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Ericsson 3 - Aksel Magdahl (Navigator)

I have been asked to write about how our decision to split from the fleet and head back north came about. So here is a bit on that.

Until some 24 hours before we tacked away at the 36 South scoring gate, everything looked good to go due south close to NZ, with the HP system expected to move off to the east. However, 18 hours before the gate, I realized that this high did not seem to move so fast anymore. I was also looking at a very interesting small but powerful low pressure coming in from the north east, and I thought a bit around whether it was a possibility to use this, rather than going slow south underneath the high pressure and even risking getting too close to it.

At this time we were fighting Puma and Ericsson 4 through the light zone between the northerly breeze in the north and the south easterly breeze in the south. So then I did as I always do, sat here in the nav station calculating on different alternatives, thinking about what the other boats were likely to do and why. What were the strong and weak sides of both the northerly and the southerly route and also quantifying the differences and deciding when to go north, if we would do it. I was looking for consistency in the weather model runs, as I believe this is an unusual scenario.

As we were getting into the breeze and starting the race to the scoring gate at 36 South, I briefed the guys quickly on our alternatives as they stood at that point. From then it was all about beating Puma to the scoring gate. I split my resources between that and looking at the development in the weather model runs. This is nothing unusual; it is day to day business. Choices are made all the time. It was just more visible in the scheds this time, and had the potential of creating a very big separation if the other boats did not do the same.

So when it was clear that we would beat Puma to the scoring gate, we protected the east as we wanted to lead that way. I thought there was a good chance they would follow the same strategy. In most cases in this race, the navigators on the leading boats have made similar choices, particularly where there could be big splits.

It was interesting that Telefonica Blue and Green Dragon pushed so much for the scoring gate, as they would only lose 0.5 points by sacrificing the scoring gate and going for the big one. By going east already then, the northerly route looked very good. So obviously the two boats at the back were not going for the northerly route. I even considered skipping the scoring gate and going due east when we got the breeze after the light zone, but a top three position there, would give nice points. And it is a bit cheap to utilize the situation when the other guys are racing for a gate far off course, to just sail one's own race. We are still racing for the total in this race, even though we were set back losing a good position on leg 4 and missing the in port race in Qingdao.

A few miles before the scoring gate, the final call was made. We prepared and tacked off as soon as we could, almost going back the same way as we came, to pick up a better shift to take us southeast. The stack on deck took a while to shift over, as it had been jammed and moved around due to the high speed sailing before the scoring gate.

I think we are still looking ok, even though we struggled a bit to get through a ridge today and lost a couple of hours there. But it looks like most of the fleet will do something similar to us so that the differences should not be huge. Some boats did a very dramatic course change down along the coast of New Zealand, so apparently they changed plans. I think they will be ok, both because we have been slow to get through the ridge today, but also as we will catch up with this same high pressure system later. This is all changeable, but is how it looks from Ericsson 3 right now.

Aksel Magdahl

Received 1346 GMT

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