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Ericsson Holds Lead As Fleet Braces For Front

STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Beginning what could be their final week at sea, Ericsson 4 continues to lead the fleet towards Cape Town, South Africa, and the Leg 1 finish of the Volvo Ocean Race.

At today’s 1300 GMT position report, Ericsson 4 had 2,699 nautical miles remaining to the finish. The International crew led by Brazilian skipper Torben Grael leads rival Puma of the U.S. by a scant 5 nautical miles.

The two crews have been within sight of each other nearly every day since the race started 16 days ago in Alicante, Spain.

“We have been having some interesting skirmishes with Puma throughout this race, and again we find ourselves within 4 miles of each other with them in the ascendancy,” said Guy Salter, media crewman on Ericsson 4. “We seem to hang in there with Puma but only just. Are we faster? Our perception onboard is no, as the shoe boat keeps gaining then a light spot or angle change seems to give us another lucky jump and the process begins again.”

A bit further back, Ericsson 3 is making good progress in trying to climb up the standings. At 1300, Ericsson 3 was 75 nautical miles behind the fleet leader, but fewer than 30 miles behind fifth-placed Telefónica Blue.

“Every position report is a small gain and touch of hope, and with 3,000 nautical miles ahead we feel we can catch up the losses from the Doldrums,” said Ericsson 3 skipper Anders Lewander. “Yes, as we now sail on the softer side of this battle and loading the human batteries, we get mentally ready to catch the train. The wild and crazy Eastern Express, leaving the terminal at 20S-36W, the wheel turning clockwise! Step on the train and the next station on the other side of the Southern Atlantic Ocean, the approach to Cape Town. Discharging the batteries but devoted to have a successful leg, we stand strong.”

Lewander’s reference to the Eastern Express is a low pressure that’s forming to the south/southwest of the fleet off the coast of South America. It’s predicted to hit the fleet in the next couple of days, complete with 40-knot winds. The winds will help propel the fleet into Cape Town, but will also make for anxious moments as the crews battle sleep deprivation and the mental strain of keeping their craft in one piece.

“Now we are preparing for conditions we really respect. Most of us onboard are going to get the first real ride on a solid low pressure system, for the most of the Atlantic crossing,” said Ericsson 3 navigator Aksel Magdahl. “Even though it is with respect, we are really looking forward to this, as it is what separates the Volvo Ocean Race from other yacht races. How fast we sail the boats in these conditions.”

Aboard Ericsson 4, the feeling is similar.

“There is a feeling of expectation as we await the probable kicking from the low pressure – it will be pretty hard living onboard, just cleaning and cooking and sleeping with be a huge task,” said Salter. “The risk of being hurt below as we slam about is ever present, but we know that the miles should go very quickly and a few tough days to get ashore earlier are very welcome.”

(Oct. 27, 2008, 1300 GMT)
1. Ericsson 4, 2,699 nautical miles to finish
2. Puma, 5 NM to leader
3. Green Dragon, 27 NM to leader
4. Telefónica Black, 33 NM to leader
5. Telefónica Blue, 48 NM to leader
6. Ericsson 3, 75 NM to leader
7. Delta Lloyd, 128 NM to leader
8. Kosatka, 218 NM to leader

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This entry was posted on Monday, October 27th, 2008 at 1:11 pm and is filed under Main Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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