Friday, 27 March 2009
The crew of Ericsson 3 shortly after crossing the line. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.
by Victoria Low
Ericsson Racing Team yacht Ericsson 3, skippered by Magnus Olsson, closed out the long and arduous Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race when it placed first here this morning at 0737 local (1037 GMT).
The Nordic crew overcame a late start seven hours behind the fleet and has been on the water for more than 43 days to win their first leg of the 2008-'09 race. Their elapsed time for the 12,300-nautical mile leg was 40 days, 5 hours, 37 minutes and 57 seconds.
The Nordic crew for Leg 5 included skipper and watch captain Olsson (Stockholm, Sweden), navigator Aksel Magdahl (Oslo, Norway), watch captain Thomas Johanson (Helsinki, Finland), helmsmen/trimmers Eivind Melleby (Oslo), Arve Roaas (Tonsberg, Norway), Martin Strömberg (Gothenburg, Sweden) and Magnus Wøxen (Stockholm), boat captain Jens Dolmer (Nyköbing Falster, Denmark), bowmen Anders Dahlsjö (Onsala, Sweden) and Martin Krite (Lund, Sweden) and media crewman Gustav Morin (Stockholm).
"It's hard to describe my feelings. Everyone is proud and happy with the victory," said Olsson, the 60-year-old skipper. "It was more of a team effort than I've ever been associated with in yachting. Individually, we're not as strong as Ericsson 4 or Puma. But collectively, we're a great team."
Ericsson 3 in front of Corcovado in Rio. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.
Ericsson 3 earned 8 points for the win and totaled 15.5 points on the leg (from a maximum of 16) by also placing first and second at the two scoring gates. Ericsson 3 moved solidly into fourth place with 43.5 points after the highly successful leg.
"It has been a big leg, too big to get philosophic about now," said Magdahl, the 30-year-old navigator who made the bold tactical call on Mar. 4 that would put Ericsson 3 in the lead.
"But one thing is for sure; that everyone gave their best the whole way and you can see now how impressed everyone is with the other team members," Magdahl said.
Ericsson 3 after winning Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.
Leg 5 began in Qingdao, China, on Feb. 14, but for Ericsson 3 it began three days earlier on Feb. 11. That's when the Nordic crew set off from Taiwan to complete Leg 4 into China. Ericsson 3 was forced to pull into Taiwan on Jan. 27 with hull damage. The boat was out of action for two weeks while the hull was repaired.
As Ericsson 3 approached the finish of Leg 4 on Feb. 14, the short-handed crew passed the three boats that took the start of Leg 5. Soon after crossing the finish line, Ericsson 3 made a beeline for the dock, where the crew swapped sails, added crewmembers, food, fuel, assorted spares and extra clothing, all in seven hours, and then turned around and headed back out to sea.
"Once again a big thanks, to everyone who has supported us along the way," said Magdahl. "This is a team victory. We owe huge thanks to everyone that contributed on all areas within the team to get us to the start line for this leg!"
Riding a big blow out of China, Ericsson 3 quickly rejoined the fleet and by the third day was back in its customary third place on the leaderboard. Ericsson 3 has placed third on three of the previous legs, but this time that standing would improve.
Ericsson 3 on Mar. 4 cleared the first scoring gate at latitude 36 South in second place, about 30 minutes behind leader Ericsson 4. Then, moments later, the crew surprised armchair tacticians around the world when it made a tack to the northeast, back across the scoring line and towards an area of low pressure.
Magnus Olsson kisses the Leg 5 trophy. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.
The move was admired for its brazenness. Rarely has a boat split from the pack during this race when it is in solid position. Ericsson 3 made the move without thinking twice.
"The true story is that Aksel saw the opportunity many days before the scoring gate," said Olsson. "He was well prepared. He saw it develop. When he presented the idea, it felt like he had thought it through."
"I'm proud of that decision," said Magdahl, "because I could contribute to the team effort. Walking around and seeing how happy everyone is, it's a team thing. There's a lot of joy right now."
Magnus Olsson holds the winners trophy aloft. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.
Ericsson 3 took the lead on Mar. 7, and then played it smart across the Southern Ocean, pushing when it had to and backing off other times.
"One of the hardest days was one night in Southern Ocean," said Johanson, the watch captain. "Ericsson 4 had gained quite a lot. I was on watch with Bagi (Wøxen) and thought we need to push a bit. The wind was blowing 35 to 40 knots. In that four-hour watch we averaged 26 knots boatspeed and gained back 8 miles on Ericsson 4. That was memorable."
Johanson also has fond memories of being aboard the yacht that led the fleet past Cape Horn. It was his first time around the Horn, but the fourth time a Johanson has rounded it.
"My grandfather went around the Horn in 1901, and his father and mother before him," said Johanson. "It's been a childhood dream to round the Horn."
The crew of Ericsson 3 celebrate their victory in traditional style. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.
When the crew led around Cape Horn on Mar. 17, it looked like they would need six days to make the finish in Rio. Instead, it's taken the better part of nine days to complete the final 2,200 nautical miles.
"I knew it could fall apart, but always felt we'd pull it out," said Magdahl. "With that large a high-pressure area, there's always the chance someone could come right up to us. We just had to keep sailing our optimum route."
At the time of the Nordic crew's finish teammate Ericsson 4 was still in Stealth Mode. The International crew went into hiding yesterday afternoon at 1600 GMT. They'll emerge from Stealth at either 1600 GMT today or when they are 50 nautical miles from the finish.
Ericsson Racing Team
Volvo Ocean Race