conditions. If we've done our homework right, we'll all get a good score this time,' said Kouyoumdjian. The two yachts are required by race rules to complete a 2,000-nautical-mile qualifying passage. Ericsson 3 and 4 will race each other in a 3000-mile tuning sail from Nynäshamn, Sweden, to the team's training base in Lanzarote on the Canary Islands.
Ericsson has entered two boats in the 2008/09 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. The boats will be skippered by Anders Lewander (SWE) with a Nordic crew and Torben Grael (BRA) with an international crew.
'In the last race we started late and then experienced technical problems early in the race and it is clear that this hampered our performance,' said Ericsson Racing Team Managing Director, Richard Brisius. 'By getting started early (at the finish of the last race in 2006), Ericsson has been able to get what we believe are the right people, the right design, the right boatbuilders and the right training, but so have several of our strong competitors so we are looking forward to an exciting race'
Besides the two skippers and designer Kouyoumdjian, the team has worked with renowned racing yacht builder Killian Bushe to oversee the building of the two 70-footers. Construction was carried out at a facility in Kista, Sweden, erected next door to Ericsson's headquarters. Ericsson 3 was launched in February and Ericsson 4 unveiled on June 26.
'Our goal was to build two top-end race boats, and our team gave the same attention to detail on the construction of both boats,' said Bushe, who built the winning yacht in the past Volvo race as well as Sweden's Victory Challenge for the 2007 America's Cup.
The two boats left Nynäshamn on July 17 and expect their journey to take approximately 10 days. Updates on their progress and a complete report on the trip will be posted on the team's website, www.ericssonracingteam.com