As the miles to Rio and the close of Volvo Ocean Race leg five start to click off, onboard Ericsson 3 Magnus OLSSON and his team are keeping focused on the finish, with just a cursory glance over their shoulders at the chasing pack.
They have managed to draw out a bigger buffer, now 87nm, over Brazilian skipper Torben GRAEL
's (BRA) Ericsson 4 as they head north, but the weather ahead is dominated by two high pressure systems and race meteorologist, Jennifer LILLEY, says the fleet can expect another slow down before they reach the southeasterly trade winds.
LILLEY is expecting the fleet to pass north of the first high by late today, but after that, the tactics will become even more challenging as the second high will be too far east for the fleet to stay on the favoured side.
"As a result, the wind speeds will decrease and the fleet is likely to bunch up, as everyone is forced to sail upwind, through the light air on the back side of the second high. By the beginning of next week the southeasterly flow should start to build around the north side of the high and the fleet can expect favourable winds for the finish,"
After five weeks at sea, the possibility of a slow down before the finish will be frustrating and provide Ericsson 4 with a dangerous opportunity to catch Ericsson 3. But for now, speeds are in the late teens with Ericsson 3 recording the best 24 hour run of 441nm.
Ericsson 3 is planning for a finish early next week. "The boat is really bruised and battered after this wrecker of a leg, and it needs to be taken care of quickly. With the routing we are going for now, we expect to land in Rio on 24 March, which gives us nine days until the in-port race. The boats are not the only part that is exhausted. The crew are, if possible, in even bigger need of some rest,"
said Media Crew Member Gustav MORIN (SWE).
As the fleet negotiated the Falklands Islands yesterday, Ian WALKER
(GBR), skipper of Green Dragon, was wondering if history would repeat itself. Finding themselves having to tack to clear the northern edge of the islands, the team had to dodge unmarked reefs. Around a hundred years ago, WALKER's great grandfather had been shipwrecked here as a boy and had to swim ashore as the ship went down.
As the team negotiated a very tenuous passage, inside some islands and through some reefs which would cut 10 miles off their course, WALKER was worried.
"I have to admit the thought of explaining how a second member of the family had become shipwrecked on the Falklands had crossed my mind,"
he said. But he never doubted his Dutch navigator, Wouter VERBRAAK, who was very confident in the accuracy of the charts.
Meanwhile, Telefónica Blue is making good progress and is the only boat in the fleet not to lose miles to Ericsson 3 in the last three-hour period. The team has had a reoccurrence of a problem with the checkstay, the stay that controls the bend in the mast. It was originally damaged when the team broke the forestay earlier in the leg.
David VERA (ESP) was dispatched up the mast at night, in waves of two to three metres to assess the damage. Skipper Bouwe BEKKING
(NED) confirmed that all was well, but the team was planning a second masthead sortie once daylight had broken.
"We are taking these kinds of setbacks with a smile on our face, nothing that we can't face and we will tackle it and move on,"
said BEKKING stoically.
Cape Horn Scoring Gate
(boat/date/rounding time/gate points)
Ericsson 3: 17.03.09 1222 UTC: 4 points
Ericsson 4: 17.03.09 1448 UTC: 3.5 points
PUMA: 17.03.09 2046 UTC: 3 points
Green Dragon: 18.03.09 0215 UTC 2.5 points
Telefónica Blue: 19.03.09 1339 UTC 2 points
Leg Five Day 35: 1300 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
Ericsson 3 SWE, Magnus OLSSON (SWE) DTF 1207nm
Ericsson 4 SWE, Torben GRAEL
PUMA Racing Team USA, Ken READ
Green Dragon IRL/CHI, Ian WALKER
Telefónica Blue ESP, Bouwe BEKKING
Delta Lloyd IRL, Roberto BERMUDEZ
Telefónica Black ESP, Fernando ECHAVARRI
Team Russia RUS, Andreas HANAKAMP
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
(After leg five, scoring gate two)
1. Ericsson 4, skipper Torben GRAEL
(BRA), 56.5 points
2. PUMA, skipper Ken READ
(USA), 47 points
3. Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING
(NED), 46.5 points
4. Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 35.5 points
5. Green Dragon, skipper Ian WALKER
(GBR), 34.5 points
6. Telefónica Black, skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI
(ESP), 21 points
7. Delta Lloyd, skipper Roberto BERMUDEZ
(ESP), 12 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