OLSSON TO REMAIN AS SKIPPER
Ericsson Racing Team have revealed that Magnus Olsson will continue to skipper the Nordic crew on Ericsson 3 beyond leg four.
The charismatic Swede, elevated from his role as watch leader to replace the injured Anders Lewander for leg four, was initially expected to hold the reins for the Singapore in-port race and the charge to China.
However, it has now been confirmed Olsson will remain in charge, while Lewander's future involvement in the sailing crew is unclear.
"Being a skipper in this race is a tough job and one that requires highly tuned leadership, and any skipper takes on the job in the full knowledge of the challenge that it poses," said Ericsson Racing Team managing director Richard Brisius.
"Given the tough times ahead for Ericsson 3, we have made the decision to change the dynamic onboard the boat and asked Magnus Olsson to remain as skipper."
The boat is currently in Taiwan undergoing repairs to damage suffered during leg four, but they plan to resume racing and pick up the four points on offer for finishing fifth. It will leave them with little to no time in Qingdao before departing for Rio de Janeiro on February 14 - a trip Lewander expected to be part of.
"I was surprised, (I have) mixed emotions," he said. "This is a team decision. Decisions have been made and we look forward."
Lewander's record in the team has been impressive, scooping podium places in each of the first three legs before the team was battered by a storm in his absence. The Swede, 45, has enjoyed the experience so far, but would not confirm a return down the track.
"This is too early to say," he said. "I have not made up my plans yet.
"This race is an unbelievable trip. I am so fortunate to be able to do this race and to learn so much. I am very proud of what we have achieved with three podium places. Nothing can take away from that.
"I am naturally very disappointed but it is also important that we put this into perspective," he added. "As a team we have had a podium position in each of the first three legs of this race, which is a significant achievement. I am pleased of what we have achieved, and as with all experiences you grow from them and move on. I was fully aware of the challenges before I accepted the role.
"I am proud of my involvement with Ericsson Racing Team and will continue to support them."
Brisius explained that the short turnaround for the team between legs four and five meant continuity was important. "This last leg was very tough for Magnus and the crew of Ericsson 3," he said. "What makes this even more of a challenge is that we now have to repair the boat in Taiwan to get her ready to finish this leg, and endeavour to get her race ready for leg five. As a result the crew will probably have to sail more or less non-stop from Taiwan to Rio de Janeiro, briefly stopping in Qingdao to pick up supplies and start the next leg.
"It therefore makes sense to look for consistent leadership and ask Magnus to continue as skipper.
"Anders has played a vital role in the campaign since he was appointed in 2007 and has been instrumental in the selection and build-up of the team," Brisius said.
Olsson is currently in Hualien, Taiwan, overseeing the repair of Ericsson 3.
"In a way this is a bittersweet situation, but I am immensely proud of what we have achieved to date as a team," said the 59-year-old, who is competing in his sixth circumnavigation race. "I feel humbled by the responsibility and trust that the crew and the rest of Ericsson Racing Team have placed on me. We are now under real pressure to perform."
Watch captain Richard Mason paid tribute to Lewander's professionalism.
"You feel terrible for Anders but at this level of sport unfortunately these things do happen," he said. "I have had long, long chats with him on a personal basis and as a team and it is a real credit to him the way he has taken it. He has very much taken it as a professional thing and not a personal one.
"Anders is a wonderful guy, he is one of the kindest we have had as a skipper and that could be half the problem.
"Of course with Magnus that is a natural evolution. He is down there smiling and trying to do the impossible."
Norway's Eivind Melleby, a helmsman and trimmer who sailed legs one, two and three, will also rejoin the crew in Qingdao for leg five.