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Ericsson team first and second

4th March 2009

Ericsson 4, skippered by Brazil's five-time Olympic medalist Torben Grael, collected the maximum 4 points available when it led the fleet across latitude 36 South at 00:21:09 GMT. The overall fleet leader, Ericsson 4 now has 53 total points. Ericsson 3, led by Swedish skipper Magnus Olsson competing in his sixth circumnavigation race, scored 3.5 points when it followed 32 minutes later. For Ericsson 3 the achievement was deeply satisfying considering the Nordic crew started the leg seven hours late after a two-week layover in Taiwan for repairs.


Not content to rest on their laurel, Ericsson 3 further intrigued race followers with an immediate tack to the north after clearing the scoring line. The bold decision from navigator Aksel Magdahl caused a stir across the fleet, including sistership Ericsson 4.

"That option has been around a lot of the way down here; we discounted it and went for the points," said Ericsson 4 navigator Jules Salter. "Every weather model is showing different things, but [Ericsson 3's option] does look like the favored route and looks like it might be the quickest way to Cape Horn, so they are in very good shape. Having said that there might be some other reasons why that might not work and the more traditional strategy of heading south might work better."

For Ericsson 4, the achievement is a nod to the crew's consistency. The race to the scoring gate has seen unbelievably close racing among the top three, which included Puma of the U.S. In the past two days each boat has taken a turn in the lead.

"We managed to cross the first scoring gate in first earlier on today so the boys had something to smile about for a second, as the conditions were, to put it nicely, crap," said Ericsson 4 watch captain Brad Jackson. "It was an extremely wet angle to the mixed up waves, which turned being on deck miserable and below deck we were unable to sleep. But now things have moderated and settled down so we can get back in the rhythm of the days."

The frequency of the position reports, every three hours, has forced this 10th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race into a boat-for-boat struggle, rather than boat-versus-weather system as has been the case in past races.

"The boat-to-boat tactics which result from the three hourly position reports tends to keep the boats from getting separated," said team meteorologist Chris Bedford. "No one wants to give up a place in the interest of better routing."

Although the scoring gate is cleared, more than 7,000 nautical miles remain to the finish in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The majority of those miles will be sailed in the strong westerly winds of the Southern Ocean, featuring big waves and the threat of icebergs.

On the course ahead are two ice waypoints that must be left to starboard, the first at 47S between longitude 155 West and 140 West and the second at 45S between longitude 120W and 105W.

After the second ice waypoint the fleet must round Cape Horn, which is the second scoring gate on the leg. From Cape Horn it's about a 2,200-nautical mile jaunt to the finish in Rio.

"Now the hard part starts," said Bedford. "They have some very tough days ahead. On the numbers the leg is about half over. But physically, I'd say it's only about one-third complete."


(Mar. 4, 2009, 1302 GMT)

1. Puma, 6,941 nautical miles to the finish

2. Ericsson 4, +15 NM

3. Ericsson 3, +45 NM

4. Green Dragon, +58 NM

5. Telefónica Blue, +63 NM Team

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