Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Ericsson 4 bowman Phil Jameson tends to duty. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson Racing Team.
by Victoria Low
Ericsson Racing Team currently holds the top two spots on Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race as the fleet approaches at a snail's pace the finish in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
One week ago today Ericsson's yachts led the fleet past Cape Horn in rough weather. The crews had had little sleep approaching the infamous landmark because they were sailing down the coast of Chile in a strong following wind, jibing back and forth.
At the time of the rounding the leaders were estimated to finish yesterday, Mar. 23. Instead, the current estimated time of arrival has the leader finishing in the early morning hours of Thursday.
"I have almost lost track of the number of days out here, one moves seamlessly into another," said Ericsson 4 navigator Jules Salter. "Progress has been slow, weather maps and GRIB files in the southwest Atlantic make part sense, and when you expect a gain you make a loss and vice versa."
Ericsson 3 continues to hold the fleet lead, a position it has maintained since Mar. 7, some 5,800 nautical miles ago. At 1305 GMT today, Ericsson 3 led Ericsson 4 by 65 miles and had 424 miles remaining to the finish.
Illustrating the slow going, Ericsson 3 has sailed a mere 172 nautical miles in the past 24 hours and Ericsson 4 177 miles. When it set the world 24-hour speed record last October, Ericsson 4 covered 596.6 miles in 24 hours.
"Last night we had a few hours of nervousness," said Ericsson 3 media crewman Gustav Morin. "We were in pretty much no wind and on one position report we were informed that Ericsson 4 had 13 knots of wind.
"Everyone went a bit quiet for awhile and started looking out to the horizon, hoping for some more wind to come," Morin continued. "Actually we got some after awhile, at the most 7 knots. It felt pretty nice just to get moving. If you lie still and the others are sailing in 13 knots of breeze, you can lose a huge lead in just a couple of hours."
Ericsson 3's lead over its teammate has fluctuated between 59 and 78 nautical miles in the past 24 hours. The light winds are the result of a high pressure that is breaking up and the lack of an incoming weather system to generate a different wind pattern.
"The situation to Rio is complex," Salter said. "Light-wind areas, small developing areas of low pressure and boats spread everywhere. All you can do is try and make sense of the six-hourly weather information and draw lines and amend charts to the wind readings we get from the other four boats we receive at the three-hourly sked times."
The continued delay of arrival is ramping up the frustration level for the sailors, who have been at sea for 39 days since departing Qingdao, China, on Feb. 14. Salter likens the situation aboard Ericsson 4 to grumpy, dominant males in a cage. Aboard Ericsson 3, thoughts are with loved ones.
"Most of the guys have even more longing for in Rio, more than just making a good result, coming off the water and having a nice meal," said Morin. "Since we are late in, most of the families will arrive before us and all the fathers onboard are talking more often about their kids and wives, and that they would want to be there to take care of them as soon as they get off the plane. It seems that will not happen. The light airs are still making our lives a mess."
VOLVO OCEAN RACE LEG 5 LEADERBOARD
(Mar. 24, 2009, 1305 GMT)
1. Ericsson 3, 424 nautical miles to finish
2. Ericsson 4, +65 NM
3. Puma, +154 NM
4. Green Dragon, +494 NM
5. Telefónica Blue, +559 NM
Ericsson Racing Team
Volvo Ocean Race