Saturday, 28 March 2009

VOR: Leg 5 Day 42 - The Final Miles for Green Dragon

Sunset in the south Atlantic, as seen from Green Dragon. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

by Lucy Harwood

At 0700 GMT this morning, Green Dragon went into Stealth Mode with approximately 300 miles to go. This allows them to go off the radar for 24 hours, so no other competitors or the rest of the world will know their position. Should they still be into Stealth Mode 50 miles from the finish race rules require them to appear once again on the radar.

Damian Foxall and Phil Harmer work on sail repairs down below on the Dragon. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

It will be a tense time onboard for Ian Walker and his crew as they battle the notoriously fickle conditions that surround Rio’s coastline, as well as keeping an eye on Telefonica Blue who are creeping up from behind. Defending fourth place is a reality for the Dragon, the previous finishers have struggled in the light conditions over the final miles but without the threat of a chasing boat. For the time being the Dragon is on radio silence and it will be a nervous wait to see what news the morning will bring.

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Telefonica Blue and Green Dragon Locked in Combat

Telefonica Blue trying to make the best out of the light airs, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

The two boats remaining at sea in this marathon Leg 5 are locked in combat, approaching what should be a final night offshore. Green Dragon is in Stealth mode, protecting a lead over the hard charging Telefonica Blue.

Ian Walker and his men on Green Dragon played their stealth card following the 07:00 GMT position report. On that sked, Telefonica Blue had closed to within just 55 miles of the Dragons. 24 hours earlier, they had been 184 miles behind.

By virtue of their more westerly position, Green Dragon has been forced to sail a tighter angle over the past day or so, and that will account for some of the loss. But by the 07:00 position report, they'd managed to climb to a position nearly directly north of Telefonica Blue, on the direct route between the chasing boat and the finish in Rio - a good protective position.

Although we can't follow the progress of Green Dragon whilst they are in Stealth, we can see what's happening on board Telefonica Blue. On the 16:00 GMT report, Bouwe Bekking and company were still making good speed, tearing along at 13 knots in 13 knots of True Wind Speed. The predicted position software gives them an ETA of late afternoon tomorrow. We can only assume Green Dragon will be close to that as well.

Tom Addis and Jordi Calafat on board Telefonica Blue, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

For Green Dragon, the StealthPlay is a good move. If the Dragons are worried that their position in the weather system is making them slow, then Telefonica Blue loses the satisfaction of seeing significant gains with each position report. More significantly, Green Dragon stops broadcasting the wind direction and speed they are seeing, denying important information to the chasing Blue boat.

Green Dragon will return with the 07:00 GMT position report Saturday morning, or when they are within 50 nautical miles of the finish line, whichever comes first. For the Dragon's sake, you know they're hoping they'll be forced to emerge from hiding sooner rather than later...

Green Dragon and Telefonica Blue are both expected to have finished by the end of Saturday afternoon GMT, 28th March.

Volvo Ocean Race

Nations Cup Grand Final: Semi-Finalists Decided

Close racing on the opening day at the 2009 Grand Finals of the Nations Cup in Brazil. Image copyright Matias Capizzano

by ISAF media

Brazilian skipper Henrique HADDAD and Lucy MACGREGOR of Great Britain earned the last two semi-final places at the Grand Final of the 2009 ISAF Nations Cup in Porto Alegre.

The teams from Brazil and Great Britain won through the repechage rounds held in the Open and Women’s divisions respectively on the third day of racing in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

In front of his home supporters, young Brazilian skipper Henrique HADDAD rose to the occasion in Thursday’s racing, winning all three of his matches in the repechage to join Damien IEHL (FRA), Alvaro MARINHO (POR) and Mads EBLER (DEN) in the semi-final stage.

HADDAD, who comes from the Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro, upset the odds by winning all three of his matches in the repechage against Dave PERRY (USA), Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN (IND) and Manuel WEILLER VIDAL (ESP). The Brazilian started the Grand Final as an outside bet, with his World Ranking of #80 the lowest of any of the 10 skippers competing in the Open division. However the 22 year old has shown outstanding potential racing on the Guaiba river and will be sure of huge backing from the local support during the semi-finals.

In contrast to HADDAD’s success, Lucy MACGREGOR’s (GBR) progress through the Women’s repechage was less of a surprise. The British skipper is the reigning European Champion and holds a world #3 ranking. She swept past the challenge of Nicky SOUTER (AUS), Juliana SENFFT (BRA) and Rita GONCALVES (POR) to win the repechage on a 3-0 record. MACGREGOR joins Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA), Giulia CONTI (ITA) and Claire LEROY (FRA) in the semi finals.

As winners of the round robin stage, IEHL and TUNNICLIFFE were able to choose their opponents in the semi-final. TUNNICLIFFE, Olympic gold medallist at Beijing in the Laser Radial dinghy, opted to face the French team of LEROY, who are the reigning World Champions and also the defenders of the Nations Cup. CONTI will line up against MACGREGOR. In the Open Division, IEHL will line up against MARINHO, leaving HADDAD to face EBLER.

The semi-finals are a best-of-five race contest. Racing will be held on Friday, with the Race Committee also planning to complete the opening races of the final as unfavourable conditions are forecast for Saturday.

Damien IEHL and his team from France defended their Open title very well, with a 4-0 score, on the opening day. Image copyright Matias Capizzano

Open Results

Repechage Standings

1. Henrique HADDAD (BRA), 3-0
2. Manuel WEILLER VIDAL (ESP), 2-1
3. Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN (IND), 1-2
4. Dave PERRY (USA), 0-3

Round Robin Standings

1. Damien IEHL (FRA), 8-1
2. Alvaro MARINHO (POR), 6-3
3. Mads EBLER (DEN), 5.5-3
4. Dave PERRY (USA), 5-4
5. Henrique HADDAD (BRA), 5-4
6. Mahesh RAMCHANDRAN (IND), 5-4
7. Manuel WEILLER VIDAL (ESP), 4-5
8. Adrian SHORT (NZL), 3-6
9. Juan FIGUEROA (ARG), 3-6
10. Jon ERIKSSON (FIN), 0-9

Claire LEROY from France defends her title in the Womens division. Image copyright Matias Capizzano

Women’s Results

Repechage Standings

1. Lucy MACGREGOR (GBR), 3-0
2. Nicky SOUTER (AUS), 1-2
3. Juliana SENFFT (BRA), 1-2
4. Rita GONCALVES (POR), 0.5-2

Round Robin Standings

1. Anna TUNNICLIFFE (USA), 7-1
2. Giulia CONTI (ITA), 6-2
3. Claire LEROY (FRA), 5-3
4. Lucy MACGREGOR (GBR), 5-3
5. Nicky SOUTER (AUS), 4-4
6. Rita GONCALVES (POR), 3-5
7. Juliana SENFFT (BRA), 3-5
8. Lotte Meldgaard PEDERSEN (DEN), 3-5
9. Cecilia RUIZ BARLETT (ARG), 0-9

Nations Cup


Neal McDonald, onboard Green Dragon, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

With the first three boats safely tied up in the Marina da Gloria, Rio after completing the 12,300 nm leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race, the next boat expected to finish will be Ian Walker’s Green Dragon.

However, she went into stealth mode this morning immediately after the 0700 GMT position report, and will not reappear until 0700 GMT tomorrow, or once she gets within 50 nm of the finish. At 0655 GMT this morning, she was 267 nm from the finish and doing 13 knots.

It is still possible that Green Dragon and Bouwe Bekking’s Telefónica Blue could have a duel at the finish, but until Green Dragon reveals her hand, that possibility is unknown. Telefónica Blue has 331 nm to run and is trucking along at a steady 16 knots. She has covered 340 nm in the past 24 hours, but is Green Dragon as fortunate?

Telefónica Blue is expected to finish tomorrow afternoon provided the breeze holds firm.

Leg Five Day 42: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) FINISHED
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) FINISHED
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) FINISHED
Green Dragon IRL/CHI (Ian Walker/GBR) STEALTHPLAY
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) DTF 331

Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermudez/ESP) DNS
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) DNS
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS

Leg Five Finishing Order Rio de Janeiro
1. Ericsson 3: 8 points
2. Ericsson 4: 7 points
3. PUMA: 6 points

Overall Leaderboard (Provisional)
1. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA) 63.5 points (FINISHED)
2. PUMA (Ken Read/USA) 53 points (FINISHED)
3. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) 46.5 points (RACING)
4. Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE) 43.5 (FINISHED)
5. Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) 34.5 (RACING)

Cape Horn Scoring Gate
(boat/date/rounding time/gate points)
Ericsson 3: 17.03.09 1222 GMT: 4 points
Ericsson 4: 17.03.09 1448 GMT: 3.5 points
PUMA: 17.03.09 2046 GMT: 3 points
Green Dragon: 18.03.09 0215 GMT 2.5 points
Telefónica Blue: 19.03.09 1339 GMT 2 points

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Delta Lloyd is Re-Launched in Rio

Delta Lloyd was relaunched on 25th March at Marina da Gloria

Delta Lloyd is relaunched in Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

Delta Lloyd is relaunched in Rio de Janeiro, skipper Roberto Bermudez handles a guy rope. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

Delta Lloyd builder as ABN AMRO 1 in the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-06, Killian Bushe (IRL). Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

Delta Lloyd skipper Roberto Bermudez with the new mast for Delta Lloyd in Rio. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado mountain, Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA takes Second Place Overall in Volvo Ocean Race

Post-Leg feast. Image copyright Sally Collison/PUMA Ocean Racing.

by Kate Fairclough

After an incredibly hard-fought 41 days at sea, the PUMA Ocean Racing team crossed the finish line of leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro at 01:47 local/04:27 GMT/23:27 EST [March 26] today. The longest ever leg in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race took the team over 13,000 nautical miles from Qingdao, China to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rounding Cape Horn in third place and maintaining their podium position to the end of this leg, the PUMA team, led by Skipper Ken Read (USA), moves up to take second place overall on the Volvo Ocean Race leaderboard.

The PUMA logo needs some work after Leg 5. Image copyright Sally Collison/PUMA Ocean Racing.

At the beginning of this epic leg almost a month and a half ago, the team had said their final goodbyes to loved ones in freezing cold China on Valentine’s Day. They today emerged looking relieved at the other end of a marathon leg. Having scaled the Pacific Ocean from north to south, skirted icebergs in the Southern Ocean, rounded Cape Horn in rough seas and made agonisingly slow progress northwards to Brazil over the past week, this leg will truly go down in sailing history. For the PUMA team, the journey has been long and arduous, with extreme highs and extreme lows, together with yet more close racing amongst the fleet. PUMA led the fleet for a large part of the first half of the leg, before rounding Cape Horn in third place on Tuesday 17th March. Ten days later, the PUMA team were being teased by the bright lights of Rio, beckoning the team in as they battled with patchy light winds to make it to the finish.

The PUMA Ocean Racing team were welcomed on the dock by family and the PUMA shore team along with local samba dancers. After celebrating onstage the eleven dishevelled crew were ushered to a banquet fit for kings in the PUMA Lounge before much-needed showers and sleep.

Kenny Read with sandwich in hand. Image copyright Sally Collison/PUMA Ocean Racing.

On the dock in Rio Skipper Ken Read (USA) commented: “I don’t think any of us, before we began this leg, knew quite what it would be like. It was not only a boat race but a real adventure. It was non-stop excitement from beginning to end, right out from China. You don't realise how daunting the Southern Ocean is until you're there. Rounding Cape Horn is something I'll never forget as long as I live. If you were going to write the script for it, it was this squally, eerie, hazy day. The sun would break through and then there was pouring rain, blowing 30 knots.”

“It’s an emotional day to be here safely in Brazil and see our families again. We’ve finished the leg on the podium, solidified second place overall, rounded Cape Horn, and I’ve done it all with my friends. The guys on Ericsson 3 sailed a heck of a leg. They made the break at New Zealand and made it hold up all the way to the finish – it’s a great effort by their squad and hard earned. The leg itself was like a 41-day day race, every day you were pushing just as hard as you would in a one day regatta. I wondered if we would begin to have to pace ourselves but the fact is, there’s no such thing – if you try to pace yourself you just lose. So you can’t.”

Casey and the Samba girls. Image copyright Sally Collison/PUMA Ocean Racing.

“We will have this experience to look back on forever – although I don't think the magnitude of this leg will really sink in until after the completion of the race. It says a lot when you can't get the route that we just sailed on one computer screen because it covers half the planet. With half the points in this race still available it is still anyone’s game, not only for the podium but for victory. Anything can happen. We will stay on our toes and keep pushing as hard as we can until someone grabs our lines in St Petersburg.”

PUMA Ocean Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Ericsson Racing Team International Second on Leg 5

Ericsson 4 shortly before the finish. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

by Victoria Low

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.

Brazilian skipper Torben Grael surrounded by media. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

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.

The three Brazilians: Carabelli, Grael and Signorini. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

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.

Ericsson Racing Team
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 41 QFB: received 26.03.09 2155 GMT

Tom Addis looking for wind onboard Telefonica Blue, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Simon Fisher (helmsman)

Late yesterday afternoon we finally escaped the clutches of the high pressure that had been slowing our progress for the previous couple of days.

I am happy to report we are now doing 13-14 knots pointed straight at Rio. As a result we are shedding the miles to go a little quicker than in the last few days, which comes as good news to all on board as the countdown has definitely begun. The 'distance to waypoint' seems to keep popping up on the displays around the boat as everyone is becoming anxious to tick off the last few hundred miles of what has been a very, very long leg!

I think everyone is silently wishing for the last few hundred miles to be smooth and uneventful although a near miss with a massive black cloud that quickly spread across the horizon shortly before daylight this morning reminded us that there could be plenty more shenanigans to come before we finally arrive at the finish line.

Luckily the cloud in question was avoided without hindrance but you could tell everyone was hoping that it wasn't going to be the first of many. As to whether this is the case or not we will have to wait and see...

Volvo Ocean Race


PUMA Ocean Racing, skippered by Ken Read (USA) finish third into Rio de Janeiro on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, crossing the line at 04:27:00 GMT 27/03/09. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

Ken Read/USA guided PUMA over the finish line this morning in Rio de Janeiro at 0427 GMT (0127 local) to claim the third podium place on leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race, a result good enough for Read to retain second position in the race overall at this halfway stage.

PUMA's crew on stage in Rio at the end of Leg 5. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

Ken Read and his team now have 53 points on the scoreboard having added six leg points and six gate points to their tally. This keeps them in second place, but only a whisker ahead Telefónica Blue, whose total will be 50.5 points at the end of this leg, assuming they hold their current position. Even if Telefónica Blue should beat Green Dragon on this leg, which now seems unlikely, it will not affect PUMA’s overall second place standing in the race.

Read is skippering an entry in the event for the first time, and on this leg he had his first taste of the Southern Ocean and the experience of rounding Cape Horn. On reaching the dock in the Marina da Gloria, Read said: “It was a really long race. I wondered if we would end up having to try and pace ourselves, but the fact is, there’s no such thing. If you try to pace yourself, you just lose, so you can’t.” The team recorded an elapsed time of 40 days 23 hours 26 minutes 60 seconds.

On the approach to the finish, Read wrote, “We will have this experience to look back on forever, although I don’t think the magnitude of this leg will really sink in until after the completion of the race. Where we have been, what we have seen, the laughs, the frustration, the hardships are the moments in time that one can never forget – none of it can be taken away.”

Kenny Read, PUMA's skipper, holds the trophy for third place aloft. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Throughout the leg, PUMA was consistently in the top three, only dropping to fourth momentarily and on three occasions leading the fleet. From day 24, 9 March, they settled into third place and held that right through to the finish today.

Leg Five Finishing Order Rio
1. Ericsson 3: 8 points
2. Ericsson 4: 7 points
3. PUMA: 6 points

Overall Leaderboard (Provisional)
1. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA) 63.5 points (FINISHED)
2. PUMA (Ken Read/USA) 53 points (FINISHED)
3. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) 46.5 points (RACING)
4. Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE) 43.5 (FINISHED)
5. Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) 34.5 (RACING)

6. Telefónica Black 21 (DNS)
7. Delta Lloyd 12 (DNS)
8. Team Russia 10.5 (DNS)

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 41 QFB: received 26.03.09 2352 GMT

Rob Salthouse, onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read (skipper)

The last sunset. The final miles. The end to this epic adventure.

If my count is right, this is our 41st day at sea. The trip from Qingdao was everything that we thought it would be and more. More days that is. Sure we were told that the leg could last somewhere between 34 and 40 days. My guess is that none of us ever thought it would be the longer of the two.

The boat and team have held up exceptionally well under the circumstances. I guess in a way we had to, mainly because we have to do this all over again in two weeks or so. Although the next leg will be different. No 40 days and the light at the end of that tunnel is HOME. A very different feel for sure.

Excitement is around every corner out here. Even when we have a nice night-time sail with clear skies, flat seas and 10 knots of wind reaching at 12 knots toward the finish. All of a sudden last night around 1 pm GMT a smallish light ship came out of the darkness ahead and to leeward and fired off a flare and began flashing lights on us. Capey (Andrew Cape) got them on channel 16, realized he didn't speak Portuguese and was lucky enough that a member of the ships crew spoke English. The ship explained that just in front of us there was another ship towing 14 six- mile long seismic cables. Now that would ruin your night running into that buzz saw.

They told us to head up 70 degrees for about five miles to get around the cables which we happily obliged even though it meant rolling up our spinnaker and going on the wind away from Rio. Sure enough, a few miles later they called back and told us we could go back on course. Interesting little turn of events and enough to get your heart rate up for a few minutes.

On the racing front, the two Ericsson boats went stealth. Not really sure why you would use it then but anyway, it made for interesting topics of conversation on the boat for a while anyway.

And while I am at it, on behalf of the entire PUMA Ocean Racing Team I would like to congratulate the Ericsson3 team for a job well done. They made the break at New Zealand and made it hold up all the way to the finish. A great effort by their squad and hard earned.

As for the rest of us, we will have this experience to look back on forever.

Although I don't think the magnitude of this leg will really sink in until after the completion of the race. It says a lot when you can't get the route that is to be sailed on one computer screen. The routing software, scaled out as far as it will go, nearly includes half of the planet. Not enough to fit this leg on the same page. Where we have been, what we have seen, the laughs, the frustration, the hardships and the moments in time that one can never forget...none of it can be taken away. We have successfully put some points on Telefónica Blue, yet lost a few more to Ericsson 4. A tough boat to beat for sure.

But, with half the points in this race still available it is still anyone's game, not only for the podium but for victory. Anything can happen out here. Last night’s near miss is the perfect example. We will stay on our toes and keep pushing as hard as we can until someone grabs our lines in St Petersburg.

THE leg is over. Two weeks off. Somehow this finish will be different. Our families will smile wider, the food will certainly taste better (and I will never look at mashed potatoes quite the same way again as that has been our filler food for the last four days) and the beer colder.

Thank you Il Mostro. You have delivered your crew safely through 12,300 miles of the unknown. Get some rest because in two weeks it is time to head for Boston and Home Sweet Home.

If you need to find me over the next couple weeks, safe bet is I am eating somewhere.

Volvo Ocean Race


Ericsson 4's crew celebrates their second place on Leg 5 in traditional style. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

Ericsson Racing Team made it a one/two today in leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race when Ericsson 4 crossed the finish line at 2257 GMT (1957 local time) in skipper Torben Grael’s home port of Rio de Janeiro, to stand second on the podium next to Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE) who took line honours earlier today.

Ericsson 4 now extends her overall lead to 63.5 points; 10.5 points ahead of PUMA (Ken Read/USA) who, provided she finishes this leg in her current third position, will retain second place overall. At the time of Ericsson 4’s finish, PUMA had 49.4 nm to run and was making 10 knots of boatspeed. This is the third leg win for Torben Grael and Ericsson 4. They also won both legs one and two as well as taking maximum points for the in-port race series in Singapore and Qingdao.

Ericsson 4, skippered by Torben Grael (BRA) (left) finish second into Rio de Janeiro on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, crossing the line at 22:57:44 GMT 26/03/09. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

After being at sea for 40 days 17 hours 57 minutes and 44 seconds, to the delight of the large and noisy home town crowd who had been waiting for this moment all day, the Brazilian skipper, said: “We have been dreaming of this moment all week long and it is great to be home. The reception has been beautiful.”

Ericsson 4 was the leader of the pack when the Volvo fleet was faced with the decision as to how to tackle the islands of Fiji on day 16, 1 March. Skipper, Torben Grael chose the easterly option, along with Ericsson 3 and Green Dragon and led the field across the first scoring gate to earn four points. Ericsson 3 then made her brave move to the north and Ericsson 4 was left to fight for second place with PUMA (Ken Read/USA).

Speaking of Ericsson 3 performance, Grael said, “They made a very great move after the gate and it was clever. They gained a big advantage, but we managed to pull back but they pulled away again and we never had a real chance. They made a fantastic effort all the way from Taiwan.”

Torben Grael holds the trophy for second place in Leg 5 aloft. (l-r): Brazilian crewmates Joao Signorini, skipper Torben Grael and Horatio Carabelli. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

British navigator, Jules Salter added, “We needed a break in the weather to get past Ericsson 3 but that never came and the guys sailed very well. We have all sailed together a lot and they learned from us and learned from them, so we have created something great. They sailed really well.”

PUMA (Ken Read/USA) continued to put the pressure on Ericsson 4 and the two teams were close by for much of the leg until day 25, 10 March, when Ericsson 4 pulled out a lead over PUMA that they were never able to challenge. Ericsson 4 followed Ericsson 3 around Cape Horn, gaining a further 3.5 points, and the position remained unchanged until the finish in Rio today.

Leg Five Finishing Order Rio

1. Ericsson 3: 8 points
2. Ericsson 4: 7 points

Overall Leaderboard (Provisional)

1. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA) 63.5 points (FINISHED)
2. PUMA (Ken Read/USA) 47 points (RACING)
3. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) 46.5 points (RACING)
4. Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE) 43.5 (FINISHED)
5. Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) 34.5 (RACING)

6. Telefónica Black 21 (DNS)
7. Delta Lloyd 12 (DNS)
8. Team Russia 10.5 (DNS)

Volvo Ocean Race

New Zealand Women's National Match Racing Championships 2009: Day One

Close racing in the NZ Womens Match Racing Championships. Image copyright Ivor Wilkins.

by Barry Davies

A frustrating first day of the 2009 New Zealand Women’s Match Racing Championships, run by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron on the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland.

The fleet of 10 teams was towed out into the racing area twice during the day, only to be sent back inshore because what wind there was just died away.

It was third time lucky, however, and at 3.30 pm racing finally got under way when a gentle south west breeze of 4 – 6 knots slowly developed. Racing was halted shortly afterwards because of the fickle conditions and the Race Committee then went chasing the breeze to the west of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. They found better conditions, but only enough to complete one flight of the first round robin.

The forecast for Saturday doesn’t look much better with similar conditions predicted.

Amanda Scrivenor (Cruising Yacht Club of Australia) celebrated her 21st birthday with a first-up win over Kim Stuart from Santa Monica, California. Other winners were Jess Smyth (NZL), Jan Dawson (NZL), Katie Spithill (Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club) and Miranda Powrie (NZL).

The New Zealand Womens Match Racing Championships have been held at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron since 2000 when Amy Waring, representing the RNZYS, was the first winner and received the Leith Mossman Memorial.

10 teams of four have entered
(Skippers Name - Yacht Club)

Jessica Smyth - RNZYS
Samantha Osborne - RNZYS
Jan Dawson - RNZYS
Annemarie Waugh - RNZYS
Miranda Powrie - RNZYS
Hannah Morris - RNZYS Lion Foundation Youth Training Programme
Stephanie Hazard - RNZYS Lion Foundation Youth Training Programme
Katie Spithill - Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club
Amanda Scrivenor - Cruising Yacht Club of Australia
Kim Stuart - Santa Monica Yacht Club

Results - Flight One

Scrivenor b Stuart
Smyth b Morris
Dawson b Osborne
Spithill b Waugh
Powrie b Hazard

Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron

Congressional Cup: BlackMatch Go Unbeaten on Day 3

Action at the Congressional Cup on Day 3. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

by David Swete

A miraculous come from behind victory in our first race today against Ben Ainslie pretty much set the scene for the rest of the day, as we went on to win 5 straight matches to put us in a strong position for the semi-finals. Again the sun was out and racing got away in very light and shifty condition. Today we did a great job using the wind shifts to our advantage while others struggled, including Ainslie who had a shocking day, adding no wins to his scorecard.

In our match against Ben, we had an even start however the British team ground out a narrow lead by the first top mark. We did a great job keeping the game close but it wasn't until the final upwind when some good calls by tactician Rod Davis, got us back into the fray and we were close enough to attack on the final downwind. Shadowing the triple gold medalist with our spinnaker we made significant inroads and managed to roll over top of them close to the finish line. After trailing for the entire race we now found ourselves in front and although they had one last throw of the dice near the finish, we managed to defend our lead and take a much needed victory.

We had very convincing wins in our next three matches against Steffan Lindberg, Brian Angel and Phillipe Presti, however, in our last match of the day against Sebastian Col, we had an absolute nail biter, again managing to secure a narrow win. We smashed the world number 1 off the start line, forcing a penalty on him while also gaining a 3 boat length advantage. However, the talented French team came back and actually passed us by the next bottom mark. They seemed to have amazing boat speed on us in this race and although we kept it close they managed to extend enough to complete their penalty but it was now 'neck and neck' going into the final downwind.

A fierce gybing duel ensued down the final run with both teams gaining the advantage at various stages. We held a slim lead approaching the finish when Sebastian went for the roll in a last ditch effort, they were so close to rolling us on the finish line however we defended by luffing hard and held on for the narrowest of wins.

Our run of consecutive wins today has put us in good stead to reach the semi finals, however, there are 3 people standing in our way of which one of them we have to beat. Tomorrow we race Hutchinson, Berntsson and Bruni and one win should be enough to guarantee us a place in the final four. Ben Ainslie's bad day means he needs us to lose all three of our races while Mathieu Richard who to went unbeaten today is also in a good position along with Francesco Bruni of Italy.

It will be interesting to see how tomorrow pans out as it is extremely tight for the remaining semi final berths.

BlackMatch Racing
Congressional Cup

Friday, 27 March 2009

Congressional Cup: Day Three

What a day! Ainslie 0-5, Richard and Minoprio 5-0

Bruni leads Angel into the leeward mark to join a 3-way tie for second place. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

by Rich Roberts

A recent series of small earthquakes in the California desert not far away was felt on the water here Thursday.

How else to explain the virtual tsunami that swept over the Long Beach Yacht Club's 45th Congressional Cup and turned the battle for the Crimson Blazer upside down?

Ben Ainslie lost all five of his races and all but toppled from contention for reaching Saturday's semifinals.

Hutchinson gets beneath Ainslie to get the hook in the pre-start. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

Yes, that Ben Ainslie, the ISAF World Sailor of the Year and triple Olympic gold medallist.

"Can we [still] get to the top four?" he asked at the dock.

Terry Hutchinson leads Ben Ainslie across the start line, after shutting him out at the committee boat. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

That tale will be told Friday in the last three of 18 rounds as Ainslie goes to work with an 8-7 record trying to overtake three rivals---France's Mathieu Richard, the 2007 winner; New Zealand's Adam Minoprio, who just won the World Match Racing Tour opener at Marseille, and Italy's Francesco Bruni, a late entry---who share second place at 10-5.

Terry Hutchinson, the 1992 winner and 2008 MedCup champion for Quantum Racing, is in at 13-2 but not mathematically assured of finishing first.

"If we lose all three of our races and Mathieu wins his, he has the tiebreaker on us," Hutchinson pointed out.

And after what happened to Ainslie Thursday, it would seem anything is possible. Even France's Sébastien Col, the top-ranked match racer, has already missed the shuttle to the sailoffs with a record of 6 1/2 points despite seven wins---the critical half-point deducted for causing damage to Johnie Berntsson's transom in a pre-start collision.

Col fouled Berntsson, hitting the transom of Berntsson's boat and incurring a half point penalty for damage, in the pre-start. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

The Swedish sailor presented Col with a six-inch-long fibreglass splinter at the evening's press conference.

Berntsson's crew tape the damaged area where they were hit on the transom by Col. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

"This cost $300," Col said, noting the deduction from his damage deposit insurance for the Catalina 37s.

Col is unable to get far enough ahead of Berntsson to clear his penalty before Berntsson finishes the race to take the win. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

Richard and Minoprio both won all five of their races Thursday, lifting themselves dramatically from so-so performances the first two days. Richard started his day by handing Hutchinson his second loss of the week after slamming the door at the committee boat.

Hutchinson came back to lead at the second (last) windward mark, but Richard stayed close enough to smother his power downwind and retake the lead for a nine-second win that prompted a momentary show of angry frustration from the U.S.'s Rolex Yachtsman of the Year.

"The boat's been going very fast and the crew has overcome some of my mediocrity," Hutchinson said. "I'll need to do better than that."

But it was a frustrating type of day that started with 10 knots of wind from southeast and dropped to 5 or 6 as it swung 50 degrees right to the south through the afternoon---so light that there were several key lead changes when trailing boats played their advantage by blanketing the leaders.

Kelvin Harrap, Ainslie's tactician, said, "We led at four top [windward] marks."

Ainslie said, "When we started off the day we were pretty reserved. We got aggressive later."

Hutchinson and crew in action. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

Worth noting: While Berntsson managed a lukewarm 3-2 day out of the "wonder boat," number 11, whose first two teams---Ainslie and Finland's Staffan Lindberg---went 10-0, Ainslie rotated to boat number 10, which had a 2-8 record going into Thursday. Now it's 2 and 13.

"It didn't feel great," Ainslie said, "but in match racing you deal with what you've got. You can't blame the boat. It's the guys sailing it."

Minoprio's guys include two known well locally: Rod Davis, the Team New Zealand coach who grew up in nearby Coronado, Calif. to win four Congressional Cups, and Steve Flam, a lifelong Long Beach sailor who probably has sailed more Con Cups and more miles on a Catalina 37 than anyone as tactician for others, including the late Chris Law in 1994.

Davis is calling tactics for the 23-year-old Minoprio; Flam trims the main sail.

Minoprio said, "Rod figures out what the wind is doing, tells me how we should start and where we should go and keeps me aware of everything that's going on. All I have to do is steer. Today we won every start. In these races you can't make mistakes. We didn't make mistakes today."

They won some of their races by coming from behind, as if trailing was almost an advantage.

"In this light breeze it almost is," Minoprio said.

Richard crosses Col on port tack. Image copyright Rich Roberts.

Richard, ranked No. 3 in the world, said, "We have improved on a lot of little things . . . the speed of the boat and the tactics."

As for Ainslie's nosedive, Richard said, "It happens. I don't know how to explain it."


Sébastien Col, France, def. Staffan Lindberg, Finland, O:25
Philippe Presti, France, d. Brian Angel, USA, 0:22
Adam Minoprio, New Zealand, d., Ben Ainslie, Great Britain, 0:03
Mathieu Richard, France, d. Terry Hutchinson, USA, 0:09
Francesco Bruni, Italy, d. Johnie Berntsson, Sweden, 0:16

Minoprio d. Presti, 0:38
Hutchinson d. Ainslie, 0:38
Richard d. Bruni, 0:14
Berntsson d. Col, 0:11
Lindberg d. Angel, 0:28

Bruni d. Ainslie, 0:03
Richard d. Berntsson 0:10
Col d. Angel, 0:48
Minoprio d. Lindberg, 0:10
Hutchinson d. Presti, 0:27

Richard d. Col, 0:45
Minoprio d. Angel, 0:36
Hutchinson d. Lindberg, 0:24
Bruni d. Presti, 0:45
Berntsson d. Ainslie, 0:23

Hutchinson d. Angel, 1:03
Bruni d. Lindberg, 0:30
Berntsson d. Presti, 0:47
Richard d. Ainslie, 0:58
Minoprio d. Col, 0:12

STANDINGS (after 15 of 18 rounds):
1. Hutchinson, 13-2
2. tie among Bruni, Richard and Minoprio, 10-5
5. Ainslie, 8-7
6. tie between Berntsson and Col, 7-8
8. Lindberg, 6-9
9. Presti, 3-12
10. Angel, 1-14

Congressional Cup

VOR: PUMA Leg 5 Day 41 0000 GMT

Instrumentation showing slow progress on board PUMA Ocean Racing on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read (skipper)


That is what the boat speed reads right now - 80 miles from the finish, 40 odd miles behind E4.

To put this in perspective, we made six miles toward the finish in the last three hour position reports and gained on E4!!!

It is pretty light air out here with no end in sight.

Here a run down on what we have got going.

1. We have been told by our shore team that we get whatever food we want when we arrive. We have chosen the best steaks that money can buy, veggies, fruit, rum, coke and beer. Pretty basic but I think we are in a pretty basic mood.

2. The crew continues to ease and trim by the millimeter to get every inch out of this vessel. I’m very proud of this group. No outward signs of frustration and very professional.

3. Ricky and Bob have done a great job with the food. Essentially, we have had nearly full meals all the way up until now. We brought half a cabin worth of food on this leg!!! More bags than we could store. Also, we brought enough food for the maximum projected amount of days that this leg would take, with provisions on how we could stretch it out if necessary. Mother Nature hasn't cooperated. It is what it is. Like everything else in this race, we just deal with it. No complaints from this group.

4. Referring back to #3...we have one more meal left for tonight and a bag of peanuts for the morning. Besides that, we have unlimited amounts of water. We will be quite hungry at some point if the breeze doesn't fill in. Again, we will deal with it.

Everything else is peachy. We dug up another tube of sunscreen - a big bonus. We are trading iPods and watching movies on off watches - essentially trying to kill the hours as best we can when not on deck trying to urge the yacht to move. When in doubt stay out of the sun. We are simply a group of pros continuing to do their jobs in what most would consider a pretty unfortunate situation.

Oh yea, we are in a boat race as well. Back to work.

PUMA Ocean Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA 'Out of Jail' soon

Bowman Casey Smith onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Rick Deppe

With over 12500 miles of sailing behind us and about 100 miles to go, the sailboat race that six weeks ago seemed impossible now seems to be coming to an end. The first boat has finished - my hat's off to the Ericsson 3 guys, they sailed a blinder and their win is well deserved. I can't wait to get in and start sharing stories; this leg will be remembered for a long time.

So what have we learned? Well I'm sure that over time my opinion of this leg will change, but for now, I'd have to say that it's probably a tad too far and could probably have done with a pit-stop in New Zealand. I think we're very lucky to see everyone around the Cape Horn in one piece. By the time all the boats are tied up in Rio, hopefully it will be five starters and five finishers. One thing I can say with certainty is that I haven't really enjoyed the leg very much, it's left me feeling weak and a little sick with lots of aches and pains. Definitely not a healthy situation for the media crew member and I'll be interested to talk with my fellow 11th men, Guo (Guo Chan, Green Dragon), Guy (Guy Salter, Ericsson 4), Gustav (Gustav Morin, Ericsson 3), and Gabi (Gabrielle Olivo, Telefónica Blue) (sounds like a cabaret act) and see how things went for them when we have our media crew member stopover de-brief.

As for my ten compadres on il Mostro, it feels as though I know everything there is to know about each and every one of them. Plain and simple, there's just nowhere to hide on this little seventy foot boat that has become the centre of our universe for the last year. Any strength's or weakness's will be fully exposed - farting, snoring, short temperedness and poor personal hygiene on the one hand, juxtaposed with good manners, patience and diligence around the boat on the other. If there's a shoe floating around in the bilge on its own I could probably guess to within two people whose it is, same with an unwashed coffee mug. I know who will be first out of his bunk and up on deck to help out when he's off watch. Who's grumpy in the morning, who can stay up all night and keep smiling, I even know who the chocolate robber is, but I'll never tell.

So for now, I feel like the guy in the movie who gets out of jail tomorrow, or the next day: scared .... excited ... ready for a new life onshore (for a few weeks anyway).

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Leg 5 Day 41 - Last Miles to Rio de Janeiro for the Green Dragon crew

Green Dragon skipper Ian Walker relaxes in the final stages on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Lucy Harwood

Green Dragon is just 438 miles from Rio de Janeiro and the end of an epic leg, the longest ever in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race. Conditions are still holding with a sea breeze which they hope will bring them all the way to the finish. But the final few miles into Rio can be tricky and the potential for being becalmed just miles from the finish is a reality for the whole fleet.

Ericsson 3 was first to cross the finish line in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro this morning at 1037 GMT. But only after a very slow final few hours onboard as they drifted into Rio. For the young Nordic crew this is their first win in the race so far and a victory for their young navigator who took a northerly gamble in the Southern Ocean which paid dividends. Ericsson 4 and PUMA are still to finish, both struggling with the light conditions, as they slow to around 4 knots.

Green Dragon is still sailing on at a comfortable 12 knots and they have managed to sail 234 nm in the last 24hours, one of the fastest days onboard for the last week. There are still two areas of high pressure that they must negotiate over the next 24 – 36 hours, and they will be keeping an eye over their shoulder to Telefonica Blue who are playing catch up to their east. But with just a couple of days remaining the end is in sight for the Dragon.

Green Dragon’s skipper Ian Walker commented last night, “Three days of sailing along with no wind does test the patience. We need some miles in hand to be able to defend fourth from Telefónica Blue, as they may have a better angle towards the finish once they are out of the high pressure system. Hopefully we can stay ahead of them, if there is any justice in this world then we will! Right now we have more wind than the models suggest, we are making good ground to the finish, the boat is moving and the miles are coming down."

Talking about the food rationing on board Green Dragon Ian Walker said, "there is now a black market in liquorice all sorts and most things to be honest! We packed for 40 days which wasn’t a bad estimate and we may finish in 42 or 43 days.”

Note from SailRaceWin: In audio commentary with Volvo Ocean Race media, Ian Walker commented that he had found, while checking facts and figures, "that sailing from Qingdao to Rio is further than sailing from the UK to New Zealand. I realised then what we had taken on over the last 40 days."

Leg Five Day 41: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)

Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) FIN
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) 46
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +46
Green Dragon IRL/CHI (Ian Walker/GBR) +438
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +626

Delta Lloyd NED (Roberto Bermudez/ESP) DNS
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) DNS
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Ericsson Racing Team Closes Out Long Leg 5 with Emotional Win

The crew of Ericsson 3 shortly after crossing the line. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

by Victoria Low

Ericsson Racing Team yacht Ericsson 3, skippered by Magnus Olsson, closed out the long and arduous Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race when it placed first here this morning at 0737 local (1037 GMT).

The Nordic crew overcame a late start seven hours behind the fleet and has been on the water for more than 43 days to win their first leg of the 2008-'09 race. Their elapsed time for the 12,300-nautical mile leg was 40 days, 5 hours, 37 minutes and 57 seconds.

The Nordic crew for Leg 5 included skipper and watch captain Olsson (Stockholm, Sweden), navigator Aksel Magdahl (Oslo, Norway), watch captain Thomas Johanson (Helsinki, Finland), helmsmen/trimmers Eivind Melleby (Oslo), Arve Roaas (Tonsberg, Norway), Martin Strömberg (Gothenburg, Sweden) and Magnus Wøxen (Stockholm), boat captain Jens Dolmer (Nyköbing Falster, Denmark), bowmen Anders Dahlsjö (Onsala, Sweden) and Martin Krite (Lund, Sweden) and media crewman Gustav Morin (Stockholm).

"It's hard to describe my feelings. Everyone is proud and happy with the victory," said Olsson, the 60-year-old skipper. "It was more of a team effort than I've ever been associated with in yachting. Individually, we're not as strong as Ericsson 4 or Puma. But collectively, we're a great team."

Ericsson 3 in front of Corcovado in Rio. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

Ericsson 3 earned 8 points for the win and totaled 15.5 points on the leg (from a maximum of 16) by also placing first and second at the two scoring gates. Ericsson 3 moved solidly into fourth place with 43.5 points after the highly successful leg.

"It has been a big leg, too big to get philosophic about now," said Magdahl, the 30-year-old navigator who made the bold tactical call on Mar. 4 that would put Ericsson 3 in the lead.

"But one thing is for sure; that everyone gave their best the whole way and you can see now how impressed everyone is with the other team members," Magdahl said.

Ericsson 3 after winning Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

Leg 5 began in Qingdao, China, on Feb. 14, but for Ericsson 3 it began three days earlier on Feb. 11. That's when the Nordic crew set off from Taiwan to complete Leg 4 into China. Ericsson 3 was forced to pull into Taiwan on Jan. 27 with hull damage. The boat was out of action for two weeks while the hull was repaired.

As Ericsson 3 approached the finish of Leg 4 on Feb. 14, the short-handed crew passed the three boats that took the start of Leg 5. Soon after crossing the finish line, Ericsson 3 made a beeline for the dock, where the crew swapped sails, added crewmembers, food, fuel, assorted spares and extra clothing, all in seven hours, and then turned around and headed back out to sea.

"Once again a big thanks, to everyone who has supported us along the way," said Magdahl. "This is a team victory. We owe huge thanks to everyone that contributed on all areas within the team to get us to the start line for this leg!"

Riding a big blow out of China, Ericsson 3 quickly rejoined the fleet and by the third day was back in its customary third place on the leaderboard. Ericsson 3 has placed third on three of the previous legs, but this time that standing would improve.

Ericsson 3 on Mar. 4 cleared the first scoring gate at latitude 36 South in second place, about 30 minutes behind leader Ericsson 4. Then, moments later, the crew surprised armchair tacticians around the world when it made a tack to the northeast, back across the scoring line and towards an area of low pressure.

Magnus Olsson kisses the Leg 5 trophy. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

The move was admired for its brazenness. Rarely has a boat split from the pack during this race when it is in solid position. Ericsson 3 made the move without thinking twice.

"The true story is that Aksel saw the opportunity many days before the scoring gate," said Olsson. "He was well prepared. He saw it develop. When he presented the idea, it felt like he had thought it through."

"I'm proud of that decision," said Magdahl, "because I could contribute to the team effort. Walking around and seeing how happy everyone is, it's a team thing. There's a lot of joy right now."

Magnus Olsson holds the winners trophy aloft. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

Ericsson 3 took the lead on Mar. 7, and then played it smart across the Southern Ocean, pushing when it had to and backing off other times.

"One of the hardest days was one night in Southern Ocean," said Johanson, the watch captain. "Ericsson 4 had gained quite a lot. I was on watch with Bagi (Wøxen) and thought we need to push a bit. The wind was blowing 35 to 40 knots. In that four-hour watch we averaged 26 knots boatspeed and gained back 8 miles on Ericsson 4. That was memorable."

Johanson also has fond memories of being aboard the yacht that led the fleet past Cape Horn. It was his first time around the Horn, but the fourth time a Johanson has rounded it.

"My grandfather went around the Horn in 1901, and his father and mother before him," said Johanson. "It's been a childhood dream to round the Horn."

The crew of Ericsson 3 celebrate their victory in traditional style. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

When the crew led around Cape Horn on Mar. 17, it looked like they would need six days to make the finish in Rio. Instead, it's taken the better part of nine days to complete the final 2,200 nautical miles.

"I knew it could fall apart, but always felt we'd pull it out," said Magdahl. "With that large a high-pressure area, there's always the chance someone could come right up to us. We just had to keep sailing our optimum route."

At the time of the Nordic crew's finish teammate Ericsson 4 was still in Stealth Mode. The International crew went into hiding yesterday afternoon at 1600 GMT. They'll emerge from Stealth at either 1600 GMT today or when they are 50 nautical miles from the finish.

Ericsson Racing Team
Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean Race: The Sweetest Victory

Ericsson 3, skippered by Magnus Olsson (SWE) (pictured) finish first into Rio de Janeiro on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, crossing the line at 10:37:57 GMT 26/03/09, after 41 days at sea. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Riath Al-Samarrai

What a difference a few legs make. Just three months ago, when Ericsson 3 docked in India, Magnus Olsson expressed mixed feelings about his team's third place finish. "We are still sailing a bit defensive," he said.

Today, as the Nordic sailors completed one of the most astonishing wins in this race's history, he could rest assured that the message had been taken onboard.

The final stages onboard Ericsson 3, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

The manner of their victory has, to put it mildly, stunned rivals and observers alike. Specifically, it boils down to a staggeringly bold manoeuvre made on March 4 when, with second place in their possession, Ericsson 3 crossed the scoring gate at 36 degrees south, collected the 3.5 points on offer, and then dismissed the most common convention of Southern Ocean sailing.

Instead of diving to the high latitudes, they let the pack sail away while they turned around and changed their bearing from 161 degrees to 51 degrees. Aksel Magdahl, like all the other navigators, had seen the potential of staying north in order to avoid a high pressure system and then utilise the breeze of lower pressure.

But whereas his rivals followed tradition by going south, Magdahl rolled the dice.

Ericsson 3 in Guanabara Bay, just off Rio, at dawn. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

At the time Telefonica Blue's veteran skipper Bouwe Bekking said: "If that route wins them the leg, they will write history, as up to now in all the legs down south, the south has won...I am happy not to be in their skipper's shoes."

A day after the move, Ericsson 3 were last on the leaderboard, but a further three days later they were top. Another three days down the track they held a 280-mile lead. Ultimately Ericsson 4 closed to within six miles at one stage just after rounding Cape Horn, but Olsson's crew, who were first at the Cape Horn scoring gate, extended again to claim the leg honours.

A big pay-out for a gamble which Magdahl felt wasn't particularly "special". He said: "The northerly route didn't seem special at the time but when all the rest did not follow us then it suddenly seemed a big decision and very important. It then became the biggest sailing decision of my life, the biggest sailing moment of my life, that is for sure."

Ericsson 3 sails into Rio. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Olsson certainly enjoyed the end result. "Unbelievable," he said amid the hollering at dockside. "We actually deserve it.

"We had a fantastic strategy when we needed it; Aksel did a fantastic job there. And then we executed that strategy in a very, very good way."

That final point is equally critical, as Finland's Thomas Johanson pointed out. "It was a great, great call by Aksel. We all believe in him and he believes in us. He has taken a risk after a lot of thought and it has had a great result.

"But the decision had a lot to it. We had to sail really well to make it work. We had to push 100% to make it. It was tough for the boat and the crew to be in that low pressure with a really bad sea state."

They emerged, though, and recorded a great win that said much about their transformation as a team.

Crowds, including other Ericsson team members, gather to greet Ericsson 3 at Marina Da Gloria in Rio. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

"We have changed every leg," Johanson said. "We know each other, we know how hard to push, we feel more comfortable. It got us a really great result."

And all in the most unlikely of circumstances. The team suspended racing from leg four in Taiwan because of serious structural damage and, after working round the clock to make repairs, just seven men sailed the remaining 650 miles to Qingdao. They arrived five hours after the fleet had left and, after re-provisioning the boat and adding three men, departed for Rio de Janeiro after just a two-hour stop.

They caught up by the evening and the rest is history. Olsson was stunned. "Of course, you couldn't (expect us to win). We didn't look like a winner then. Coming there tired, carbon dust all over the boat and late and a few guys new in the crew and all that, but we managed to turn it around, it's fantastic, it really is."

If anything, Olsson believes the adversity helped Aksel make his bold call. He said: "Because we were late and all that and we had no pressure on us...that perhaps made the self-belief in us come up a little bit higher."

He added: "This team is really developing. They should have confidence in themselves because they are great sailors."

Ericsson 3 finish first into Rio. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Whether or not the result inspires even greater things remains to be seen, but the confidence in the team is limitless. "We can win more legs, for sure," said Magnus Woxen. Johanson agreed: "There is a lot of talent and ability in this team."

With that, the team dispersed to enjoy land for the first time in seven weeks. Self-belief almost certainly won't be a problem anymore.

Volvo Ocean Race