Sunday, 11 January 2009
Ericsson 4 in the in-port race in Singapore. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.
by Victoria Low
On a day that demanded flexibility and quick reflexes, Ericsson Racing Team's Ericsson 4 won the Singapore In-Port Race of the Volvo Ocean Race with finishes of 2-1.
Skippered by Brazil's Torben Grael, Ericsson 4 held second all the way around the track in the first race and then posted a come-from-behind win in the second to secure the day's victory. The overall race leader increased its total to 39 points and now leads second place by 5.5 points.
"I couldn't be more pleased, it was a hard week for us," said Grael, the winner of five Olympic medals. "We haven't practiced in-port racing all that much, not since the first one in Spain. The way the wind was shifting, positions were never secure. It was very demanding on the crew."
Ericsson 4 skipper, Torben Grael, waves to fans. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.
Ericsson 4's teammates aboard Ericsson 3 experienced a rougher outing. Ericsson 3, led by temporary skipper Magnus Olsson, nailed the start at the pin end in the first race, but that was the highlight of their day.
Ericsson 3 wound up finishing 5-6 and placed sixth for the day, but remains in fourth place overall with 24 points.
"It was a little bit of late tactical calls that didn't work as hoped," said Olsson, who took today's result with humility. "It's a very fine line. The margin to sail clean is very small."
The wind today was blowing mostly from the north and averaged around 15 knots. Between the lulls and puffs there were shifts of up to 45 degrees that kept the crews busy.
Ericsson 4's win in the second race was thrilling by all accounts. It featured a lead change on the first downwind leg and concluded with four boats in a mad dash to the finish, propelled by a 20-knot puff.
"It was tense onboard all day long," said Ericsson 4 tactician Stu Bannatyne. "It felt like we were always in maneuvers. We were calling it freestyle racing, you couldn't plan ahead."
Ericsson 4 trailed Telefónica Blue around the first mark in the deciding second race, but grabbed the lead at the leeward mark by working the right side of the first run (looking downwind). Ericsson 4 maintained its lead up the second beat using covering tactics, and led Telefónica Blue by about three boatlengths at the second windward mark.
Ericsson 4 bowmen Phil Jameson and Ryan Godfrey. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.
Ericsson 4's position became tenuous when the spinnaker sheet got under the bow of the boat as the crew was about to gybe. That allowed Telefónica Blue to gain a slight advantage.
Tactician Bannatyne, however, saw a new line of breeze coming in from behind and called for a jibe back to starboard. With the puff nearing 20 knots, the bows were lifting out of the water and spray was flying as the powerful VO70s screamed towards the finish. Ericsson 4 held out for a close finish over the two Telefónica boats.
Ericsson 4 charging towards the finishing line. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.
"There were nice lines of pressure coming down from the shore side of the course," Bannatyne said. "We managed to stay in it long enough to lead to the finish. The racing was frantic. Our heads were down all day long doing maneuvers. We rarely looked outside the boat."
Ericsson Racing Team
Volvo Ocean Race