Ericsson4 won the first leg and leads in the standings with 14 points, Team Puma is right behind the Swedish yacht with 13 points while Ericsson3 is in sixth with 6 points. Leg two covers 4,450 nautical miles from Cape Town to Cochin, India. Ericsson4 skipper Torben Grael said his crew planned to take Leg Two pretty much as it took Leg One
“Pressure?” Grael said. “No pressure. Now we know what we are capable of doing and that gives us more confidence.”
Ericsson set a monohull world speed record for a sailing vessel in Leg One, covering 602 miles in one 24-hour period. After their arrival in Cape Town, however, heavy storms shut down the fleet. The crew of Ericsson4 pulled the boat from the water to perform maintenance and the storms prevented returning the vessel to the water until Nov. 14, giving the sailors precious little time to test their repairs. Crewman Chris Bedford of the United States said it’s all part of ocean racing.
“We expect this sort of thing,” Bedford said. “This is the time of year when the atmosphere is going through a modification between winter and summer. The interior of Africa is starting to heat up, but Antarctica and the rest of the hemisphere hasn’t gotten the message yet and Antarctica has been sending cold fronts toward us. But, I think we’ll be fine once Saturday (Nov. 15) comes and we’ll be able to start as scheduled.”
Bedford said he expected the fleet to run into much the same sailing conditions it had in the Atlantic on the first leg, except in reverse.
“We start out in the cold waters and get some really nice strong downwind conditions then start to head north and it warms up get into trade winds then into doldrums. It’s the complete opposite of the Atlantic,” he said. “Plus, the doldrums are more complicated on this leg than they are in the Atlantic. We’re going to hit more light winds than we did on Leg One, so that will make it challenging.”
The crew of Ericsson4 received a last-minute morale booster when helmsman Tony Mutter returned to the boat after missing most of the first leg when he developed a severe infection. Mutter said he didn’t think the boat missed him.
“It’s amazing that sometimes sports teams end up better when they go a man down,” he said. “To be fair, this is a brilliant crew and they did brilliantly. These boats are hard enough with 10 men sailing, so to win with nine was great.”
Bowman Phil James expects the crew to build on its success when sailing resumes.
“Tony is one of our best men, strongest drivers,” he said. “When he got off we got down to it. We were on the ropes, that’s for sure. We will be a lot stronger when he gets back on.”
Just how well any of the boats will handle Leg Two remains a question. The old race sent the fleet south then east toward Freemantle, Australia. Now, the fleet must navigate around the Horn of Africa and up its east coast before sailing across the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean is the warmest ocean in the world and the leg should feature not only doldrums but nasty thunderstorms and relatively boat speeds.
Grael said he believes the Leg One victory should keep Ericsson4 on target during the race to India.
"It was really a team effort, from the very beginning, starting with an excellent boat,” Grael said. “I really have to thank the crew for pushing so hard.”
By Chipp Reid