Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ericsson's international crew showing well in Sardinia

[Ericsson Racing Team] Yacht racing and auto racing have come together in a cockpit awash with world championships for Ericsson Racing Team’s International crew at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Sardinia.

The crew is led by Brazilian skipper Torben Grael, the winner of two Olympic gold medals and five world championships. Grael’s joined in the afterguard by his sports hero, Nelson Piquet, a three-time Formula One World Champion in the 1980s. The Brazilian sporting legends are good friends.

“Nelson’s a bit of a legend,” said Guy Salter, International crew media crewman. “He’s been onboard everyday and has had a big grin. He’s certainly been one of the team, been involved heavily. It’s a pleasure to be with him.”

Despite the multitude of world championships among its leaders, the crew lays fourth overall after the first three days of competition. The varied conditions and strong competition are what the crew was hoping to experience.

“There are good teams here,” Salter said. “The Alinghi guys are on Numbers, and some of the other boats have lots of experience. Today’s races were particularly tight, what you’d expect with strong breeze on a short course. It’s certainly a brilliant fleet to be sailing against.”

Ericsson Racing Team training off Puerto Calero in Lanzarote. Video copyright Ericsson Racing Team

The International crew made the decision to compete in the hopes of refining its inshore racing skill ahead of the Volvo Ocean Race. That event begins Oct. 4 with two inshore races planned off Alicante, Spain, before Leg 1 starts one week later.

The crew is well versed in one way sailing – endless hours on one tack going one direction as fast as possible – that is typically found offshore. Grael and his crew felt they needed some preparation for the inshore contests, where cohesive teamwork is paramount in close-quarter situations.

“It’s working out positively,” Salter said. “It’s good because it’s getting everyone thinking about the inshore racing. Just working as a team is the big winner here.”

The conditions have ranged from light, 8 to 12 knots, to strong, a steady 25 knots. The crew has sailed courses between 17 and 39 nautical miles around the rocky outcrops off the northern end of Sardinia, to windward/leewards totaling 12 nautical miles.

Piquet is aboard in part as replacement for Alfa Romeo 3 owner Neville Crichton. The New Zealand and Australian businessman also owns the 92-foot maxi Alfa Romeo 2, which is competing in the Racing Division.

Racing continues tomorrow with one race planned in the afternoon, and ends on Saturday with one or two races, depending on the conditions.

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