It was a good night for PUMA as well. After a fearsome catfight with the crew of Stockholm-based Ericsson 3, whose crew wanted a win here in front of their home crowd more than anything, PUMA stole victory on the finish line tonight in Sandhamn (an island in the Stockholm archipelago just east of the capital city), and claimed full points for Volvo Ocean Race leg nine.
Today's win was PUMA's first leg victory in this 10-leg race, although they have had a good showing during the in-port racing. Their score of 95 points so far strengthens their second place overall at this stage of the event.
"It feels fantastic and it's wonderful to be here in Stockholm. We feel a little sad to spoil Ericsson 3's homecoming, but it's a great win, and a hard-earned win," said American skipper Ken READ.
"Man do we know how to make it hard. I don't think it has to be this hard, but somehow that's the only way we seem to have success. We let them [Ericsson 3] go, on a little squall by lighthouse, and they went from half a mile behind, to overtake us. We had to battle back, but none of these guys quit. They sailed a great race and it was quite a drag race.
"When we let them get ahead of us at the lighthouse, I think most teams would have quit right there, but adversity seems to be our friend and we got a little break when they got their jib hung up on the radar dome. It's a great relief to get our first leg win out of the way," READ said.
Fighting PUMA for second place overall is Telefónica Blue and skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED), who had the terrible misfortune of being grounded on a rock outside Marstrand shortly after the start. The crew expects to complete this leg and be in Stockholm in time to contest the In-Port race on Sunday and thereby pile the pressure back on PUMA.
The largely Nordic crew of Ericsson 3, skippered by the hugely popular, Magnus OLSSON (SWE), and winners of leg five, the longest leg of the race, had to settle for second place tonight, bringing their overall score to 71.5 points.
"It was very close. That was enough tacks for a lifetime. We wanted so badly to win and now Ken READ has destroyed my party. How mad do you think I am? From now on, I'm really going to pick on him," joked skipper Swedish OLSSON, when he stepped ashore.
The final podium spot went to Ericsson 4, which ensures her overall victory in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. Although there is still one leg left to complete before the team crosses the finish for the final time in St Petersburg on 27 June, it is now not possible for them to be beaten.
Skipper GRAEL said, "We are finishing Ericsson 4's circumnavigation. The boat was built here and left here nearly a year ago, so she's back after sailing around the world and winning the race. It couldn't be any better.
"We have a wonderful crew. A lot of experience. They have been fantastic on the whole leg, the whole race around the world. It's a pleasure to sail with them and get back to Stockholm in this position," he said.
Fourth, fifth and six spots were filled by Telefónica Black, Green Dragon and Delta Lloyd.
Leg Nine Finishing Order Stockholm
2. Ericsson 3
3. Ericsson 4
4. Telefónica Black
5. Green Dragon
6. Delta Lloyd
7. Telefónica Blue SUSPENDED RACING
8. Team Russia DNS
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
(After Leg Nine)
1. Ericsson 4, skipper Torben GRAEL (BRA), 108 points
2. PUMA, skipper Ken READ (USA), 95.0 points
3. Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED), SUSPENDED RACING 86.0 points
4. Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 71.5 points
5. Green Dragon, skipper Ian WALKER (GBR), 63.0 points
6. Telefónica Black, skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP), 47.0
7. Delta Lloyd, skipper Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP), 38.0 points
8. Team Russia, skipper Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT), 10.5 points
Go here for all the news on the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09
Volvo Ocean Race - www.volvooceanrace.org