Monday, 15 June 2009

VOR: Light Winds Frustrate Ericsson Racing Team at Start of Leg Nine to Stockholm

Just after the start of leg 9. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

by Victoria Low

Ericsson Racing Team was placed third and sixth at the end of the nearly 6-nautical mile loop to start Leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Hundreds of spectator craft turned out on the waters here off Sweden's west coast, while thousands more took in the action from the rocky shoreline of this idyllic hamlet. But a nice 15-knot wind from the west died away moments after the 1300 start, and left the fleet struggling in light winds and a lumpy seaway.

Ericsson Racing Team's two yachts pulled off bold port-tack starts, opposite from the less risky starboard-tack option. Soon after the start overall race leader Ericsson 4, skippered by Torben Grael of Brazil, found itself in light winds on the right side of the course.

The crew sailed over to the left side of the course where there appeared to be better wind pressure, but by the time the International crew got there the wind had died and shifted around to the northwest.

Concentration on Ericsson 3 shortly after the start. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

Ericsson 3, skippered by Sweden's Magnus Olsson, put forth a better showing. The crew worked the middle of the course to their advantage and rounded the first turning mark in third about two and a half minutes after leader Green Dragon.

In an example of how light the winds were, Green Dragon covered the nearly 3-nautical mile leg in approximately 43 minutes, extremely slow going for the speedy Volvo Open 70s. Ericsson 4 was almost seven and a half minutes behind.

The fleet then sailed the reverse course back to the start line. Ericsson 3 went around the turning mark in third and Ericsson 4 in sixth before setting off on the leg that will take them around the south of Sweden and up the eastern side before finishing off Sandhamn, an island in the archipelago just west of Stockholm. The 525-nautical mile leg is expected to last 36 to 48 hours.

Ericsson 4, which has won the last three offshore legs, began the penultimate leg with a 15-point advantage at the top of the leaderboard. Although there's still the Stockholm In-Port Race and Leg 10 to complete, skipper Grael is pleased with the crew's effort to this point.

"We have a crew that's very experienced and pushes the boat well at the right times without risking damage to the yacht," Grael said. "I think Jules (Salter, navigator) has done a fantastic job on the navigation. We tried to sail conservatively because we had a good start to the race. It's been working well."

Team meteorologist Chris Bedford is predicting a fast ride south. Winds tonight are expected to build to 20 knots with higher gusts.

"I think it's going to be really fresh as soon as we get out there," said Ericsson 3 navigator Aksel Magdahl. "I think as soon as we get off the coast it should freshen up, maybe 20 to 25 knots."

(Through Leg 8)
1. Ericsson 4, 102 points
2. Puma, 87
3. Telefónica Blue, 86
4. Ericsson 3, 64.5
5. Green Dragon, 59
6. Telefónica Black, 42
7. Delta Lloyd, 35

Ericsson Racing Team
Volvo Ocean Race

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