Long-time leader Ericsson 3 entered StealthPlay at 10:00 GMT today and at 13:00, sistership Ericsson 4 followed suit to add one final twist to the never-ending story of this marathon Leg 5 from Qingdao to Rio.
Magnus Olsson and his Nordic crew went into hiding at 10:00 GMT and will reappear in 24 hours’ time or when within they are within 50 nm of the finish in Rio. Ericsson 4 vanished from the radar screens at 13:00 GMT.
Ericsson 3’s last-known whereabouts was parallel with São Paulo – 194 miles from the finish line and the notoriously fickle winds in Guanabara Bay. She had a boat speed of 10.5 knots.
Ericsson 4 was 103 miles behind prior to entering Stealth. Torben Grael and his men were 254 miles from the Brazilian’s home patch, and their location will return to the leaderboard in 24 hours.
Third-placed PUMA was 86 miles behind Ericsson 4 at the time. By the 16:00 GMT Position Report, she was 38 nm closer to the finish line with 302 nm to go.
According to Ericsson 3 navigator Aksel Magdahl, the Nordics expect to land at “around sunrise” tomorrow morning. “It’s looking alright for us until we get to within 50 miles of the finish when it will be quite light,” he said. As for the nerves on board, Magdahl said they were holding up as the finish nears. “I think we are handling it quite well. We all know conditions around Rio can be quite variable so we just have to wait and see.”
Meanwhile, Green Dragon is winning the battle of the backmarkers against Telefonica Blue. After closing to within 50 nm of Ian Walker and his men yesterday, Bouwe Bekking’s blue boat has now slipped back to 181 nm as she grapples with the worst of a high pressure zone, a predicament not lost on Walker.
”The miles are coming down at last. Three days with no wind after nigh on 40 days at sea does test the patience,” he said in an audio interview today. “Hopefully we can put some miles ahead of them (Telefonica Blue) before they get free from the light winds. If there’s any justice in the world, we will anyway.
”We have more wind than the model suggests and we’ve made more ground than expected, and our arrival time is coming forward.
”We prepared ourselves for another six days at sea but it looks it might be another three or four from here. The end is in sight, the boat is moving and we are crossing off the days.”
On the subject of arrival times, Bekking could only speculate. ”Another 24 hours' light weather for us and then it looks like a reach into Rio,” he reported. “The routing is still not very clear on an exact arrival, so let's keep it somewhere on the 29th.”
It’s “so near, yet so far”, according to Rob Greenhalgh.
“Once you get round the Horn everyone wants to get to Rio; then you get becalmed for two or three days and everyone gets a bit anxious. But we are up and running now at 12-13 knots so we can’t complain.
”We are hoping that the wind is going to carry us into Rio now. Certainly today and tonight we should have some reasonable breeze. Once we get closer to the Rio shoreline there might be some lighter airs again. Fingers crossed we can get a couple of hundred miles out of the way in the next 24 hours and that will put us in reasonable shape to get into Rio tomorrow afternoon or evening.
”I don’t think any of the positions will be shuffled. It would be great if they could be; we’re not hopeful of that, we just want to get to Rio really.”
In terms of how the weather will play out on the final approach, Race Meteorologist Jennifer Lilly’s prediction will not make pleasant reading for the crews.
”The end of the leg is not going to come easy,” she says. “The weather continues to develop as expected, with high pressure and light winds dominating the conditions, as a weak depression develops to the east of the fleet.
”In fact it sounds rather nice for anyone who has not been on a boat for the last 40 days. The leading teams may have their first sight of land before the sun goes down today; however, the progress is likely to slow dramatically for the last 20-40 nautical miles tonight.
”After more than 12,000 miles at sea, the crews are no doubt eager to get in; however, the last bit of this leg will require all the energy and attention of coastal racing. Even a 100nm lead would disappear quickly, if one boat stops while the others are still moving.”
Ericsson 3 is expected to complete this leg in the early hours of tomorrow morning, followed by Ericsson 4 and PUMA later the same day. Computer routing software is predicting a finish for both Green Dragon and Telefonica Blue on Saturday.