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25 June 2004, 10:35 am
Sony Ericsson Takes Lead After Upwind Slog
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Volvo Baltic Race

It was a horrible upwind slog for the Volvo Baltic fleet last night. Sail damage was widespread, but at the head of the fleet, the Sony Ericsson/Team Elanders battle continued. Sony Ericsson now leads the series by half a point.
Last night's race to Kiel was everything everyone expected it to be. Cold, wet, windy and tiring, with much of it on the wind in up to 35 knots of breeze. After their excellent start, Avant (M Lundh/Swe & W Verbraak/Ned) were unable to match the speed of the newer and faster Sony Ericsson (T Blixt/Swe) and Team Elanders (M Humphries/UK). They quickly passed Avant and renewed their personal battle, which continued throughout the 140 nautical mile (nm) race.

Team Elanders won the start from Sony Ericsson in true match racing style and held onto her lead for about 14 miles, but then made a crucial mistake. "We got the wrong side of a couple of windshifts," explained skipper Matthew HUMPHRIES. "We gave them (Sony Ericsson) an advantage that we couldn't get back and turned a mile lead into a two mile loss, but that's yacht racing. We're not worried and we don't have any damage. It was very wet, windy and uncomfortable and everyone is relieved to be ashore."

"It's been a really good race," said a jubilant Thomas BLIX/Sony Ericsson, whose team now leads the series by half a point. "We have a great team, probably the best. No one has slept all night and we're tired now. We've had some small hiccups with the water ballast again, but we will fix that and we've no other damage."

Damage Avant retained her third position, in spite of ripping her mainsail from luff to leech in 35 knots of wind and sailing the remaining 40 miles or so to the finish under storm trysail and a small J3 headsail. Fortunately, they were able to reach into the turning mark at the Kieler lighthouse, still making 12 knots of boat speed. After that, they faced a 10 mile beat to the finish with the mast unstable without a full mainsail, which was damaged beyond repair. On arrival in Kiel, Avant's bowman, Fredrik Jacobsson/Swe, was taken to hospital for a check-up following a fall on the foredeck caused during a sail change in the night. The injuries, mostly to his face, were not serious and he was later released. The goal for this team was to finish first of the second generation boats and the team was delighted with their achievement. JMS Next Generation (K Heiberg/Nor) was not able to put pressure on Avant. The team damaged the shackle on their outhaul five minutes after the start and quickly reefed. Forty miles from the finish they damaged their mainsail track and had to drop the mainsail. They tried to rehoist it with two reefs, only to find a tear, so with no chance of catching Avant, they finished the course in fourth position under headsail alone.

AV-Teknik (M Murto/Cro) had all sorts of trouble with gear failure. In the first hour they pulled the clew out of the mainsail and sailed with a reef in for three hours whilst they made a repair. Then the first reef line snapped so the crew replaced it. The jib halyard broke and they tore they J4 and finally, 25 miles from the finish, they tore their mainsail from the first reef point to the second. "We don't know if we will be able to start the race tomorrow because of the problems with the mainsail" said a tired skipper Marko Murti (CRO).

Finishing positions race 3 Copenhagen - Kiel

1 Sony Ericsson (Thomas Blixt, Swe)
2 Elanders (Matthew Humphries, UK)
3 Avant (M Lundh Swe/W Verbraak, Ned)
4 JMS Next Generation (K Heiberg, Nor)
5 AV-Teknik (Marko Murtic, Cro)

Positions after 3 legs

1 Sony Ericsson (Thomas Blixt, Swe) 11.5 points
2 Team Elanders (Matthew Humphries, UK) 11.0 points
3 JMS Next Generation (Stefan Eneman, Swe/Kjell-Inge Heiberg, Nor) 6.5
4 Avant (M Lundh, Swe/W Verbraak, Ned) 5.5 points
5 AV Teknik (Marko Murtic, Cro) 3.0 points
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