Ericsson Racing Team skipper Torben Grael of Brazil led Ericsson 4 across the Leg 5 finish line here at 2257 GMT (1957 local) to complete a team sweep of the leg and solidify its overall lead in the Volvo Ocean Race.
The arrival of Ericsson 4, with three Brazilians aboard – Grael, Horácio Carabelli and João “Joca” Signorini – marked a homecoming of sorts. The three have been away from Brazil for more than a year, and were welcomed by hundreds of fans, team personnel and the outstretched arms of the illuminated Statue of Christ on Corcovado Mountain.
“That’s the wonderful thing about Brazil,” said Grael, a Brazilian sports hero for his five Olympic sailing medals. “The warmth and friendship that everyone expresses, it’s a wonderful feeling. To have a reception like we’ve had here in Rio is fantastic.”
Ericsson 4 finished more than 12 hours behind teammate and leg winner Ericsson 3 for an elapsed time of 40 days, 17 hours, 57 minutes and 44 seconds across the 12,300-nautical mile course.
Ericsson 4 earned 7 points for placing second, which, when coupled with a first and second at the two scoring gates, gave it 14.5 points on the leg (from a maximum of 16). Ericsson 4 has 63.5 total points and is likely more than 10 points ahead of second place.
The International crew includes skipper Grael (Niterói, Brazil), navigator Jules Salter (Cowes, England), watch captains Stu Bannatyne and Brad Jackson (both Auckland, New Zealand), trimmers/helmsmen Carabelli (Florianópolis, Brazil), Tony Mutter (Auckland), Signorini (Rio de Janeiro), pitman David Endean (Auckland), bowmen Ryan Godfrey (Adelaide, Australia) and Phil “Blood” Jameson (Auckland) and media crewman Guy Salter (Titchfield, England).
“I feel pretty good. What we did is not easy, but it’s not the end of the world,” Grael said. “I think its’ a wonderful result for the team and for my International crew. It’s been a wonderful reception for the crew.”
Ericsson 4 led the race for much of the journey across the Pacific Ocean. After starting in Qingdao, China, on Feb. 14, strong winds sent the fleet blasting past Korea and Japan and it was Ericsson 4 leading the way, covering 519 nautical miles in 24 hours.
Ericsson 4 led the fleet across the Equator on Feb. 23, and also led past the first scoring gate at latitude 36 South on Mar. 4. That’s where teammate Ericsson 3, which followed 32 minutes later, broke north from the fleet in a calculated move. Three days later Ericsson 3 grabbed the lead, and since then Ericsson 4 has been in the reverse role of playing catch up.
The International crew made some inroads at different times across the Southern Ocean, but couldn’t get past their stablemate before Cape Horn. Since rounding the Horn on Mar. 17 there’ve been few passing lanes, especially the past few days when the wind has been particularly light.
“Ericsson 3 sailed an awesome race and we know the boat is quite quick,” said Salter, the navigator. “We pushed and couldn’t quite catch them. We struggled through the whole leg initially trying to make a break, but everyone kept catching up. Then when we got behind, we could never make a jump.
“It’s great for Ericsson Racing Team to get a 1-2 on a tough, long leg like that,” Salter said.
The International crew got out of the Southern Ocean largely unscathed, but the same can’t be said for the boat. While there was no major structural damage, the steering sheaves were ripped from their mounts in a bad wipe out three days from Cape Horn. Then the hydraulics started leaking, which threatened use of the canting keel.
Although either incident could’ve forced the crew to pull out of the leg for repairs, they were able to affect repairs to keep pushing.
“We made a makeshift jury rig to get us through the day, and it lasted until Rio,” said Jameson, the bowman. “Brad (Jackson) and Dave (Endean) came up with a good solution. It was good work on everyone’s part. The guys on deck got the mainsail down in 45-knot winds. We were still doing 35 knots with no sails up; absolutely flying.”
It was the start of the rough weather that would take Ericsson 4 to the Horn, which allowed Godfrey, Jameson’s mate on the bow, to tick off an item on his bucket list, rounding Cape Horn.
Being from southern Australia and a yachting family, Godfrey had dreamed of rounding the Horn since he was a child. To round it in rough weather with an experienced crew on a yacht leading the Volvo Ocean Race made the experience more special.
“Overall, the Southern Ocean part was probably better than expected,” Godfrey said. “We had more light air than rough weather approaching the Horn, but it got rough at the end. We had two days of full on sailing. As you get close to the Horn the sea funnels into a narrow point, so the sea was very steep. It was pretty hard work in terms of water over the deck and trying to hang on.”
As the International and Nordic crews celebrated a highly successful leg in the Ericsson Pavilion at the Marina da Gloria, trading tales of woe and indiscrimination, Jameson, the bowman called “Blood”, summed up the scene.
“This is probably Ericsson Racing Team’s shining moment,” he said.
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