USA. Volvo Ocean Race: Ericsson Racing Team fifth in Baltimore after close battle for fourth
Ericsson on leg 5 to Baltimore: © Ericsson Racing Team
Photo: Ericsson on leg 5 to Baltimore: © Ericsson Racing Team - click picture to enlarge
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Tuesday, 18 April 2006
Annabel Merrison & Bernard Schopfer:


The Ericsson Racing Team finished leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race at 09:21 local time (EDT) today, after 15 days, 21 hours, 23 minutes and 24 seconds of intense ocean racing. After a close battle with Brasil 1, Ericsson crossed the finish line in fifth place, 12 minutes behind the Brazilians and just over 2 hours behind third placed Pirates of the Caribbean.

"We are all very disappointed," commented Ericsson Racing Team skipper John Kostecki (USA). "We have had a close battle with Brasil 1. We had a 25 mile lead over them yesterday and then we hit a big storm with 52 knots of wind in the afternoon. We ripped our jib and had to drop our mainsail. It took a long time to recover the boat and the Brazilians got passed us just before we entered the bay."

The 5,000 mile leg from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Baltimore, USA, threw every condition possible at the Volvo Ocean Race competitors. They departed Brazil on 2 April in light winds and the first week saw some intense racing between all the competitors, in particular Ericsson, Pirates of the Caribbean and Brasil 1.

Ericsson picked up two points at the scoring gate which they rounded in fourth place behind the Pirates. The teams then tackled the light airs and squalls of the doldrums before enjoying several days of fantastic trade wind sailing. Brasil 1 and Ericsson swapped positions a couple of times, with the Swedish team sneaking ahead as they negotiated the transition from the trade winds to the next frontal system. "We were getting fairly close to the Pirates at this point," said Tim Powell (GBR), "and then we blew a spinnaker out at a fairly critical stage of the leg."

A tense battle then ensued between Brasil 1 and Ericsson and by Monday afternoon with less than 200 miles to go to the finish, Ericsson had built a comfortable lead over the Brazilians, which vanished as the team was hit by a sudden squall. "We are exhausted," said navigator Steve Hayles (GBR), having barely slept for 48 hours. "The last night was really hard, and we all gave it everything we could. It is very tough to finish behind Brasil 1, when yesterday, at some stage, we were 25 miles ahead of them."

Ericsson got to within half a mile of Brasil 1 in the night as they battled up the Chesapeake Bay, but it wasn't enough to beat them. The team finished in fifth place, bringing its total score to 28.5 points, 5.5 points behind Brasil 1 in the overall rankings.

"We sailed very hard all through the race," said Neal McDonald (GBR). "It wasn't a technically hard leg, there were no icebergs or gales, but it was very physical, long and intense. So it makes the end result very sad."

Despite this result, there are clear signs of improvement as Steve Hayles explains: "We have to remember that our performance in this leg is much more positive than our fifth place seems to indicate. The performance of the boat was solid, and there are definitely good signs of improvement. Unfortunately, we finished fifth and this doesn't look good on the paper, but we have never been so close to a podium position in an offshore leg since the start. Our improvement is due to the time spent sailing together, and learning about the boat, as well as to the restructuring of the team."

Quotes:

John Kostecki (USA): "We were competitive during the leg and we got very close to the Pirates at times but we never managed to pass them. The team worked well together and we sailed the boat as well as we could. It's great to be here in Baltimore. It's a great city and always gives a warm welcome."

Tim Powell (GBR): "We were certainly competitive on this leg. We blew a spinnaker out at a fairly critical stage when we were reaching in 20 knots of breeze. We have certainly improved since previous legs as we know the boat better and have a better knowledge of which sails to put up and which combinations."

Neal McDonald (GBR): "The finishing order between the Farr boats has been very much determined by the clouds. Basically, when the boat is moving fast, it is easy to avoid the light wind patches under the clouds. But when you are already stuck in a light wind area, there is nothing you can do to avoid them. This is what has happened to us on several occasions. The boats we sail on are very fast, and the faster they are the bigger the consequences can be when you get stuck for a couple of hours."

Steve Hayles (GBR): "The performance of the boat was solid, and there are definitely good signs of improvement. Unfortunately, we finished fifth and this doesn't look good on the paper. But we have never been so close from a podium position since the start. Our improvement is due to the time spent sailing together, and learning about the boat, as well as to the restructuring of the team."

Magnus Woxen (SWE): "It's good to be back although we are disappointed with our final result. Yesterday, we got into a massive front, with winds blowing over 50 knots. We had to take the mainsail down, and were sailing with only a small jib for half an hour. That's when the Brazilians passed us. We've had some bad luck during this leg, especially when Pirates sailed away from us. We were one mile apart, stuck under a cloud. On the next sched they were 25 miles away."

"This leg wasn't particularly good for me. On the third day, I fell and hurt myself. I couldn't work for a few days, and then I could only steer and trim for more than a week, under painkillers. I also suffered a lot from heat rashes."

Richard Mason (NZL): "The end result comes down to a few clouds. We got stuck on several occasions, with no options - we felt quite unlucky at times. Finally, yesterday, we got hit by this massive system, with very strong winds. I don't think many of us have ever seen such a powerful breeze build up so quickly. Last night, we had a good battle with the Brazilians. They were constantly in sight of us; we gained a little bit, then they gained, and in the end they finished 12 minutes ahead of us. They did a good job in covering us."

"I feel that we have improved a lot. The boat is great, and the crew did a fantastic job. The sail changes were really quick, and Steve and John did a great job."

Guillermo Altadill (ESP): "This was a very intense leg, with very changeable conditions and therefore a lot of sail changes. The key to winning this leg was to negotiate the clouds well, which we did on most occasions. Unfortunately, we had some bad luck on two occasions and lost a lot. We have been sailing close to other boats almost all through the leg, which was amazing. The end result is sad, but there are clear signs of improvement."

www.ericssonracingteam.com.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 18 April 2006 )
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