At today's 1300 GMT position report, Anders Lewander's Ericsson 3 was placed fourth, 20 nautical miles behind fleet leaders Telefónica Blue and Puma, which had 3,513 miles to the finish. Torben Grael's overall race leader Ericsson 4 was fifth, 28 miles off the lead.
A clear split has occurred in the fleet, between the northern pack and southern pack. The blue Ericsson boats were leading the southern pack and separated north-to-south by about 14 miles. Their position means less distance to the scoring gate along 058E longitude, but more distance to the finish in Cochin, India, than the boats to the north, which are some 80 miles away.
"Ericsson 3 looks slightly better positioned for the longer term. Ericsson 4 has gotten a little too far south and could likely jibe in behind Ericsson 3 at some point," said Chris Bedford, Ericsson Racing Team meteorologist. "There is even a chance that Ericsson 3 could do a little better here and beat Ericsson 4 to the scoring line sometime late tomorrow. The next 36 hours will be critical."
Ericsson Racing Team's choice of course has positioned them to collect the points at the scoring gate and set up to the east of the fleet for the Indian Ocean trade winds and reaching conditions up to the finish. The plan won't be realized for perhaps another five days, when the fleet has cleared the gate and made its turn northwards.
The sailing conditions are extremely rough and life is unpleasant onboard the yachts. Many sailors are suffering colds picked up in South Africa. Compounding matters are steep seas they've been battling while sailing in west/southwesterly winds against a strong current.
Green Dragon today reported a broken boom. Many boats have blown out sails. Still, Ericsson 4 recorded the best 24-hour run of 490 nautical miles. The International crew was sailing with a fractional Code Zero, jib staysail and full main, but have not escaped incident.
"We had a broach a few days ago that blew out some sails, but we're back up and running and all's fine onboard," said Guy Salter, the award-winning media crewman on Ericsson 4.
Salter has been bunk-ridden since the first night of the leg when he came down with a cold he believes he got from his daughter. "I just had my first meal this leg a couple hours ago," Salter said. "It's pretty cold onboard. The guys have most of their gear on and you can see your breath inside the boat."
Aboard Ericsson 3, navigator Aksel Magdahl said they flooded the boat when they hit a wave doing 35 knots and broached.
"Water poured in and filled the boat almost up to our knees," said Magdahl, competing in his first Volvo race. "It took some 20 minutes to empty the boat, but the electronics don't seem to have suffered."
Volvo Ocean Race sailors are to be commended for their seamanship because they virtually swim around the world. The boatspeeds are so fast that the decks are constantly awash in water. The problem is when they plow into the back of a wave. The speed drops significantly and increases loads on the rigging.
"There are a lot of incidents of the boat slowing 10 knots in a length as we dig into waves. Everyone's flying around down below," Salter said. "We've had some 50-knot squalls come through. It makes it exciting running around putting the reef in and getting sails down."
VOLVO OCEAN RACE LEADERBOARD
(Nov. 18, 2008, 1300 GMT)
1. Telefónica Blue, 3,513 nautical miles to finish 1. Puma, same 3. Telefónica Black, 15 NM to leader 4. Ericsson 3, 20 NM to leader 5. Ericsson 4, 28 NM to leader 6. Green Dragon, 41 NM to leader 7. Delta Lloyd, 80 NM to leader 8. Kosatka, 86 NM to leader
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Ericsson Racing Team
Stock Identifier: SSE.ERICR