Saturday, March 07, 2009

Ericsson 3 takes lead of VOR leg 5 as northern gamble pays off

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] The leaderboard has been turned on its head in the past 24 hours with Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE) seizing control as the fleet reaches the halfway point of this 12,300 nautical mile marathon en route to Cape Horn.

Navigator Aksel Magdahl’s gamble on a northern heading, away from the pack and against conventional Southern Ocean wisdom, soon after the scoring gate at 36 degrees south, is paying off for Ericsson 3.

By 13:00 GMT Position Report, the Nordics had hooked up with the low pressure system and were powering south-east at 18 knots to the first ice gate.

While Magdahl is not ready to celebrate wildly just yet, there is the matter of his 30th birthday today. ”I am sitting here by the nav desk with a couple of guys eating our best freeze dried meal as a celebration of my 30th birthday,” he said.

“It will be an unforgettable birthday, really. Sailing straight into the middle of the low pressure with bad sea state and variable breeze, trying to nail a big lead on THE leg of this Volvo Ocean Race. Screaming out on the other side straight for the second ice gate, gaining 50 miles a sched (Position Report).

“The latest report from Volvo Ocean Race HQ shows we have jumped into the lead by 80 miles. And I assume we will gain quite a bit more over the next couple of scheds.”

In fact the gap to second-placed PUMA (Ken Read/USA), which tacked shortly after 22:00 GMT last night, had grown to 110 miles.

The constant beating in 20 knots over the past few days has tested the patience of the crew of il mostro, according to Media Crew Member Rick Deppe. “Having tacked last night at least we finally we have our bow somewhat pointing at 'The Horn', a little under 4,000 miles away,” he says.

“That's the good news. The reality is somewhat bleaker. Who would ever have imagined that we would be in the Volvo Ocean Race, and actually beating in the Southern Ocean?

“And I don't just mean beating for a few hours, we're talking days here. It's madness. And not much fun either. The boat is constantly heeled over at a 23-degree angle and bouncing around violently as we launch off hundreds of waves every hour – I just counted 14 in the last minute - proof enough."

Deppe’s opposite number on Ericsson 4, Guy Salter, painted an equally grim picture. “I don’t know what the fleet has done to deserve it – but we are still going upwind,” he lamented this morning.

“We hope that the sleigh ride is just around the corner so we can really let E4 do what it does best – the ride onboard won’t be any easier but the daily totals will be healthier and the time to Rio should drop dramatically.”

Overnight leader Telefonica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED), has, as expected starting to leak miles to the opposition. Positioned furthest south of the fleet and jury-rigged after breaking its forestay 48 hours ago, the Blue boat has been relegated to fourth place behind Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) place, 176 miles adrift of Ericsson 3.

Leg Five, Day 22: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) DTF 6152nm
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) + 110
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +152
Telefonica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +176
Green Dragon IRL/CHI (Ian Walker/GBR) +228
Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermudez/ESP) DNS
Telefonica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) DNS
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS

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