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Ericsson 4: Leader Of The Pack
After negotiating the two islands that make up Fiji yesterday, the pack was split in its decision to go east, west or straight between the islands. Today, as the islands fade into the distance, Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA), who chose an easterly course along with Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) and Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE) is back at the top of the pack as the fleet heads south towards New Zealand.
Unfortunately for the New Zealanders in the crew, and there are 10 of them, five of whom make up the Ericsson 4 crew, there will be no stop in New Zealand for the Volvo Ocean Race this time, which is causing some anxiety among the crews. Ian Walker has hidden the passports onboard Green Dragon in case his two, Andrew McClean and Chris Main, make a swim for it.
“There was already some talk of swimming ashore as we sailed through the islands off the eastern tip of Fiji, so we will have to stay out of swimming range of the New Zealand coast,” he said.
Onboard Ericsson 4, the crew are relieved as, once again, they become the southernmost boat in the fleet. A milestone onboard today has been passing the ‘8,000 nm to go’ point. “It’s funny to hear the guys saying ‘only 8,000 miles to go’. Our minds must be bending a little out here as 8,000 nm is still a very long way to go,” wrote Ericsson 4’s bowman Ryan Godfrey. “The breeze is still pretty light and I suspect that we are falling behind all our earlier routing runs. One upside of this is that I am now secretly confident that my Cape Horn ETA bet is looking good, as it is one of the later dates.
Throughout the fleet, everyone onboard is happy and relaxed as the breeze has settled and the boats are rolling along on an endless port tack at around 14 knots.
Two crew are particularly happy: Magnus Olsson, skipper of Ericsson 3, is happy because he is a coffee addict. All the food bags onboard his boat seemed to contain just pre-packed cappuccinos and small bags with ready mixed coffee and Magnus wanted the ‘real stuff’, with no sugar or anything else added. For days, MCM Gustav Morin rummaged through almost half their food bags, but no real coffee. After 15 days at sea, 18 for most of the crew, Magnus had got used to it, but yesterday, when Gustav opened a bag he hadn’t looked in before, there it was. Magnus celebrated. The other happy skipper is Ian Walker, for almost the same reason, except that he wanted powered milk so he could have a nice cup of tea, and this, at last, has come to light.
But, onboard PUMA (Ken Read/USA) in second place, MCM Rick Deppe, is not happy. In fact, he’s pretty grumpy, having been wakened from his nice sleeping place on a beanbag in a cool corner at the back of the boat, when the wind went light and the crew needed to move the weight forward. Rick declined the offer of sleeping on a wet sail forward of the mast next to the rubbish bags and instead thought a cup of tea would be just the thing.
“I head off to the galley only to discover that we are out of tea bags for the next couple of days. In theory, I am the only tea drinker on the boat and I am allocated three bags per day. The problem is that other people tend to become tea drinkers the moment they step on board,” he said. He settled for coffee on deck and, at 0310, he was cheered up by the beauty of the night. “The wind was blowing around nine knots and the sea was perfectly flat, subsequently no splashing at all – a very rare occurrence on a Volvo 70. This fact alone was enough to cheer me up. The coffee was warm and tasted great and I had had a brilliant 45 minutes up on the foredeck, and no-one even knew I was there.”
Onboard Telefónica Blue, the team has been celebrating navigator Tom Addis’ 39th birthday with a small bottle of wine and some macadamia nuts. “A small sip of wine was a treat to the palette after water-maker water for so many days for sure,” said helmsman Simon Fisher.
The theme of food continues to Ericsson 4, where the crew has been amusing themselves with a ‘pea-throwing’ competition. “We have an abundance of what we thought were wasabi coated peas, but something was lost in our Chinese and we ended up with peas covered in an unknown and flavourless coating,” explains Ryan Godfrey. The crew is now seeing who can throw a pea and get it through the 30mm mainsail clew ring from a distance of four metres. “It is harder than it sounds as the apparent wind has to be taken into consideration,” says Ryan. So far, only one pea has made it through the ring, thrown by Brad Jackson. “There is some doubt if it went through as he claims it did,” Godfrey added.
Onboard Ericsson 3, the crew is preparing for the Southern Ocean and being more vigilant with their eating, sleeping and adhering to the watch system properly. “We can’t afford the guys to be burned out and sick after the first part of the leg and not be 100 per cent when we reach the Southern Ocean,” says Gustav Morin. The team believes they will put in a strong performance in the Southern Ocean, provided they stay in shape.
The flat water and medium wind speeds, with few sail changes, is allowing the crews to sleep well on their off watch and recharge their batteries in preparation for what is ahead. “We may have done 5,000 nm, but this leg has hardly started,” said Ian Walker.
Ericsson 4 has 570nm to run until she is level with the northernmost point of New Zealand. They are 780 nm from the northwestern tip and 682 nm due north of the latitude 36 scoring gate. The fleet is currently split across an east/west divide of approximately 45 nm with Telefónica Blue the westernmost boat in the fleet and Ericsson 4 in the east.
Leg Five Day 16: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions