CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Swedish skipper Anders Lewander led Ericsson Racing Team’s Nordic crew on Ericsson 3 to third place on Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race. The crew finished this morning at 0408 GMT with an elapsed time of 22 days, 16 hours and 8 minutes.
Ericsson 3′s finish completed a solid start to the circumnavigation race for Ericsson Racing Team. Yesterday morning skipper Torben Grael and the International crew on Ericsson 4 won the opening leg and became overall race leaders.
Nearly 24 hours later it was Ericsson 3′s turn in the limelight. Skipper Lewander, who turned 45 yesterday, led his crew across the Table Bay finish line engulfed in an atmosphere warm with heartfelt cheers from teammates, friends, fans and loved ones. Ericsson 3 earned 4 points for the placing and now has 5 points in the overall standings.
“It’s a great moment in life,” said the skipper. “After all this hard, hard work, it’s an amazing team. We have great team spirit. This is a great birthday present. And a big congrats to Ericsson 4, what an enormous achievement to do 600 miles. It’s amazing how hard they must’ve driven the boat. It’s very impressive to see.”
The Nordic crew is comprised of skipper Lewander, navigator Aksel Magdahl, watch captains Richard Mason and Magnus Olsson, trimmers Anders Dahlsjö, Jens Dolmer, Thomas Johanson and Stefan Myralf, helmsman Eivind Melleby, bowman Martin Krite and media crewman Gustav Morin.
Through a challenging leg that tested them, the crew showed a resiliency that belies their lack of Volvo race experience. Only the two watch captains have completed a leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Skipper Lewander is the only other crewmember with circumnavigation experience. The other eight are all first-timers, and King Neptune had a busy time at the Equator.
The first half of the 6,500-nautical-mile leg went well for the crew. Alongside their teammates on Ericsson 4, they led the fleet through the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic Ocean. Over the next eight days the Nordic crew constantly factored in the fleet lead, and on Oct. 18 they were all alone in the top spot approaching the Doldrums.
The passage through the Inter-Tropic Convergence Zone was sooner forgotten. On Oct. 22 Ericsson 3 had plummeted to sixth in the standings, 180 nautical miles behind the leaders.
After clearing the scoring gate down the standings in seventh, the crew found their spirits down as well. Then Olsson, a five-time veteran of the Volvo race and past champion in 1997-’98, lent his perspective. He convinced them to forget the recent hardships and focus on the remainder of the leg. There’s always a chance for a comeback on a leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, he reasoned.
“What can you do but cheer everyone up,” said Olsson, who has logged more than 150,000 nautical miles in the Volvo race and is never short of joie de vivre. “This third is a victory for the team. It’s one of my most satisfying, by all means. I really appreciate this third place.”
The crew’s chance for redemption swept in on the same storm that propelled Ericsson 4 to the 24-hour speed record. While Ericsson 4 was racking up a run or 602.66 nautical miles (pending ratification), Ericsson 3 put up a 540 run and hit a new top speed of 35 knots.
Drawing from their extensive heavy weather training in the Canary Islands and leaning on helmsman Johanson, Mason, Myralf and Olsson, the Nordic crew surfed up through the fleet, sailed past rivals and landed in third place. From there, they played a solid tactical game to grab the third spot on the podium.
“The whole attitude of wanting to come back and hit the top of fleet, because we knew we could be there, that was the drive,” Lewander said. “It was great for team spirit to recover. I’m very happy with that. It shows we have opportunities for the future, but there’s a lot of racing left.”
Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race, to Cochin, India, is scheduled to begin Nov. 15.
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