NÄSTA

THE MAGNUS-MASON DYNAMIC

Juni 04, 2009 @ 20:15:55   Foto Dave Kneale / Volvo Ocean Race

Skipper of Ericsson 3 Magnus Olsson greets team mate Richard Mason on arrival to Rio De Janeiro

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"Assumption is the mother of all evils in this race," says Richard Mason. "Everything has to be checked."


With that the lines are untied and Ericsson 3 motors through Galway's harbour and towards the dock gates, an area where the water depth decreases to a shade above five meters.

"This is critical," calls Magnus Olsson.

"We have 5.7 metres now," replies Mason. "But it will pop up."

These boats draw four and a half metres and the margins here are reasonably tight, certainly tight enough, it would seem, to warrant concentration.

"There we go," says Mason, holding the wheel as they pass through and navigate beyond another known "hump". These guys have passed through that gate numerous times during their stay in Galway, but they still attach importance to the details. Today is all about details, a brief mission to check various aspects of the boat before putting her through another 1,250 miles.

Suddenly Olsson calls back from the foredeck. "Look at those cowards," he laughs. He is pointing at Ericsson 4, who followed them through. "Going after us."

Ericsson 4 had been tied next to her sister ship a few minutes earlier, enduring the same wait for the tide to reach an acceptable level for them to leave. On Ericsson 3, Olsson had been playing the jovial host, occasionally joining Mason's young daughter in quizzing Mason about the time.

"How long?

"How many minutes?

"Can we go now?"

Olsson is an extremely likeable and admirable man, and interesting at the same time. He's 60, sailing his sixth edition of this race but only on his first assignment as a skipper in this event. When he was given the job permanently in place of Anders Lewander in Taiwan he admitted it was not a natural fit for him - traditionally one of the guys - to stand above and take central control. "I guess I like being liked," was part of his rationale.

And he is well liked. "A great bloke and a great sailor," Mason says. To the public and media he perhaps comes across as a mildly eccentric uncle type, someone you naturally expect to say something funny or peculiar on demand. To say he plays the clown would probably be harsh, but he does not appear to take himself too seriously.

On the boat, you glean a fuller picture of his personality. He makes jokes and the Nordic crew clearly seem to enjoy working for a man who is arguably Sweden's best ever offshore sailor. Among his great strengths as a skipper, it would seem from talking to members of the crew, is his ability to keep spirits high. "He's a great people person," Mason says. "He keeps the mood good," adds Gustav Morin, who has observed the team as media crewmember for the entire race. "He definitely has a very serious side, but he is a very positive guy."

It's one reason why Mason, a watch leader, said Olsson was the "right man for this boat".

"There are a lot of good sailors on this team, but they were sometimes a bit willing to go along with what was happening and not speak up," he says. "Magnus has helped them come out a bit, talk more, give an opinion on whatever the situation is. That's a good thing."

There is little dictatorial about Olsson's approach, as Mason verifies, and in fact it sometimes seems the opposite. He is down on his knees at the back of the boat, rigging up part of the hydraulic system, before getting up and turning winches. He gives the calls to hoist and the discussions on headings and timings go through him. But Mason is a strong sounding board and, you sense, the tougher taskmaster of the two. Maybe a good cop; good, but occasionally willing to be the bad cop arrangement.

The net product, aside from some amazing results and continued improvement, is a happy crew. They all get by and chat. Aksel Magdhal is pacing around, looking at his hand held chart and studying the early forecasts for leg eight. Martin Krite and Anders DahlsjÖ stand around chatting. Jens Dolmer is not here today but if he was he'd most likely be working with Olsson and Mason in keeping the others in line. Shortly after giving the A3 sail a check, everyone sings some kind of Swedish birthday song to Thomas Johanson, who turned 40.

"We mostly talk Swinglish onboard," Mason, a New Zealander, says.

There is a lot of laughing and not really any signs that they are sick of the sight of each other. They carry on with their checks, nothing exciting but essential.

"You can't assume anything," Mason adds. No one seems put out or inconvenienced by the halyard checks, the water-maker testing and the occasional moving of the keel. "All good," Mason says.

It seems that way.



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