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Ericsson 3 leads Volvo fleet to Cape Horn

by Volvo Ocean Race media on 9 Mar 2009
Concentration at the helm of Ericsson 3 as they sail through the night during Leg 5 from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro Gustav Morin/Ericsson Racing Team/Volvo Ocean Race

After more days going up wind than anyone in the Volvo fleet cares to remember, the fleet has finally cracked off and is experience ‘proper’ Southern Ocean conditions as the five boats race onwards towards Cape Horn and the second of two scoring gates on this leg of the course.!click_here to see story on reversal of Volvo Ocean race positions

'What a relief. Finally the breeze has swung enough to let us ease sheets and get the good ship going fast in the right direction,' noted Ericsson 4’s bowman, Ryan Godfrey. 'It has been days now that our distance to the finish has not budged, so what a pleasure the past 24-hours were, to be doing 20 knots and heading east,' he said.

Meanwhile, out in front, and averaging a comfortable 18.8 knots, with 3,000 nautical miles to run to Cape Horn is Magnus Olsson and his Nordic team onboard Ericsson 3. Olsson now has a lead of 111 nautical miles over Ken Read and Puma, with Ericsson 4 a further seven miles in her wake.

As waves roll over the boat, making eyes sting with the salt, four of the five crews are revelling in the speeds and the miles that are steadily clicking off now. The fleet is now split over 400 nautical miles with Ericsson 3 in the north and Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) trapped in painfully light airs in the south.

The crew is not happy, but is making the best of it. Although their 24-hour run was a miserable 266nm, compared with Green Dragon’s 491, now they are beginning to pick up speed as the conditions improve. The team broke their forestay two days ago, which although sounds dramatic, is not such a serious a problem on a Volvo Open 70, according to Chief Measurer for the class, James Dadd.

'In these boats, they do little other than stabilise the rig,' says Dadd. 'The bolt ropes in the headsails take the load when hoisted, and you could virtually sail without a forestay a lot of the time,' he adds encouragingly. He advises that Telefónica Blue have to consider their tactics in avoiding going hard on the wind, when the risks of not having the forestay as a back up to the boltrope are more concerning.

Earlier in the week, when Ericsson 3 made her bold move to head north, Telefónica Blue’s Simon Fisher commented that the move could be one of genius or madness.

Now he concludes that it was a stroke of genius, and the southern route taken by his team is, 'well, not good, would be a polite way of putting it.' As the rest of the fleet heads north and east, Bouwe Bekking and his men have to sit back and watch the rest of the competition blasting along, while they plod upwind.

For Volvo Ocean Race rookie, Ian Walker in charge of Green Dragon, 23 days is the longest he has ever been at sea, and the fleet has only just passed the half way point on this leg. His Dutch navigator, Wouter Verbraak, was exhausted by all the upwind sailing, and reported that everyone on the boat was miserable. 'I find myself having to pull all my will together to get a smile on my face that keeps me going,' he said.

But, as soon as Green Dragon picked up her skirts and began charging towards the scoring gate, and with no prospect of up wind sailing for at least a week, appetites have returned along with enthusiasm.

Kenny Read, skipper of PUMA, however, is just taking it one day at a time. 'Nearly every morning, when the sun comes up, I think to myself that the last 24-hours went really quickly and we are one day closer to our destination. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you what day of the week it was or what day it was. I couldn’t say, if my life depended on it, how many days we have been out here. It’s just one day at a time.'

Leg Five Day 23: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)

Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) DTF 5,743 nm
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +111
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +118
Green Dragon IRL/CHI (Ian Walker/GBR) +227
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +329

Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermudez/ESP) DNS
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) DNS
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS!click_here to see story on reversal of Volvo Ocean race positions

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