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Ericsson pair about to finish as Dragon food runs out

24th March 2009

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (Mar. 24, 2009) - Ericsson Racing Team currently holds the top two spots on Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race as the fleet approaches at a snail's pace the finish in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. One week ago today Ericsson's yachts led the fleet past Cape Horn in rough weather. The crews had had little sleep approaching the infamous landmark because they were sailing down the coast of Chile in a strong following wind, jibing back and forth. At least five days adrift is Green Dragon and the food is running out.

At the time of the rounding the leaders were estimated to finish yesterday, Mar. 23. Instead, the current estimated time of arrival has the leader finishing in the early morning hours of Thursday.

"I have almost lost track of the number of days out here, one moves seamlessly into another," said Ericsson 4 navigator Jules Salter. "Progress has been slow, weather maps and GRIB files in the southwest Atlantic make part sense, and when you expect a gain you make a loss and vice versa."

Ericsson 3 continues to hold the fleet lead, a position it has maintained since Mar. 7, some 5,800 nautical miles ago. At 1305 GMT today, Ericsson 3 led Ericsson 4 by 65 miles and had 424 miles remaining to the finish.

Illustrating the slow going, Ericsson 3 has sailed a mere 172 nautical miles in the past 24 hours and Ericsson 4 177 miles. When it set the world 24-hour speed record last October, Ericsson 4 covered 596.6 miles in 24 hours.

"Last night we had a few hours of nervousness," said Ericsson 3 media crewman Gustav Morin. "We were in pretty much no wind and on one position report we were informed that Ericsson 4 had 13 knots of wind.

"Everyone went a bit quiet for awhile and started looking out to the horizon, hoping for some more wind to come," Morin continued. "Actually we got some after awhile, at the most 7 knots. It felt pretty nice just to get moving. If you lie still and the others are sailing in 13 knots of breeze, you can lose a huge lead in just a couple of hours."

Ericsson 3's lead over its teammate has fluctuated between 59 and 78 nautical miles in the past 24 hours. The light winds are the result of a high pressure that is breaking up and the lack of an incoming weather system to generate a different wind pattern.

"The situation to Rio is complex," Salter said. "Light-wind areas, small developing areas of low pressure and boats spread everywhere. All you can do is try and make sense of the six-hourly weather information and draw lines and amend charts to the wind readings we get from the other four boats we receive at the three-hourly sked times."

The continued delay of arrival is ramping up the frustration level for the sailors, who have been at sea for 39 days since departing Qingdao, China, on Feb. 14. Salter likens the situation aboard Ericsson 4 to grumpy, dominant males in a cage. Aboard Ericsson 3, thoughts are with loved ones.

"Most of the guys have even more longing for in Rio, more than just making a good result, coming off the water and having a nice meal," said Morin. "Since we are late in, most of the families will arrive before us and all the fathers onboard are talking more often about their kids and wives, and that they would want to be there to take care of them as soon as they get off the plane. It seems that will not happen. The light airs are still making our lives a mess."

Update from Green Dragon Skipper Ian Walker:
“It is 6:30 in the evening on the 39th day. We were supposed to have finished three days ago. We’ve managed an entire one hundred miles today in 24 hours at an average of just over 4 knots. The forecast doesn’t look much better for the next two days so we’re facing another week at sea. It’s five days since we rounded Cape Horn and we hoped to get there (Rio) in seven so we are going to be five days later than we thought and we’ve got two days food left. So, we’ve split up all the food, we’ve issued all the food to each crew member or to each watch so they are in charge for their own food so there can’t be arguments about it.
Everyone is on pretty good form but obviously a bit disappointed. Now our other problem is Telefónica Blue who are able to come up behind while we’re sitting here in no wind and try and pass us to the east. Difficult times at sunset on the Dragon. In times like this I just come up on the foredeck and take a moment because life is not that bad. This is a very pleasant evening.” Team

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