by Victoria Low
About 22 hours after the start of Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race, Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4 are wageing their own private battle at the head of the eight-boat fleet.
At 1000 GMT this morning, Ericsson 3, skippered by Sweden's Anders Lewander, and Ericsson 4, led by Brazil's Torben Grael, were sailing within sight of each other, according to Volvo Ocean Race live tracking. The two blue boats with orange bows were some 30 miles ahead of third-placed Green Dragon, each with 6,249 nautical miles to the finish in Cape Town, South Africa.
The two boats last night followed the pre-race strategy of staying close to the Spanish coastline after clearing Cabo de Gata, and seemed to find more consistent wind conditions.
At the 1000 GMT position reports, the boats had hit westerly headwinds, with a recorded wind direction around 270 degrees. They were recording windspeeds around 10 knots, and their boatspeeds were 9 knots. Before the start, team meteorologist Chris Bedford had predicted light winds for the approach to the Straits of Gibraltar.
Last night provided some rough but thrilling sailing. Both Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4 recorded a top boatspeed in excess of 30 knots.
"We are in a watch system, but in every maneuver all hands are called on deck," Ericsson 3 media crewman Gustav Morin said around midnight last night. "And since the wind has been quite shifty, the guys have not got a lot of sleep.
"But our spirit and mood is high. Not the least because we are going really well. Puma was in front of us for a long time but we chased them up and passed them. Now we are fighting our team comrades on Ericsson 4 who are just a few miles ahead of us. We were really ripping for awhile with almost 30 knots of boat speed on the log," Morin said.
It appeared the boats would clear through the Straits of Gibraltar, a distance of approximately 290 nautical miles from the start in Alicante, about 24 or 26 hours after the start. That would be a quicker pace than expected.
At the 1000 GMT position reports, Ericsson 3 had recorded the highest wind strength for the previous three hours at 24 knots and boatspeed of 21 knots, while Ericsson 4 had recorded 22 knots and 21 knots, respectively. Boats further offshore had recorded windspeeds and boatspeeds in the low to mid teens.
Ericsson Racing Team