Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4 in fight to finish

[Source: Ericsson Racing Team] One day after leading the Volvo Ocean Race fleet past Cape Horn, the Nordic crew aboard Ericsson 3 was still reflecting on leading the fleet past the historic landmark.

“The feeling of going around the Horn is a peak in your career, in your life,” said skipper Magnus Olsson. “This is my sixth time, and this time I was most happy for all the rookies we have on the boat, who have never done it before. I could see how happy they were. They have done an enormous job. It was a fantastic achievement to go around first. I can hardly believe it.”

Like the Nordic crew, the International crew on Ericsson 4 was exhausted from the final approach in strong winds along the coastline of Chile.

Celebrations aboard Ericsson 3 after rounding Cape Horn in first place. Cape Horn, 17 March 2009. Video copyright Ericsson Racing Team

“The past 48 hours or so have been very intense onboard Ericsson 4,” bowman Ryan Godfrey said. “The unfortunate combination of variable wind speeds and directions and navigating our way close to land has meant many sail changes and very little sleep. I think most onboard would have had only one or two hours in the past couple days, so we are all extremely tired and hoping that as we head offshore again the breeze will settle and we can return to our usual watch system.”

The International crew has also been dealing with a couple of breakdowns. Approaching the Horn, the crew lost steerage while doing 36 knots boatspeed when the bow of the boat buried in a wave and the loads on the rudders ripped the sheaves for the steering cables out of the boat.

Later, the crew discovered a leak in their keel hydraulics that saw a puddle of oil develop in the bilge.

“It was a bit of a worry early yesterday that we discovered a hydraulic leak in the keel manifold,” Godfrey said. “Horacio (Carabelli) got straight about the repair and seems happy with its status now, but the usual contingency plans were discussed for after the scoring waypoint. Luckily, Stu (Bannatyne) didn’t have his third visit to Ushuaia!”

Dramatic moments aboard Ericsson 4. The crew loses steerage while going at 36 knots but manage to repair the damage. Cape Horn, 17 March 2009. Video copyright Ericsson Racing Team

Watch captain Bannatyne has been labeled the black cat in the crew because his five previous roundings of Cape Horn have not been without incident. But Ericsson 4 escaped the wrath of the Horn without damage.

Both crews are happy to be out of the Southern Ocean and heading north towards warmer climes. Ericsson 3 has gained nearly six degrees of latitude since rounding the Horn, and the conditions are much calmer as the two crews plotted a course to the west of the Falkland Islands.

At today’s 1300 GMT report, Ericsson 3 led Ericsson 4 by 45 nautical miles, with the finish in Rio de Janeiro 1,872 miles away. Ericsson 3 was sailing in a westerly breeze and making 17 knots boatspeed in seas less than two meters. They had also gained some separation from third-placed Puma, which trailed the leader by 171 miles.

After Ericsson 4 rounded Cape Horn, watch captain Brad Jackson snapped the crew back into reality by noting that the first boat past Cape Horn typically wins into Rio.

“At that stage the boys got stuck back into pushing the boat - all joined in the common goal to break history and get to Rio first,” said Godfrey. “We have managed to maintain our lead over Puma and push hard in the chase for Ericsson 3, but we know their boat and sails are very quick and we will have quite the task ahead of us to pull them in.”

Olsson promises his crew won’t be easy to beat.

“Whoever is going to beat us will have to work hard at it,” said the ebullient skipper. “We’re going to work harder than ever to finish this race in a good way. We have the motivation and spirit to fight to the bitter end, for sure.”

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