Ericsson 4 crossed the finish line in Galway, Ireland to win leg seven of The Volvo Ocean Race in first position. She finished at 12:54 am, GMT Saturday after taking seven days, 10 hours, 33 minutes and 51 seconds to sail across the North Atlantic from Boston.
A large and raucous crowd was on the dockside, waiting to celebrate the arrival of Green Dragon, their hometown boat, but Ericsson 4 benefited from a raucous welcome as they drew alongside.
After fighting his way ashore, Brazilian skipper Torben Grael said: “It's nice to get first place. It's another big step towards our goal, so we're pretty happy about it.”
The North Atlantic threw everything it could at the seven-strong fleet, which reveled in the fast downwind conditions. Many of the crews have declared the sailing on this leg as the best they have ever experienced and there was plenty to contend with.
Thick fog, a myriad of lobster pots followed by a whale exclusion zone, a scoring gate—which Ericsson 4 rounded in third place—and an ice exclusion zone to negotiate all added to the mix before the high-speed drag race to the finish, which proved to be a nail-biting thriller.
Reflecting on Ericsson 4’s leg, Grael said, “The beginning was tough. There was a big decision once we realized we couldn't get the first two positions at the gate, so we positioned ourselves for the rest of the leg. Then when we got this big front, we split from the fleet, which worked out well, but it was risky and it was a rough ride in. We had to push it to have a good position, so it was tough.”
Ericsson 4 sailed the first half of this leg conservatively, only rising to the top of the pack on 19 May, day four. The remainder of the leg was spent either in first or second place, with the exception of a blip on day six when the team dropped briefly to fourth place.
PUMA just edged out hometown boat Green Dragon to second place, but only by three miles. The only US team in The Volvo Ocean race finished an hour and fifteen minutes behind Ericsson 4. Considering the distance covered in crossing the North Atlantic the closeness of the finish between the top three boats is testimony two how evenly matched the boats are.
Although PUMA has posted a string of second places (legs one, three, four and seven), the coveted winners’ position has, so far, eluded them, but the team was still thrilled with second place, particularly as they lost one of their rudders in the heavy seas two days ago and had to fit their emergency steering.
“This is as good as it gets,” said skipper Kenny Read. “That was some of the best sailing we've ever done in our whole lives. To come back after breaking the rudder like that. This crew is unbelievable. It's almost like we thrive on adversity. We don't know how to be normal.”
Upon their arrival the crew from the Green Dragon was greeted by a huge and noisy Galway crowd.
Ian Walker, skipper of Green Dragon, his first entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, was almost lost for words on arrival in Galway.
“I'm flabbergasted. The number of people, the number of boats. There must have been 500 boats out there. All at four in the morning. Some of them in little RIBs 30 miles offshore, shouting us on. Is the whole town here? Did anyone stay in bed tonight?”
Telefónica Blue finished in fourth place at 2:42 AM GMT. Yesterday, skipper Bouwe Bekking wrote, “We are fighting like gladiators, but we can’t get more speed out of our puppy. We feel we made improvements, but we are still missing that little bit of pace to stay up front.”
The rest of the Volvo Ocean Race entered Galway with Delta Lloyd leading in Telefónica Black and Ericsson 3.
With Volvo fleet safely arrived in Galway, there is a full two weeks for the crews to enjoy the legendary Irish hospitality before the in-port race next Saturday 30 May and the start of leg eight the following Saturday 6 June.
Leg Six Finishing Order Galway
1. Ericsson 4: 8 points
2. PUMA: 7 points
3. Green Dragon: 6 points
4. Telefónica Blue: 5 points
5. Delta Lloyd: 4 points
6. Telefónica Black: 3 points
7. Ericsson 3: 2 points
Overall Leaderboard (Provisional)
1. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA) 92.0 points (FINISHED)
2. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) 77.5 points (FINISHED)
3. PUMA (Ken Read/USA) 76.0 points (FINISHED)
4. Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE) 60.0 points (FINISHED)
5. Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) 52.0 points (FINISHED)
6. Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) 36.0 points(FINISHED)
7. Delta Lloyd (Roberto Bermúdez/ESP) 29.5 points (FINISHED)
8. Team Russia 10.5 points (DNS)
Photo and Quotes: Volvo Ocean Race.