Ericsson Racing Team in second
16 May 2006
The Ericsson Racing Team is enjoying great performance on leg seven of the Volvo Ocean Race. Currently lying in second place behind ABN Amro One, the team is heading towards Portsmouth, Great Britain, where it expects to arrive in four to five days time.
The seven strong Volvo Ocean Race fleet departed New York, USA, on 11 May with tough upwind conditions ahead. Ericsson had a good start and was leading the fleet out of New York. As the breeze picked up on the first night, ABN Amro One moved into first and Ericsson dropped back to fifth, complaining of fish getting snagged around the keel and rudder. It would seem many other boats suffered the same fate and the Swedish team soon climbed back near the front.
On Sunday night, with 2,350 miles to go to the finish, navigator Mark Rudiger (USA) described the race situation as an interesting game of chess: “Last night we knew it was a pivotal part of the race, so we worked overtime to put Ericsson in the right spot.”
Rudiger explained the team’s strategy: “I download the provided race package four times a day - GRIB files, analysis and forecasts, satellite pics, gulf pics etc, and spend an hour processing it all and trying to put together the jigsaw puzzle. Then I bring in Ken Read and give him my spin on the chess game as I see it. He puts his tactical-strategical prowess to work on it, then we get Neal down and with his additional tactical input plus knowing what the boat likes, we agree on a plan of attack.”
The Ericsson Racing Team made a group decision to tack onto port and timed it beautifully. It broke away from the bulk of the fleet, opting to “own the south east”, instead of taking the more direct northerly route towards Portsmouth. “Looking at the weather, whoever owned the south east, would likely benefit,” explained Rudiger. In going further east, along with ABN Amro One, the team got some extra help from the Gulf Stream, where the warm current mixes the wind better and this gave them a boost in performance.
Skipper Neal McDonald (GBR) described a happy mood onboard Ericsson as the team sailed in second place, towards his homeland Great Britain, yesterday. “Things are going well for us. Our decision to break east has benefited us and now it is a case of the rich getting richer. ABN Amro One will start pulling away, but we should also make some nice gains on the fleet.”
The coming days will be crucial as the fleet tries to avoid a high press system in the Atlantic. “We need to make sure the high pressure ridge to the north doesn’t swallow us up, so we are fighting hard to stay out of it. Provided we escape this, we should have some fairly nice running conditions soon.”
Indeed Ericsson has finally broken out of the beating breeze and is currently reaching towards England at 15 to 20 knots. Sailing 48 nautical miles behind leader ABN Amro One and 40 miles ahead of Brasil 1 in third, the cliffs at The Needles are only days away.
“There is a great mood onboard right now as we think we have the fleet beating behind us and we are into reaching and running for possibly days,” comments new crewmember Ken Read (USA), who joined the team in Baltimore. “I think everyone is relieved and pretty psyched at how we came out - beating up the shore and splitting off to Halifax, then finally getting out to the Gulf Stream. We are ahead of all except ABN Amro One.”
“We must continue to make smart moves and ensure we keep the boat and sails in one piece, so that we bring this puppy home in good order,” says Read. “The sun is finally out, we have peeled off our layers and we are blazing towards England, looking forward to a pint of Guinness!”
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