Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ericsson 4 breaks 600-mile barrier

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] Ericsson 4 broke through the 600-mile barrier as their historic run continued with the log reaching 602.66 nautical miles at 18:54 GMT.

The new mark established by Torben Grael’s men translates into an average speed of 25.11 knots, according to the telemetry received from the boat at Race Headquarters.

The record eclipsed the previous best 24-hour benchmark for a racing monohull of 562.96 miles set by Sebastian Josse and the crew of ABN AMRO TWO on the second leg of the 2005-06 race from Cape Town to Melbourne. Ericsson 4 added nearly 40 miles to that figure.

It must now be ratified by ISAF and the World Sailing Speed Record Council. That is likely to happen a week after the fleet’s arrival in Cape Town, which, at the going rate, is predicted as Monday 3rd November.

Grael and his crew had been pushing the boat hard for well over 24 hours, first toppling the previous mark at 03:55 GMT with a run of 566.57 miles. They raised the bar repeatedly and by 13:00 GMT, 593 miles were on the board as the magical 600-mark grew nearer. By 14:25, they had clocked 594.23 as they moved onwards and upwards. Then came Grael's holy grail.

The achievement is all the more credible given that Ericsson 4 have been sailing a man down since dropping off Tony Mutter, one of their drivers, at the Cape Verde Islands.

Drained by the experience, Grael is not about to get too carried away with the record when the serious business of being first to Cape Town remains top of the to-do list.

The conditions were not ideal given the sea state overnight. Winds approaching 40 knots are one thing, boisterous seas of eight metres in pitch darkness quite another. Shattered records, shattered bodies it seems.

’We have been on the edge’

Torben Grael interview

“The record is a great achievement,” an audibly spent Grael said in an interview with Amanda Blackley earlier in the day (Check box above). “To be honest we were not really looking for records we were looking for a good ride on this weather system for as long as possible.

“Conditions were marginal, especially during the night. It was no fun at all. The problem was the waves, especially during the middle of the night as there is no moon and it is very difficult to read them so the boat has been jumping about.

“We have been very much on the edge, if we had an easier sea state we could have gone faster.”

Guy Salter, the Media Crew Member on board added: "It's not everyday you get to have a ride as we have had over the past day or so, and to get a new 24-hour record has been superb.

"The reality of that feat out here hasn't really sunk in, we know we have a record but what is more on our minds is getting to Cape Town and hopefully at the front of the pack, avoiding damage to ourselves and the yacht.

"All the boys look really drained - sleep is not the easiest on E4, I can only describe the motion as I would imagine re-entry on the Space shuttle is like. Everything is bouncing - including every cell in our bodies and the mundane tasks are near impossible."

The Volvo Ocean Race mutual admiration society issued statements as news of Ericsson 4’s achievement went out on the bush telegraph.

Green Dragon’s Ian Walker said: “Hats off to ERT 4 for a storming 24 hours. We have just about been able to match them when we have had a steady three hours but sail changes, reefing and backing off at night has kept our 24 hour mileage in check.”

“The news of the day has been the new 24-hour new record established by Ericsson 4. Congratulations from Telefonica Negro. Good boat good sailors,” wrote Media Crew Member Mikel Pasabant.

“It has been a hard night, with rough seas and winds which exceeded 40 knots. In a pitch dark night, imagine the conditions to steer.”

Telefonica Blue’s Simon Fisher, the navigator on ABN AMRO TWO in 2005-06, said: “It has been hard not to smile a little when you see the pace that Ericsson 4 has laid down. Deeply, deeply impressive to say the least. It is a shame to see our old record from ABN AMRO TWO go but at the same time these things are made to be broken and those boys are certainly doing it with style.”

’They have been blasting’

Fisher’s skipper, Bouwe Bekking, was the first owner of the record for a Volvo Open 70 when his movistar clocked a relatively pedestrian 530 miles on the boat’s delivery run from Melbourne to Sanxenxo, Spain ahead of the previous race.

The Dutchman said: “Well done to the guys. They have been blasting. It’s really the first time that a lot of our guys have been sailing in big, big breeze so we’ve been taking it a bit easy and keeping the boat in one piece.

“But what Ericsson have done is impressive, congratulations to them. Its pretty hard to control the boats right now.”

Juan Kouyoumdjian, the designer of both Ericsson boats – and previous record holder ABN AMRO TWO, said: "I am very happy to receive this kind of satisfaction. As designers we provide the instrument that the crews have to play, but only that. This record belongs to the crew.”

Ericsson 4’s mighty effort has created breathing space to second-placed PUMA. By the 19:00 GMT Position Report, Ken Read’s men trailed by a Distance to Leader (DTL) of +46 despite getting to within a mile of ABN AMRO TWO’s record with a run of 561 miles.

Elsewhere, the pursuers are leaking miles to the leading pair. Green Dragon, following the tracks of the duo are +105 but peering over their shoulders as they prepare to fall out of the low pressure system.

“We are starting to see the effect of 'stepping off the train' on Delta Lloyd and Team Russia and we want to delay that as long as we can. Sooner or later it will happen to us but the faster we go the later it will be. We are now directly East of our closest competitors for third place so they should suffer first.”

Ericsson 3, chasing the Dragon, are at (+138) while Bekking’s Telefonica Blue (+174) hold sway over sister ship Telefonica Black (+200). The black boat, who conceded nine miles to Bekking's men since the last Position report, have had a torrid night which includes ripping two sails. Their first albatross sighting raised spirits only briefly.

At the tail, Delta Lloyd (+355) and Team Russia (+376) continue to scrap over the crumbs.

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