Wednesday, 11 February 2009

VOR: Ericsson Racing Team Captures Qingdao In-Port Race

Action on board Ericsson 4 during the Qingdao in-port races. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

by Victoria Low

Ericsson Racing Team's International crew today overcame light and shifty winds and three other competitors to win the Qingdao In-Port Race of the Volvo Ocean Race.

With skipper Torben Grael of Brazil at the helm, Ericsson 4 posted a first and a second to win its second consecutive In-Port Race. The International crew now has 49 points and extended its overall lead by a half point to 4 points.

"It was a very light-air day, but it's good to come out with a win," said Grael. "It's in a good direction for us, so we're happy with that."

The two races were sailed in frustrating conditions. The wind shifted as much as 25 degrees with the speed between 4 and 8 knots. The first race finished with about 5 minutes to spare on the 90-minute time limit, and the second race was in heavier fog.

"We had as much control as you can have in 4 knots of wind," said Grael. "We had a good day, but there were too many points riding on such a light-air day."

Grael and tactician Stu Bannatyne led Ericsson 4 to a nice port tack start in Race 1 with the giant Code Zero genoa set in the 6-knot winds. Although slightly behind off the line, they had good speed and were headed in the direction they desired.

"We figured with the Code Zero we had to minimize maneuvers, and we wanted to go right," Bannatyne said. "It worked out very well for us."

The second race started equally as well. Ericsson 4 got off the start line heading to the left side of the course and having forced Telefónica Blue to the right side. They were first through the mid-course gate when the wind thwarted their effort.

"We had a nice start, working better pressure to the left," Bannatyne said. "We forced Telefónica Blue to right and they got a 20-degree shift. It was hard to see that coming."

Ericsson 4 made good gains on the second upwind leg to work its way into second place, which it held to the finish. It was an important placing because it ensured the day's win, but it had the crew in angst.

"The emotion on the boat after the second race was relief," Bannatyne said. "It could've gone either direction. If we'd finished behind Puma and Green Dragon, we'd have placed fourth on the day."

With the Code Zero used for all four upwind legs and two of the downwind legs, the grinders were the only crewmembers who didn't suffer from the chilly, 40-degree Fahrenheit temperatures.

"It's hard to tack the Code Zero because you have to furl it up," said trimmer Tony Mutter. "The six grinders are going as hard as they can. They furl it up and then out again. Plus the boards have to be raised and lowered. We warmed the grinders up quite a bit."

Today's in-port race was completed after the first two attempts were postponed due to too much fog and lack of wind. Now the crew prepares for Leg 5, the longest leg in the history of the race at 12,300 nautical miles. The leg is scheduled to begin Saturday, Feb. 14, and will conclude in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"It's time to get where it's warm," said Mutter.

Ericsson Racing Team's second yacht, Ericsson 3, missed the in-port race because it is undergoing repairs in Taiwan. The yacht was damaged on Leg 4 of the race and repairs are underway to the bow. The crew hopes to complete Leg 4 before joining the fleet on Leg 5.

Ericsson Racing Team

Volvo Ocean Race

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