Saturday, February 28, 2009

Volvo Ocean Race: Fiji fading fast

[Source: Ericsson Racing Team] Now, it’s a drag race to the scoring gate.

The passage of Fiji last night served to split the fleet even farther on an east to west axis, with Ericsson 4 the most eastern boat, Puma the most western and approximately 100 nautical miles between the two.

While Ericsson 4 and Ericsson 3 both had to tack to starboard to clear to the east of Vanua Levu, which lies to the north/northeast of Fiji, Puma and Telefónica Blue short-tacked their way between the two islands. It was a high risk move that has paid immediate dividends as the two boats were among the top three today.

Ericsson 4 trailed Puma on the 1259 GMT leaderboard by 16 nautical miles, but the International crew has better leverage to the east.

Ericsson 4 break their furler. Fiji , 28 February 2009. Video copyright Ericsson Racing Team

“Highlights of life onboard today consist of seeing Fiji, seeing Ericsson 3 (first boat in nine days), Joca (Signorini) a.k.a. ‘The Doctor’ servicing the winches, running out of ‘train smash,’ otherwise known as tomato sauce, or Ketchup if you prefer, and finding out we might be short of toilet paper,” said Ericsson 4 trimmer Tony Mutter.

“Oh, and losing the lead to Puma and Telefónica Blue while we re-position further east,” Mutter said. “This last thing is just temporary. Fingers crossed.”

The Nordic crew on Ericsson 3 also sailed to the east of Fiji, and has taken up a route to leeward of its teammate some 20 miles behind. Incidentally, both Ericsson yachts have crossed to the west of the 180th meridian.

The scoring gate is the next objective, approximately 1,000 nautical miles or four to five days away. First boat through scores 4 points, and each boat thereafter a half point less.

The two boats to the west have a shorter distance to the gate, but Ericsson 4 has more east leverage which is better for the overall picture of the leg because Cape Horn lies to the east.

“They’re in pretty good shape, but a couple of things could go awry,” said team meteorologist Chris Bedford. “The forecast gets funny later on Monday with a low forming out to the east of them and moving southeast towards the first ice gate area (at 47S between 155 and 140 West longitude). I’m not sure how they’ll handle that. There’s also a light spot that shows up dead ahead of them, which is worse for the guys to the west.”

There’s never a dull moment in life at the extreme.

(Feb. 28, 2009, 1259 GMT)
1. Puma, 8,171 nautical miles to finish
2. Ericsson 4, +16 NM
3. Telefónica Blue, +26 NM
4. Ericsson 3, +36 NM
5. Green Dragon, +55 NM

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