STOCKHOLM, Sweden (Apr. 17, 2009) –ﾠ Ericsson Racing Team yacht Ericsson 4 cleared the Leg 6 scoring gate of the Volvo Ocean Race in second place last night.
The scoring gate was a line of latitude extending east from Ilha de Fernando de Noronha, an island about 200 nautical miles northeast of Natal, Brazil.
Ericsson 4, the overall race leader skippered by Brazil’s Torben Grael, cleared the gate at 2258 GMT. The International crew added 3.5 points to their scoreline and now has 69.5 points total, more than 10 points ahead of second place.
“It’s a very good position for us. We’re very happy with 2nd place,” said Grael. “We had our ups and downs on the way here and that position is good for the overall for us. So we’re pretty happy.”
Teammate Ericsson 3 cleared the gate in sixth place. Skipper Magnus Olsson and the Nordic crew collected 1.5 points to increase their total to 46 points, good for fourth place on the leaderboard.
The crew lost a chance at a better placing when they had to tack to port to get to the east of Fernando de Noronha, which pushed them back from their competition on the water.
“We fought like hell to lay the mark and at the very end got this crazy lift, but it wasn’t enough and we had to tack,” said watch captain Richard Mason. “It was a fight to the bitter end, but not a good scoring gate for us.”
Except for the lead boat, the six other crews on the leg rounded the island in the dark and varied weather conditions. Reports from the crews illustrate everything from light winds to heavy squalls, similar to what Ericsson 4 encountered.
“It’s been a tough leg up to the scoring gate with a lot of clouds, even more by the end here,” Grael said. “There was a big one at the last approach when we were very close, 30 knots of wind. After that, a big calm. We could see boats behind us showing up, their running lights. It was quite a scary moment. Then we ended up getting some breeze again and we just managed to lay the island.”
The weather in the South Atlantic Ocean has also played havoc with Ericsson 3. On the first night of the leg last Saturday the crew’s Code Zero headsail developed a few punctures when it was slapping into the rig in light winds. Then, two days ago, skipper Olsson was washed into the guard rail around the starboard helmsman’s station and injured some ribs.
“The last 24 hours have been insane,” Mason said from Ericsson 3. “We’ve been sailing along in nothing and then huge amounts of breeze. We’ve had 25 knots of boatspeed, and Magnus has a broken rib. But we’re still gunning for the front runners.”
The fleet is bound for Boston, USA, which is about 3,300 nautical miles to the northwest. The leaders are expected to arrive in Boston in another seven to 10 days.
“There are nearly 2,000 nautical miles of reaching conditions in winds between 10 and 20 knots coming up,” said team meteorologist Chris Bedford. “Around latitude 30 North (or perhaps a bit south of there), they will make the transition across a high-pressure ridge and into the westerlies of the North Atlantic. Whatever weather system greets the fleet after crossing in to the westerlies could very well determine who wins the leg.”
VOLVO OCEAN RACE LEG 6 LEADERBOARD
(At 1003 GMT, Apr. 17, 2009)
1.ﾠ Telefónica Blue, 3,359 nautical miles to finish
2.ﾠ Ericsson 4, +55 NM
3.ﾠ Delta Lloyd, +57 NM
3.ﾠ Telefónica Black, +57 NM
5.ﾠ Puma, +58 NM
6.ﾠ Ericsson 3, +59 NM
7.ﾠ Green Dragon, +71 NM