Sunday, 12 October 2008

Volvo Ocean Race: Ericsson Racing Team Second and Third in early going

Ericsson 4 leading after the first mark. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

by Victoria Low

Ericsson's two crews in the Volvo Ocean Race are running second and third some three hours after the start of Leg 1, a 6,500-nautical-mile journey to Cape Town, South Africa, according to the official race Web site.

Skippered by Brazil's Torben Grael, Ericsson 4 took the lead off the start line and held it around the first and second turning marks during a lap in the Bay of Alicante. Ericsson 4 remained in the lead for about two and a half hours, but slipped behind Puma of the U.S. in an apparent tactical maneuver.

The Volvo Ocean Race Web site reported that at 1620 GMT Ericsson 4 trailed Puma by 2.19 nautical miles, with Ericsson 3, skippered by Sweden's Anders Lewander, about a further half-mile behind.

The weather at the start was as challenging as could be imagined. An east/northeasterly wind blew around 25 knots, with higher gusts and intermittent rain. A 4-foot seaway saw the bows of the Volvo Open 70s alternately plowing through waves and leaping 20 feet clear.

All boats had a reef in the mainsail and a small jib for a headsail. The crews were decked out in full foul weather gear.

The fleet did a short windward/leeward lap around the Bay of Alicante, before heading southwesterly towards Isla Plana, about 8 nautical miles away. The fleet had to leave the island to port, passing between it and the mainland, before being free to sail whatever course the navigators desired.

Team meteorologist Chris Bedford said that the decision to head offshore or stay closer to shore tonight will depend on a trough in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

"A very strong low pressure was moving west from Morocco into the Atlantic Ocean this morning. A trough of low pressure extended from this low across the Mediterranean coast of Africa, south of Alicante," Bedford said. "This trough is the key player for the forecast today and tonight, while the low pressure will be the key to the forecast Sunday and Monday, and probably Tuesday.

"The basic strategy is to try and stay just to the north of the trough. This will keep them in stronger running breezes from the northeast and east through early tomorrow morning. With the trough moving very close to the Spanish coast, the risk is that this fast route will get cut off, and the boats will be facing a slower, lighter upwind trip to the Straits of Gibraltar."

Ericsson Racing Team

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