A huge and very excited Saturday night crowd was on the dockside, principally waiting to celebrate the arrival of Green Dragon, their hometown boat, but Ericsson 4 benefitted from a raucous welcome as they drew alongside.
After fighting his way ashore, Brazilian skipper Torben GRAEL said:
"It's nice to get first place. It's another big step towards our goal, so we're pretty happy about it."
The North Atlantic threw everything it could at the seven-strong fleet, which revelled in the fast downwind conditions. Many of the crews have declared the sailing on this leg as the best they have ever experienced and there was plenty to contend with. Thick fog, a myriad of lobster pots followed by a whale exclusion zone, a scoring gate - which Ericsson 4 rounded in third place - and an ice exclusion zone to negotiate all added to the mix before the high-speed drag race to the finish, which proved to be a nail-biting thriller.
Reflecting on Ericsson 4's leg, GRAELsaid, "The beginning was tough. There was a big decision once we realised we couldn't get the first two positions at the gate, so we positioned ourselves for the rest of the leg.
"Then when we got this big front, we split from the fleet, which worked out well, but it was risky and it was a rough ride in. We had to push it to have a good position, so it was tough.
Ericsson 4 sailed the first half of this leg conservatively, only rising to the top of the pack on 19 May, day four. The remainder of the leg was spent either in first or second place, with the exception of a blip on day six when the team dropped briefly to fourth place.
"It's always a matter of risk against return," said GRAEL. "If you think it's worth running the risk, you take it. That's the game. We were conservative at times on this leg but took some big risks as well."
Close Race for Second and Third
At 0219 GMT, PUMA pipped hometown boat Green Dragon to second place, but only by three miles. The Dragons finished 11 minutes later at 0231 GMT, greeted by a very large and noisy Galway crowd.
Celebrations in Galway were huge. With three Irish sailors on board - Ian MOORE, Damian FOXALL and Justin SLATTERY - the Dragon completed her circumnavigation, and earned one of its strongest leg finishes to date.
Telefonica Blue finished in fourth place with Delta Lloyd taking fifth ahead of Telefonica Black and Ericsson 3
Leg Seven Finishing Order Galway
1. Ericsson 4 SWE, Torben GRAEL (BRA)
2. PUMA Racing Team USA, Ken READ (USA)
3. Green Dragon IRL/CHN, Ian WALKER (GBR)
4. Telefónica Blue ESP, Bouwe BEKKING (NED)
5. Delta Lloyd IRL, Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP)
6. Telefónica Black ESP, Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP)
7. Ericsson 3 SWE, Magnus OLSSON (SWE)
Team Russia RUS, Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT) DNS
Scoring Gate Order
1. Telefónica Blue at 03:11.24 UTC
2. PUMA at 03:12.04 UTC
3. Ericsson 4 at 03:33.05 UTC
4. Ericsson 3 at 04:06.02 UTC
5. Telefónica Black at 04:36.54 UTC
6. Delta Lloyd at 06:16.00 UTC
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard - Provisional
(After Leg Seven)
1. Ericsson 4, Torben GRAEL (BRA), 82.0 points
2. Telefónica Blue, Bouwe BEKKING (NED), 77.5 points,
3. PUMA, Ken READ (USA), 76.0 points
4. Ericsson 3, Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 60.0 points
5. Green Dragon, Ian WALKER (GBR), 52.0 points
6. Telefónica Black, Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP), 36.0 points
7. Delta Lloyd, Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP), 29.5 points
8. Team Russia, 10.5 points, DNS
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