Ericsson Racing Team set for penultimate leg to Rotterdam (NED)
June 01, 2006
The eighth and penultimate leg of the Volvo Ocean Race will kick off from Portsmouth (UK) tomorrow, Friday 2 June, at 17.30; a 1,500 nautical mile dash around Ireland and the UK to Rotterdam (NED). With an expected arrival date of 8 June, the sailors are predicting a tricky, light air leg, in stark contrast to the previous transatlantic crossing. The Ericsson Racing Team has strong ambitions, after achieving second place on leg seven.
“We had a fantastic welcome here in Portsmouth,” says Ericsson skipper Neal McDonald (GBR). “It has been a very busy stopover, but great to be home and catch up with my friends and family. We had a really good day sailing on Wednesday and now its time to put all our energy into this next leg.”
Friday’s race will start at 17.30 local time, scheduled to collide with high tide and the mass exodus of hundreds of supporters from work. The start off Southsea Castle will provide a great viewing platform for spectators, immediately to the east of Portsmouth Harbour. The six-strong fleet will sail out through the western end of the Solent, past the Needles and into the English Channel, headed for Lands End, the Scilly Isles and the Fastnet rock south of Ireland.
For navigator Andrew Cape (AUS), it will be his first time sailing offshore with the Ericsson Racing Team, having previously sailed onboard movistar. “It will be a light, tricky start to the leg, with a high pressure dominating the Irish Sea,” explains Cape, who predicts a slow start to the race. It currently looks like there will be two options - one to the right which will take the boats close to the Irish shore, the other to the left, going out into the Atlantic and skirting around the high pressure system. The first will be the shortest route, but also means a long stretch of sailing upwind in light airs. The other would mean sailing a greater distance out to the west, but at a slightly faster downwind angle.
“The early stages might decide the leg and we will be looking to get a good jump,” says Cape. “Personally, I am looking forward to a quiet leg after such a tough race across the Atlantic, although I will enjoy the mental challenge.”
From the Fastnet rock, the boats will turn the corner and head up the rugged west coast of Ireland, where big Atlantic swells can pound the shore in big breezes. They will round the coast of Northern Island and continue north past the Hebrides and the top of Scotland. The fleet will then enter the home straight - south down the North Sea, dodging oil and gas fields, and across to Rotterdam, the busiest port in Europe, across some of the most congested shipping lanes in the world.
“It could be a very challenging leg,” comments McDonald. “There will be lots of headland and corners to turn as the yachts race around the island, so plenty of opportunities for boats to get stuck. The key will be getting to the Fastnet in good shape and getting around the high pressure system.”
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