Sunday, 24 May 2009

VOR: Ericsson Racing Team Closing in on Galway

Eivind Melleby helming, onboard Ericsson 3, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Victoria Low

At the pre-leg press conference for Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race, the Mayor of Galway, Padraig Conneely, pleaded with Ericsson Racing Team skippers and others for a daylight finish. He drew a round of laughter in explaining that he's in the middle of a re-election campaign and needs his rest. Life at the extreme pays no heed to wishes, and an early morning finish looks likely.

After enacting Stealth Play yesterday Ericsson 4 emerged this morning with its lead in tact. Recently skipper Torben Grael and the International crew have sailed into a covering position between the fleet and the finish, which was 230 nautical miles away at the 1300 GMT position report. Current ETAs have the boats finishing between midnight and 0600 GMT.

Behind Ericsson 4 the standings have seen a shake-up. At one point last night the entire fleet, except for Telefónica Black, was in Stealth mode as crews sought to hide their jibe to starboard for the approach to the finish line.

The three boats to the north and west - Ericsson 4, Ericsson 3 and Green Dragon - were all hoping to get across the line of the yachts to the east, which included Puma, Delta Lloyd, Telefónica Blue and Telefónica Black.

While Ericsson 4 came out in the lead, Green Dragon made the biggest jump in the fleet as the Irish/Chinese entry looks for a podium finish in its home port. At today's position report Green Dragon was running second, neck and neck with Puma and 39 nautical miles behind Ericsson 4. Yesterday Green Dragon was fifth.

Ericsson 3 continues to search for a chance to get back in the fight. The Nordic crew was 88 nautical miles off the lead, but only 36 miles behind fourth-placed Telefónica Blue. That kind of distance can be covered quickly in a wind shift, and skipper Magnus Olsson and the Nordic crew are wishing for more racecourse to make something happen.

Ericsson 4 still has a bit of weather to navigate on the final approach. Team meteorologist Chris Bedford is predicting the winds to lighten for a period tonight, but only to 10 knots at the lightest. After that he expects the wind to increase during the day on Sunday as another strong storm sweeps into the area.

"The Volvo fleet moving in from the west will run into some lighter air this evening near a high pressure ridge, but not for long," Bedford said. "The wind will generally be from the southwest, but tending left toward the south/southwest and south with time, allowing reaching angles into Galway Bay."

(At 1315 GMT, May 23, 2009)
1. Ericsson 4, 231 nautical miles to finish
2. Green Dragon, +39 NM
2. Puma, +39
4. Telefónica Blue, +52 NM
5. Delta Lloyd, +57 NM
6. Telefónica Black, +84 NM
7. Ericsson 3, +88 NM

Ericsson Racing Team
Volvo Ocean Race

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