Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race began on Feb. 14, but for Ericsson Racing Team’s Nordic crew the leg began three days earlier when the sailors set off from Taiwan on their yacht Ericsson 3 bound for the finish of Leg 4 in Qingdao, China.
Today marks the crew’s second week at sea, save for two hours when they docked in Qingdao to load food, fuel, gear, spares and additional crewmembers, including two new faces, for the leg. Today, they’re reaping the rewards of focused diligence.
At today’s 1309 GMT position report, Ericsson 3 was tied for second place with Puma of the U.S. Both boats trailed fleet leader Ericsson 4 by 26 nautical miles.
Ericsson 3 and Puma’s il Mostro were separated by about 8 nautical miles and have been racing in close quarters since last weekend. Puma had held the upper hand until last night, when Ericsson 3 got by to windward in light conditions. The fleet is contending with the South Pacific convergence zone, an area of unsettled weather.
“We are still in the tricky Doldrums fighting closely with Puma,” said Ericsson 3 watch captain Thomas Johanson. “The wind and weather is changing extremely quick in this convergence zone and the wind just went from 10 to 30 knots. It was really what we call a [tough] fight, but we handled it well and actually overtook the il Mostro.”
A pre-race goal of the Nordic crew entry was to give offshore experience to a group of sailors who are solid in their own right, having backgrounds in the America’s Cup, Olympic classes and other grand-prix sailing, but had never done a circumnavigation race. Many of the crewmembers were picked by skipper/watch captain Magnus Olsson, who’s competing in his sixth Volvo Ocean Race.
“I thought we would have bigger problems with Puma and Ericsson 4. They are a little bit faster than us in these power-reaching conditions,” said Olsson, who was named skipper during the stay in Taiwan.
“I think we’ve done well,” Olsson continued. “We weren’t as well rested as we should’ve been because we fixed the boat and came late for the start and it was a big drama and everybody had the mindset we had to finish Leg 4 before we could start Leg 5. So it wasn’t ideal, but I’m very, very happy with where we are. It couldn’t have started better for us.”
There have been other changes to the crew list. Johanson, the primary helmsman on the initial legs, became a watch captain when Richard Mason had to stand down for this leg due to an injury concern.
Two other crewmembers were also added for Leg 5, Arve Roaas of Finland and Magnus Woxen of Sweden, who have previously raced in the Southern Ocean.
Their experience is welcome as seven of the 10 active crewmembers and the media crewman are participating in their first circumnavigation race.
“I would say we are a bunch of very different guys but with same determination, winning spirit and never-give-up-attitude,” said Johanson. “We are all on a mission and trying the best ever we can to show ourselves we can do this race. Well, not only to finish,but to be on the podium. We have the talent but not the experience. Gladly we are fast to learn.”
Of the remaining crew, there has been a shuffle of responsibility. Jens Dolmer, the boat captain, pitman and former farmer, has become backup to navigator Aksel Magdahl, the youngest navigator in the race. Johanson describes Dolmer as the boat’s “heart and soul.”
“He likes to be close to the nav desk, so he is now working as a floater and is Aksel’s backup, but also as our pitman,” said Johanson. “He surely is a workhorse who’s always checking the systems and [pushing] others to try to get to his level on their different responsibility areas.”
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