CAPE TOWN, South Africa – With the sun rising in Cape Town, South Africa, over a tranquil Table Bay, skipper Torben Grael and Ericsson Racing Team’s International crew on Ericsson 4 this morning became the overall leaders in the Volvo Ocean Race when they won Leg 1 at 0554 GMT.
Ericsson 4 earned 8 points for the leg victory, which it attained with an elapsed time of 21 days, 17 hours and 54 minutes, and leads the overall standings with 14 points. Ericsson 4 crossed the finish line under Table Mountain flying full sail on a calm sea.
“We feel very good about it,” said Grael, the Brazilian. “But there’s a lot of race to go. This is just the beginning.”
The Ericsson 4 crew included skipper Grael, navigator Jules Salter, watch captains Stu Bannatyne and Brad Jackson, trimmers Horacío Carabelli, Tony Mutter and João “Joca” Signorini, pitman Dave Endean, bowmen Ryan Godfrey and Phil “Blood” Jameson, and media crewman Guy Salter.
In a thoroughly eventful and entertaining 6,500-nautical-mile leg from Alicante, Spain, the crew of Ericsson 4 experienced highs and lows only found in the Volvo Ocean Race.
The highs were plentiful and included leading the fleet through the Straits of Gibraltar alongside teammate Ericsson 3, placing second at the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha, and setting a world 24-hour speed record of 602.66 nautical miles (pending ratification).
“It was pretty eventful, there was a lot going on with Tony getting off and the lead changing so many times. It was pretty exciting,” said Bannatyne, the watch captain competing in his fifth Volvo race.
There were also lows to contend with, such as losing crewman Tony Mutter at the Cape Verde Islands to an infected knee, which took a valuable crewmember out of the rotation and left the crew shorthanded with nine active members. The ensuing passage through the Doldrums was far from planned and forced the crew to play catch-up.
“The hardest moment was entering the Doldrums and deciding to take a hit on mileage to set up for a westerly pass,” said Jules Salter, the navigator. “Obviously, there’s always something gong on in the race. There’s a couple times when the fleet compressed and restarted again. It makes it hard.”
Along the way the crew was learning valuable lessons. They were in such close contact with rival Puma of the U.S. that they were able to do live, two-boat testing, changing sail configurations or trimming angles to gauge speed differences.
“It seemed like they we were in sight of them for maybe 80 percent of the leg,” said Salter.
Now that the leg’s over, each crewman has his own agenda. Jules Salter was looking forward to something nice to eat and something nice to drink, before sitting down to start planning the next leg.
Bannatyne, however, said he experienced the best moment of the leg at the finish, when his wife surprised him by flying into Cape Town from New Zealand. He was planning to have her join him for a breakfast of eggs and bacon followed by a cold beer.
Ericsson Racing Team’s second entry in the race, the Nordic crew on Ericsson 3, is also gunning for a podium finish. At the 0400 GMT position report, Anders Lewander’s crew was 347 nautical miles from the finish and 28 miles ahead of Green Dragon.
Yesterday afternoon Ericsson 3 went into Stealth mode, where it hides is position from rivals for up to 12 hours. While in Stealth mode Ericsson 3 made a jibe away from Green Dragon to obtain a stronger covering position.
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