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3 November 2008, 09:20 am
Ericsson 4 Wins Leg One Followed By PUMA And Ericsson 3
Ericsson 4 skipper Torben GRAEL celebrates winning leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race
Ericsson 4 skipper Torben GRAEL celebrates winning leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09

Brazilian skipper Torben GRAEL and his international crew from Ericsson 4 crossed the finish line at Cape Town on Sunday morning to win leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race, with second place going to PUMA, Ericsson 3 taking third and Green Dragon in fourth.
Ericsson 4 crossed the finishing line at 05:54 UTC (07:54 local time) as dawn rose in Cape Town on Sunday. The team took 21 days, 17 minutes and 54 seconds to complete the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, which started from Alicante, Spain on 11 October. At 6,500nm, leg one is the second longest of the ten legs of the race.

On stepping ashore, Torben GRAEL (BRA) said: "It's really fantastic to be here. It was a great trip with lots of speed and I am very happy with what we have achieved. I think we had PUMA in visual for about 70 per cent of the race and I am very glad that we were ahead at the scoring gate and at the finish. It feels great to win."

Navigator, Jules SALTER (GBR) added, "It's really good to be here. It is always good to be in Cape Town. It was an eventful race; I really can't remember most of it, but it feels really great to be in the lead from the very beginning."

The leg win is worth eight points, which, when added to the points already on the board for Ericsson 4 from the Alicante in-port race (2.5) and 3.5 for passing the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha in second place, brings their overall tally to 14 points. Ericsson 4 leads the race overall, just one point ahead of Ken READ (USA) and his team on PUMA, who finished the leg in second place just under 12 hours behind at 17:44 UTC.

PUMA skipper READ was delighted with the team's second place finish, "Seeing where we've come from - there was no such thing as PUMA Ocean Racing a year ago - so second place is great. I am very proud of our sailors, our team as a whole, from the boat builders to the office staff," he said. Looking ahead to the second leg of the race, which takes the fleet from Cape Town to Cochin, India starting on 15 November, READ said his team were now ready to make the step up to compete with Ericsson 4, "It's quite a comforting feeling, from here on, knowing how hard you can push. Now we can sit down as a group and figure out where that next speed button is. We are pretty comfortable with where we are at."

Ericsson 3, skippered by Sweden's Anders LEWANDER with an almost an all-Nordic crew (watch captain Richard MASON is from New Zealand), crossed the finish line at 04:08 UTC this morning to take third place on the leg, followed by Green Dragon at 07:12 UTC.

Ericsson 3 scored four leg points for finishing third, taking into account the earlier measurement penalty imposed by the International Jury in October (for racing while her keel was not rule-compliant, see http://noticeboard.volvooceanrace.org/?p=315). According to the ruling, Ericsson 3 will have two points docked from her leg one score of six. One point was previously deducted from her point total at the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha as well as from the in-port race in Alicante. This gives Ericsson 3 a provisional points total of 5, putting them sixth on the race leaderboard.

"I am very proud of the team," said skipper LEWANDER. "It is fantastic coming to Cape Town: what an achievement for us. We have fought really hard and come back with great attitude. All the hours of preparation were worthwhile. We have had a lot of hard work, but we've got through and built on our spirit."

After a close battle with Ericsson 3, Green Dragon, eventually came in fourth. Ian WALKER (GBR) and his crew score five points, which combined with the four points they earned for passing the leg one scoring gate in the lead, move them up to third on the race leaderboard, three points behind Ericsson 4.

"The first 10 days of this leg were easy and then it got tight and tactical with four or five race leaders right across the leg. Obviously, we were very happy coming first at the gate and the boys did a great job. Waking up this morning and seeing Table Mountain was a great feeling," commented WALKER.

It's been an eventful and dramatic opening to the event, particular for the leg winners Ericsson 4, who had to evacuate a crewman on day seven (17 October) but went on to hit the front of the fleet and set a new monohull 24-hour distance world record of 602nm (subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council) on day 19 (29 October).

Reflecting on a winning start, GRAEL, the only sailor to have won five Olympic medals, was full of praise for his crew, "The teamwork was marvellous, not only onboard, but as a whole team. The shore team too. Onboard it a little harder with one man down, a little bit of extra work for everybody, but everyone gave it best, and here we are," he said.

After leading the fleet at the start, Ericsson 4 made a detour to the Cape Verde islands to evacuate trimmer/helmsman, Tony MUTTER (NZL), who had an infected knee. From that moment, the crew was a man down, sailing with a crew of nine men and missing the helming skills of MUTTER.

Losing an estimated 50nm to the fleet while the evacuation took place, Ericsson 4 then began the long haul back up the leaderboard and, by day eight, 18 October, they were back in third position, 56nm behind PUMA. The vagaries of the Doldrums then caused havoc as the boats wildly oscillated up and down the leaderboard trying to make the most of squally conditions.

Green Dragon rounded the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of Brazil, in first place after making big gains on the rest of the fleet with a more westerly course through the Doldrums. Ericsson 4 pounced on PUMA and stole second place at the scoring gate and from this point forward the rest of the leg became a battle between these two boats as they pulled away at the front of the fleet. As they sailed south, skirting the South Atlantic High, PUMA was clinging to Ericsson 4's coat tails. The two racing yachts were often in sight of each other, even though over 3,000nm of the course had already been sailed.

"We have had some interesting skirmishes with PUMA throughout this race and again we find ourselves within four miles of each other, with them in the ascendancy," wrote Ericsson's British navigator, SALTER, on day 17.

As the depression in the South Atlantic aligned itself perfectly to fire Ericsson and PUMA towards Cape Town, records were clearly up for grabs, although GRAEL said at the time that his focus was on winning the leg, and not setting new records. PUMA was back in sight of Ericsson and neither team had any intention of backing off. "We knew they would be back," said PUMA's skipper READ. "We will keep the pressure on," he said.

By day 19, Ericsson 4 had broken loose, and PUMA was trailing them by 34nm when Ericsson set the new 24-hour world record. As Ericsson rode the front, they extended away. Ericsson 4 continued her dominance at the head of field right into Cape Town where she finished 135 miles ahead of PUMA.

Behind the leaders, Ericsson 3 went into battle with Green Dragon. On day 20 (30 October), the Nordic team finally overhauled the Irish/Chinese entry, with WALKER and his crew slowed after burying the bow on Green Dragon so hard that the spinnaker came back and stove in the pulpit and forward stanchions before ripping to pieces. This was followed by a deafening crunch as the boat hit something and came to almost a complete standstill. "I don't really know where to start as the last 24-hours have been so incident-packed," wrote WALKER in his daily blog. As they reached the latitude of 35 degrees south, another spinnaker was shredded on Green Dragon as the crew pressed the boat in attempt to catch Ericsson 3.

By day 23, the strain was beginning to show on Ericsson 3 as well. "Everything is getting to its edge. The situation feels close and stressful," said Media Crew Member Gustav MORIN (SWE). A couple of bad sail changes slowed Ericsson 3 down, and a plastic bag caught around the keel did not help matters. But Nordic team pressed on and eventually finished 27nm ahead of the Green Dragon.

The next boat to finish will be Telefónica Blue at around midday UTC today.

Leg One Finishing Order into Cape Town

1. Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA)
2. PUMA USA (Ken Read/USA)
3. Ericsson 4 SWE (Anders Lewander/SWE)
4. Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR)

Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard - Provisional
(After Leg One)

1. Ericsson 4 (Torben GRAEL), 14 points
2. Puma Il Mostro (Ken READ), 13 points
3. Green Dragon (Ian WALKER), 11 points
4. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe BEKKING/Iker MARTINEZ), 6 points*
5. Telefónica Black (Fernando ECHAVARRI), 6 points*
6. Ericsson 3 (Anders LEWANDER), 5 points
7. Delta Lloyd (Ger O'ROURKE), 2 point*
8. Team Russia (Andreas HANAKAMP), 1 points*

*Still racing

Go here for all the news on the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09

Volvo Ocean Race - www.volvooceanrace.org

ISAF (source: Volvo Ocean Race)
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