COCHIN, India – Ericsson 4 made it two out of two as the Brazilian-skippered Swedish yacht won the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The monohull yacht entered the Indian port of Cochin early in the morning Nov. 30, nearly 12 hours ahead of its nearest rival, Spanish yacht Telefonica Blue and almost three days ahead of schedule.
Under Brazilian Captain Torben Grael, Ericsson 4 also won Leg 1, in which it set a world speed record for a monohull boat under sail. The Swedish yacht was due in Cochin on Dec. 3. She left Cape Town, South Africa on Nov. 16 and zipped over the 4,450-nautical mile Leg 2 course in just 14 days, 11 hours and 32 minutes.
The Swedish yacht, which was the pre-race favorite, has 26 out of a possible 28 points from the two legs and is clearly the boat to beat.
"Everybody is very happy," said Grael. "It was a very tough leg with so many different conditions."
The Swedish boat had to battle the worst of all conditions – a dead calm—as she took nearly nine hours to complete the final 65 nautical miles.
Grael, however, refused to take victory for granted.
"It is just the start of the race, and there are some difficult legs ahead of us," he said. "A lot of unexpected things can happen, but it is good to be in the position we are in."
Grael, who won a gold medal in sailing at the Beijing Olympics, wasn’t the only crewman to play down the boat’s performance. Watch captain Stu Jackson of Australia said despite the two wins, he didn’t think Ericsson 4 had a clear advantage over the rest of the fleet.
"We have a good boat in all the conditions I'd say. I wouldn't say we were weaker in any, but we didn't spend enough on visual to really be able to tell,” he said. "Then again we aren't exceptional compared to anyone else, but we are always pretty good. We had a good preparation and we know our boat well enough to push it. That makes a big difference, but the other guys who didn't have as long to get to know their boats are closing the gap."
Dave Endean, the team's boat captain, said the team only sustained minor damages in the leg, but believes some of rivals have an edge in certain conditions.
"Going downwind in waves this thing is a little bit of a handful," he said. "Looking at PUMA sail they don't seem to nosedive nearly as much as us so they can probably push their boat a bit harder downwind than us."
Ericsson 4 battled fellow Swedish yacht Ericsson 3 until No. 24 but once Grael’s boat pulled away, she never looked back.
"When we entered the first layer of Doldrums we went pretty hard east and it was a key moment because it gave us a big lead,” said navigator Jules Salter. “So much of this leg was luck. And the last one. You get lucky avoiding a cloud or whatever while someone else gets caught. There's some judgment involved, but luck is a big part."
The Doldrums are an area of light winds common to the Indian Ocean.
Race organizers held a low-key welcome for the leaders as a mark of respect to the victims of the deadly Mumbai attacks in which at least 195 people were killed.
Telefonica Blue finished second with Ericsson 3 crossing third. Telefonica Black was fourth while PUMA Ocean Racing, which battled Ericsson 4 throughout the first leg, was fifth.
After India, teams head through ports including Singapore, Qingdao and Rio de Janeiro before ending the 37,000 nautical miles race in Saint Petersburg in June 2009.
The teams depart for Singapore on December 13.