A re-start is not what Ericsson 3 wanted at this stage of Leg 5. Thirty-six days in and holding the lead with the finish line in Rio de Janeiro just 771 nautical miles away, they were hoping for a break on the positive side instead of the unwanted scenario.
“A re-start is the worst possible scenario for us,” said Ericsson 3 trimmer and sailmaker Martin Stromberg. “We’re hoping for the rich-get-richer scenario, but we’ll see what happens.”
At today’s 1318 GMT position report, Ericsson 3 saw its once 136-nautical mile lead over Ericsson 4 whittled to 57 miles in 36 hours. Puma, once 260 miles in arrears, had closed to 116 miles.
“It feels like they’re trying to come at us all the time,” said Stromberg. “We’ve been successful in keeping them behind us. For sure there’s going to be stops or ways around us with this bit of lighter air.”
Although the competition had closed up to Ericsson 3, the re-start scenario was looking less likely. The top three yachts – Ericsson 3, Ericsson 4 and Puma – were all navigating the expected ridge of high pressure, with boatspeeds ranging between 7 and 9 knots.
The ridge marks the boundary between the mid-latitude and sub-tropical weather patterns. The sailors are crossing an area where the wind is shifting from westerly quadrants to easterly due to an extension of the South Atlantic high off to the east.
Despite the loss of miles on the leaderboard, Ericsson 3 has played a solid tactical game, staying between its comp and the hoop. With its solid covering position the question has become: Will Ericsson 3 reach the new breeze and still hold enough of a lead to stretch to the finish?
According to today’s position information, Ericsson 3 was in northeasterly winds. Although light at 7 knots, the 057 wind direction means they’ve crossed the ridge. The better news still is that steadier winds are forecast, with 15 knots expected tomorrow from the east-east/southeast.
VOLVO OCEAN RACE LEG 5 LEADERBOARD
(Mar. 22, 2009, 1318 GMT)
1.ﾠ Ericsson 3, 771 nautical miles to finish
2.ﾠ Ericsson 4, +57 NM
3.ﾠ Puma, +116 NM
4.ﾠ Green Dragon, +335 NM
5.ﾠ Telefónica Blue, +586 NM