On the occasion of the Chinese New Year, Ericsson Racing Team crews have cause for celebration. Magnus Olsson’s Ericsson 3 and Torben Grael’s Ericsson 4 have worked their way back into contention for a leg win.
At today’s 1600 GMT position report, Olsson’s Ericsson 3 was running second, 40 nautical miles off the lead and just under 700 miles from the finish in Qingdao, China, host last summer to the Olympic Regatta. Grael’s sistership Ericsson 4, the overall race leader with 39 points, was 72 miles behind. The two boats were off the East Coast of Taiwan, nearly at the northern tip of the island.
As they draw nearer to China and its philosophy of yin and yang, their plight continues to bounce from one extreme to the other. After surviving a brutal storm over the weekend the past 12 to 18 hours saw the wind abate, which gave an opportunity for boat and personal maintenance, but only momentarily.
“Yet again a very eventful day onboard Ericsson 4,” said Guy Salter of England, the embedded media crewmember. “At around 1500 local time we got the news that the breeze was on its way, and with a fair amount of strength.
“In less than 40 minutes we went from the Code Zero to a three-reefed mainsail and storm jib in 40-plus knots of cold wind. It was very surreal,” the media crewman said.
The conditions are deteriorating due to a blast of arctic air sweeping over the East China Sea, the third of four bodies of water on this leg. It’s sending temperatures plummeting.
“A secondary push of cold air off Korea and the Sea of Japan is expected to spread down toward the East China Sea,” said team meteorologist Chris Bedford. “This will give a 12- to 18-hour push of 20- to 30-knot winds from the north, returning the boats to rough conditions but also propelling them more directly northwest towards the Chinese coast and eventually the Yellow Sea.”
On the positive, the more direct course to the finish will speed their arrival, which could occur Thursday or Friday. But the cold air will balanced that out and tax the already weary sailors.
“It’s going to get very cold very, very quickly, which is going to be very hard for everyone,” said Ericsson 4 navigator Jules Salter of England. He also said that it’s hard to chose which is worse, 45-knot winds or cold temps.
“Both are pretty miserable. It’s going to be interesting to see how we cope and how long it takes to do things like change sails. It’ll make everyone a lot more tired. It’s another thing where we may have to throttle back a bit and conserve ourselves,” the navigator said.
VOLVO OCEAN RACE LEG 4 LEADERBOARD
(Jan. 26, 2009, 1600 GMT)
1. Telefónica Blue, 653 nautical miles to finish
2. Ericsson 3, +40 NM
3. Ericsson 4, +72 NM
4. Puma, +82 NM
5. Delta Lloyd, +191 NM
6. Green Dragon, +231 NM
7. Telefónica Black, DNF
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