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Ericsson Racing Team makes steady progress

'Ericsson Racing Team Volvo Ocean Race Qualifier'    Ericsson Racing Team ©

Ericsson 3 and 4, the two high-performance yachts of the Ericsson Racing Team for the Volvo Ocean Race, today began Day 6 of their race-mandated qualifying sail. The two 70-footers, designed by Argentinean Juan Kouyoumdjian, departed Nynäshamn, Sweden, on July 17, and are bound for the team’s training base on the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands archipelago.

The Volvo race requires a qualifying sail of 2,000 nautical miles, but the trip from Sweden to the Canaries is approximately 3,000 nautical miles. After a quick start to the expected 10-day passage, the crews hope to arrive by the end of the week. This morning the international crew aboard Ericsson 4, skippered by Torben Grael, found themselves approaching Cape Finisterre. Ericsson 4’s navigator Jules Salter admired the boat’s great speed.

'What is still impressive to me is the speed of these boats and how quickly landmarks come up and are passed,' said Salter, the Briton who navigated Pirates of the Caribbean to second place in the 2005-’06 Volvo.

'Twenty years ago when I started all this as a keen youngster, to sail across Biscay in a day would be unheard of, let alone our 500nm passage across the North Sea, which took little over a day. We will also have sailed the length of the English Channel in under 24 hours – dinner in Dover one night and afternoon tea off Ushant the following day,' Salter said.

The initial hours on the Oresund, the body of water between Sweden and Denmark, saw the crews beating in 18 knots of wind and choppy seas. Once they got into the North Sea, however, the wind quickly built over 30 knots and the seas became much more violent. It gave the crew of the newly launched Ericsson 4 a hard day on Sunday.

'We’ve had a pretty full on trip up until now. It’s hard to believe that it isn’t than long since we launched the boat, and already we've sailed 1,200 miles in her, done 30 knots of boatspeed, had three reefs in the main, and banged away upwind in 20 to 25 knots for 36 hours!' said Phil Jameson, the bowman on Ericsson 4 who’ll be competing in his first round-the-world race.

'It has been a very wet trip so far. Going on deck without wet-weather gear is about as sensible as walking through a carwash in a business suit. We’ve been given a real taste of what to expect in the race,' Jameson said.

Stefan Myralf helming Ericsson 3 just off Ile d’Ousssant - Ericsson Racing Team Volvo Ocean Race Qualifier -  Ericsson Racing Team ©

Aboard Ericsson 3 the going has been slightly tougher. Skipper Anders Lewander, 44, of Sweden fell in the cockpit and cut his head when a rogue wave washed over the crew. He required stitches from onboard medic Richard Mason, but rebounded quickly after the incident.

'Looking back we were all prepared for the increase in wind,' said Lewander, who will be competing in his first Volvo race. 'We were steering the boat in over 30 knots of wind with gusts of 38 knots. We were all wearing our harnesses when there was a ‘bad wave’ call from the back of the boat, but I slipped and got washed down the leeward side of the cockpit.'

After crossing of the North Sea, Ericsson 3 found the going smoother in the English Channel. The crew reported the wind had dropped to 10 knots and they were reaching in flat seas and both boats were still in sight of each other after 1200 miles of testing.

The changing conditions have given the crews on both boats plenty of opportunities to work on sail changes. Aksel Magdahl, the Norwegian navigator aboard Ericsson 3, talked about the physicality of working on the foredeck.

'When we change sails there are five of us on the foredeck lowering the old sail – not an easy job when the boat is doing 15 knots and in quite heavy seas,' said Magdahl. 'So the navigator, skipper and standby watch must get on deck and all have to make sure they avoid getting flushed backwards by the waves that are rolling over the deck.'

by Victoria Low


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12:02 PM Tue 22 Jul 2008 GMT

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