by Chipp Reid

As of Feb. 24, E3 was running in third place, neck-and-neck with PUMA Ocean Racing and just 45 nautical miles behind leaders Ericsson 4.
“We are still racing close to Puma, gaining and losing depending on the different modes both boats use,” said helmsman Thomas Johansson in an e-mail. “It is nice to have them so close. It pushes the crew to always stay on top and make the boat perform at its best. We are happy to have caught up with Puma, but we are also trying hard to gain on Ericsson 4.”
Not bad for a boat that looked all but out of the race. Ericsson 3 suffered a near disaster in Leg Four when a massive wave slammed into the yacht, causing a 4-meter crack in her hull. Skipper Magnus Olsson managed to get his badly leaking craft into Taiwan, where it took 10 days to repair her. Ericsson 3 arrived in Qindoa, China nearly five hours after the rest of the fleet left on its way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Olsson spotted the fleet a 19-hour head start but thanks to sustained heavy winds and relatively stable sea conditions, Ericsson 3 roared past Telefonica Blue and Green Dragon to take third place in the leg. The Swedish yacht is 55 nautical miles ahead of fourth-place Telefonica Blue.
“This Leg Five is the Volvo Ocean race leg for us Volvo rookies on Ericsson 3 and no one wanted to miss it,” said Johansson, who is sailing in his first round-the-world race. “So everybody worked flat out from the moment we hit the shore. The boat builders and shore team made ‘mission impossible’ become possible.”
Olsson, who took over as skipper from Anders Lewander during Leg Three, said the crew’s spirit not only saved the boat after it nearly sank but got his team back in the race.
"Everyone has been fighting so hard to keep the boat going at 100 percent and it's fantastic that we are doing so well and staying in good shape even though we haven't had any time to rest since Singapore, because of the crack in the hull,” Olsson said. “It has just been a full on marathon for us on Ericsson 3.”
Johansson, however, said much of the credit belonged to Olsson.
“All this shows the dedication from the whole core crew of Ericsson 3, led by 'Mange' (Magnus Olsson), who has, by his own example, taught us all that the boat and the team comes first,” Johansson said. “Our baby is our tool and we need to treat her well.”
Yet, for all the feistiness Ericsson 3 has shown, Torben Grael and his International Crew continue to set the pace in Ericsson 4. The Brazilian skipper is particularly eager to win Leg Five, at 12,300 nautical miles the longest in Volvo race history, since the leg ends in his home country.
“The crew seems quite focused and into their routine. The exception are the other two Brazilians, Horacio Carabelli and Joca Signorini, who are a little occupied by this special date. It's carnival in Brazil now,” Grael said in an e-mail.
Ericsson 4 has covered almost 4,000 nautical miles so far and Grael said he and his crew were happy to leave the cold of the Northern Hemisphere for the warmth of the southern ocean.
“First we got rid of the cold, and then the southern hemisphere, now we are looking forward to cross the date line and jump into the western hemisphere. Some have got it even better but the Doldrums went ok for us, at least I have no complaints,” Grael said. “Although our sailing condition has been rather steady, things further south seem quite volatile and so does our routing through there. The fleet is unanimous on the decision to go to the east of Fiji, but there are big uncertainties from there.”
The Brazilian skipper also said he would like to return to the western pacific one day on a more leisurely trip.
“It has been nice to 'virtually' visit all these islands we are going through. It would be fantastic to visit at least some of them in the future,” he said. “It is amazing how people live on so many little tiny ones in the middle of nowhere. We just need a more suitable boat and heaps more time.”
Leg Five takes the remaining five boats in the race around the treacherous Cape Horn at the tip of South America as they dash toward Rio. The boats left China on Feb. 15. Race officials say they expect the fleet to take up to a month to finish the leg.