STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Ericsson Racing Team strengthened its overall lead in the Volvo Ocean Race today when Ericsson 4 claimed 4 points for being first boat past the Leg 3 scoring gate north of the island Pulau We.
The International crew, skippered by Brazilian Olympic medalist Torben Grael, passed the gate at 1409:30 GMT. The feat increased their total to 30 points, but it didn’t come easily.
“It’s taken a while to get here,” said Ericsson 4 media crewman Guy Salter. “My media desk sounds like a box of Lego every time we go over a wave, but it’s still working so I won’t open it, just incase it acts like a jack in the box when I get the lid off!”
A couple of hours later, teammate Ericsson 3 cleared the gate in third place. Last night Anders Lewander’s Nordic crew consolidated their position by sailing down and in front of Puma, and then covering their every move. Ericsson 3 cleared the gate within sight of Puma.
This past week has illustrated the competitiveness of the fleet. Although this is a circumnavigation race, the close boat-for-boat tactics resemble an inshore race among one-designs.
The fleet is very evenly matched in terms of boatspeed but, more importantly, the skippers and navigators plotting the courses also seem evenly matched.
Ericsson 4 moved into the lead last night when it pulled even with Telefónica Blue in terms of longitude, but was placed about 14 nautical miles to windward.
“Ericsson 4 grabbed the lead over Telefónica Blue in convincing fashion. This has been possible by hard and skilled sailing, superior management of the racecourse geometry and, to be truthful, a little help from the weather gods,” said team meteorologist Chris Bedford.
With the scoring gate behind them, the finish line in Singapore is some 500 nautical miles ahead. But the passage through Malacca Strait won’t be easy.
“Although reasonably good moderate east/northeasterly pressure is expected to hold for about 170 nautical miles or so beyond the gate, the wind will eventually ease off and much more variable conditions are expected,” Bedford said.
“Just this morning, there was a nice batch of thunderstorms over the central Malacca Strait. Similar storms are there at some point nearly every day. There is little doubt clouds and squalls will be a randomizing factor on the final approach to the finish. Because the final 300+nm of Leg 3 has the potential of being so very random, it makes the scoring gate points to be won tonight and tomorrow morning even more important,” said the meteorologist.
VOLVO OCEAN RACE LEG 3 LEADERBOARD
(Dec. 19, 2008, 1859 GMT)
1. Ericsson 4, 553 nautical miles to finish
2. Telefónica Blue, +8 NM
3. Ericsson 3, +15 NM
4. Puma, +17 NM
5. Telefónica Black, +33 NM
6. Green Dragon, +40 NM
7. Kosatka, +71 NM
8. Delta Lloyd, +160 NM
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