Ericsson 4, skippered by the Brazilian, Torben Grael, led the fleet of Open 70 Yachts through the first of two scoring gates on leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race on Wednesday, to collect the maximum of four points.
The team now has 53 points in total and a lead of 8.5 points over Telefónica Blue in second place. PUMA is just half a point behind the blue Spanish yacht in third.
Magnus Olsson had his Ericsson 3 just 32 minutes behind Ericsson 4 at the gate. This was an impressive feat, as Olsson commenced the leg seven hours after the rest of the fleet left Qingdao in China almost three weeks ago.
Ericsson 3 made a bold move to the north immediately after passing through the gate.
“Until some 24 hours before we tacked away at the 36 south scoring gate, everything looked good to go due south close to New Zealand, with the high pressure system expected to move off to the east. However, 18 hours before the gate, I realized that this high did not seem to move so fast anymore,” explained Ericsson 3’s navigator, Aksel Magdahl.
“I was also looking at a very interesting small, but powerful low pressure coming in from the northeast, and I thought a bit around whether it was a possibility to use this rather than going slow south underneath the high pressure and even risking getting too close to it.”
Everyone but Telefónica Blue has followed Ericsson 3’s lead and turned to the north. Telefónica Blue, who is the southernmost yacht in the fleet, is stuck waiting for the wind to shift to able to tack to follow the fleet. Ironically, this puts Telefónica Blue into the lead on actual miles to the finish.
The fleet is heading north is to avoid the ridge of high pressure, which is blocking the way to the westerly winds in the south that everyone is looking. Because of this the fleet could find itself sailing upwind for at least 1,000 miles in order to pass north of the high-pressure ridge.
The weather wasn’t Telefónica Blue’s only problem as they have had to sail heavily reefed while the crew attempted repairs onto the bottom half of the mainsail, which had completely delaminated.
Next up are two “ice gates.” The purpose of the ice gates is to keep the fleet north of known ice masses, and, in each case, a team must be on, or north, of the designated latitude at some point between the two stated lines of longitude.
“It means the fleet can cross through the gate from south to north, or from north to south, or just stay north of the gate,” explains Race Director Jack Lloyd, who adds that the net result is that the fleet will be directed north.
Leg Five Scoring Gate 1 positions
1. Ericsson 4: 00:21.09 GMT 04.03.09: 4 points
2. Ericsson 3: 00:53.09 GMT 04.03.09: 3.5 points
3. PUMA: 01:03.24 GMT 04.03.09: 3 points
4. Telefónica Blue: 03:16.22 GMT 04.03.09: 2.5 points
5. Green Dragon: 04:31.49 GMT 04.03.09: 2 points
Leg Five Day 20: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) DTF 6,687 nm
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +8
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +10
Green Dragon IRL/CHI (Ian Walker/GBR) +54
Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) +106
Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermudez/ESP) DNS
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) DNS
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS
Photo and quotes courtesy Volvo Ocean Race.