Saturday, March 14, 2009

VOR fleet closing in on Ericsson 3

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] The hard-earned lead that Ericsson 3 has built up over the past week is slipping away today at an alarming rate as the boats to the north begin to benefit from a fresh low pressure system. Ironically, it was a similarly placed low pressure system (in the north of the race track) that first allowed Ericsson 3 to build their margin at the front of the fleet just seven days ago.

Heading into last weekend, a brave move away from the fleet and to the north allowed the Nordic crew to steal a convincing lead. Today, they find themselves too far south to take advantage of the powerful system.

Green Dragon, positioned furthest to the north, has benefited the most, gaining an incredible 145 miles over the last 24 hours. The Dragon remains in fourth place, but is now just 269 miles behind the leader.

Related audioGreen Dragon's Damien Foxhall on the weather system that could compress the fleet around Cape Horn and the 40 + day leg
Ericsson 3’s stablemates on Ericsson 4 are in second position and now just 61 miles in arrears after picking up over 90 miles over the course of the past day. Puma, in third, has gained 83 miles on the leg five leader.

No doubt it’s been a difficult 24 hours on Ericsson 3, but the crew is putting on a brave face.

“Today has been a beautiful day with around ten degrees in both air and water, and between five to ten knots of breeze,” reports Ericsson 3 media man Gustav Morin. “It was not really what I expected from this part of the world, but I guess we have not seen it all yet…Unfortunately it seems like the boats behind us will get a more favourable path into and through the low pressure system, and it will be really tight around the Cape Horn. Right now we are going really slow.”

The strategy on Ericsson 3 has been to come north to join the boats that are chasing it in an effort to “trade their large lead into a smaller one but to get on the same piece of ocean as ourselves and Puma,” as Ericsson 4’s Guy Salter interpreted the tactics of the past 12 hours.

Heavy rain falls on Telefonica Blue. South Pacific Ocean, 12 March 2009. Photo copyright Gabriele Olivo / Telefonica Blue / Volvo Ocean Race

“This ridge will certainly be giving the Nordics (on Ericsson 3) a neck ache as they keep looking over their shoulder. Their brave and successful move could end fruitless if they don’t get to the wind first. All of the first three boats are just lining up for a speed test off the coast of Chile. We have had - at times - as little as 2 knots of wind and down at 48 south! Very surprising and not exactly the picture in the mind when the mighty southern ocean is talked about,” Salter concluded.

The benign weather has been a relief for some however. At the back of the fleet, Telefonica Blue has enjoyed sunshine for the first time in nearly a week, and that was cause enough for a celebration on board according to helmsman Simon Fisher.

“There has been a general improvement in everybody’s mood this morning, sadly not because of a sudden surge through the rankings to put us back into touch with the leaders but something all together more trivial. After days of rain and grayness the sun has finally come out. For the first time in days it has given us a chance to dry out ourselves and our kit a little, the boat once again resembling some sort of laundromat with clothing drying everywhere.

“Better still you can even feel the sun warming your skin as opposed to the cold wind cutting through your clothes and down to your core.”

The team would be well advised to enjoy it while they can. The forecast has Telefonica Blue picking up some stronger breeze within a day or so as well.

Leg 5, day 28, 13.00 GMT, rankings
1. Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) DTF 3502 nm
2. Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +61 nm
3. Puma Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +111 nm
4. Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) +269 nm
5. Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +743 nm
Team Delta Lloyd NED/IRL (Roberto Bermudez/ESP) DNS
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) DNS
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS



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