Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bring on the Ocean - Ericsson Racing

ALICANTE, Spain — The dog and pony shows are over. Now it’s a matter of days until the eight boats comprising the fleet in the Volvo Ocean Race head offshore.

The 10th edition of the circumnavigation race commenced over the weekend with the Alicante In-Port Race. Two windward-leeward races were held, and although the points count towards the overall standings, it’s hard to gauge exactly what each design represents.

The winds on Saturday were just too light and variable to be certain that one boat is fast or another is slow. A 6- to 8-knot wind featured holes that saw boats stand upright and get headed 10, 25, even 50 degrees on some occasions. The conditions were typical Mediterranean fluky at best. As one Ericsson crewmember put it, “It was a minefield out there.”

That said the two Ericsson yachts had moments of brilliance. In the first race, Ericsson 4 came around the leeward mark, headed left to begin the second upwind leg, and tacked into a nice puff. The boat took off, seemingly lifting up across the course with a speed wave sheering off its leeward bow. She had a bone in her teeth and it showed. Moments later, one of those mines blew up the new found speed.

Ericsson 3, too, showed flashes of potential. In the first race she recorded the fastest elapsed time from the second windward mark to the finish. In fact, Ericsson 3 did a fantastic job of sailing through the fleet in both races after poor starts.

Both skippers, Torben Grael on Ericsson 4 and Anders Lewander on Ericsson 3, said their starts were unacceptable for a competition such as this. Fluctuating winds have a way of eroding a skipper’s confidence and planning on the starting line. Don’t expect that to be de rigueur.

Shoreside, Ericsson Racing Team has been informed by the International Jury that it will not receive until tomorrow, Oct. 7, a decision on its request to reopen the case against Ericsson 3’s keel fin. The jury last week penalized the boat for a non-compliant keel fin, one which has been deemed 625 grams light, which is about the equivalent of a sea boot. The decision understandably gutted the crew of Ericsson 3, and infuriated many others.

Ericsson 4 was hauled from the water last night for one final bottom job. The shore crew will give it a sanding to make sure it is as smooth and fast as possible. Both race crews have today off. They’ll practice a couple of afternoons this week before taking Friday off in anticipation of Saturday’s start.

For all involved, it’s time to put away the inshore festivities and get this race offshore. -http://www.ericssonracingteam.com/