After 24-hours of hard racing and not much sleep, Ericsson 3 is today's leader of the reduced pack of six Volvo 70s, but, with 122nm to the finish in Sandhamn/Stockholm, only eight miles split the fleet from first to last.
Conditions overnight have been fast. As the sun rose at 02:30 UTC, Ericsson 4 managed to slip to the front, and at 03:00, they began a gybing duel with PUMA, both sailing offshore into better breeze. Ericsson 3 was also up with the front-runners, sailing in familiar waters.
At 10:45 UTC, the fleet was comfortably pointing straight towards the finish, when the wind shifted and began to die.
"Everyone was in a line on starboard tack, pretty much sailing direct to our waypoint 10 nm from the finish line and then a header and reduction in pressure came in. The shift was about 100 degrees, so we found ourselves sailing on the wrong tack. It was one of those shifts where the boys behind should benefit by seeing it coming as it hits the boats in front,"
explained Ericsson 4's media crew member Guy SALTER (GBR).
The fleet is now beating upwind through the Baltic Sea, 21nm off Utholmen on the western coast of Gotland, but still making around 10 knots and the crews are hoping the wind will shift back to ensure a quick trip to the finish. Presently, computer routeing software is predicting a finish at around 21:00 UTC tonight.
Overnight it was cold and most of the crews had not taken sleeping bags with them on this leg. Sleep has been as rare a commodity as warmth and the chances of rest are now gone as the crews will be constantly stacking and tacking in the new wind direction. Hard work for everyone, but especially for the crew of Ericsson 4, who have caught 'flu.
The crew of Telefónica Blue, which suspended racing yesterday after their boat became wedged on a rock just after the start in Marstrand, expects to resume racing on Wednesday or Thursday this week. It is their intention to arrive in Stockholm in time to compete in the Stockholm In-Port race on Sunday.
As Telefónica Blue will score minimum points on this, the penultimate leg of the race, PUMA's crew will strengthen their chances of second place in the race overall. However, there is still an In-Port race to sail in Stockholm, and Telefónica Blue's track record inshore is impressive.
Cameron KELLEHER in his leg blog on www.volvooceanrace.org reported encouraging news this morning. Telefónica Blue had been hauled out and inspected overnight at Inston, on mainland Sweden, where no major structural damage to the keel or the canting mechanism was found.
The main damage is to the daggerboard casing and the hull aft of the casing. The daggerboard took the brunt of the impact. The shore crew, led by Campbell FIELD, is working on a fix for that. There is some gouging of the keel bulb, which will be filled. Apart from a few minor bruises, the crew is in good shape and there is a positive mood in the camp.
Ericsson Racing has made their workshop available for repairs and plenty of other team members have weighed in to help.
"It is clearly our own mistake of course. We thought we were to leeward of the rock and clear of it, and we smacked it right on the head,"
said skipper Bouwe BEKKING
(NED), who was complimentary towards the services, which stood by. "We have to thank the Coast Guard, the Pilots and the Police here. They have been helpful. They managed to pull us off and get us safely to the harbour, so a big thanks to them,"
Leg Nine Day 2: 13:00 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
1. Ericsson 3 SWE, Magnus OLSSON (SWE) DTF: 122
2. Ericsson 4 SWE, Torben GRAEL
3. PUMA Racing Team USA, Ken READ
4. Delta Lloyd IRL, Roberto BERMUDEZ
5. Telefónica Black ESP, Fernando ECHAVARRI
6. Green Dragon IRL/CHN, Ian WALKER
7. Telefónica Blue ESP, Bouwe BEKKING
Team Russia RUS, Andreas HANAKAMP
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
(After Leg Eight)
1. Ericsson 4, skipper Torben GRAEL (BRA), 102 points
2. PUMA, skipper Ken READ (USA), 87.0 points
3. Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED), 86.0 points
4. Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 64.5 points
5. Green Dragon, skipper Ian WALKER (GBR), 59.0 points
6. Telefónica Black, skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP), 42.0
7. Delta Lloyd, skipper Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP), 35.0 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