|WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND-(16-2-2006) Today saw the conclusion of leg three of the Volvo Ocean Race, as the six-strong fleet arrived into Wellington, New Zealand, within six hours of each other. Ericsson finished sixth and last. Technically, the team hasn't finished racing yet as it decided to use the opportunity offered by the racing rules to carry out maintenance and repairs before crossing the finishing line later on during the stopover.
Leg three isn't over yet for the Ericsson Racing Team although the boat has arrived in Wellington and is safely docked in the harbour. During the legs, the teams are allowed to suspend racing and receive external assistance in order to carry out repairs, as three of the competitors have already done in previous legs. However, during `Pit Stops`, no external assistance is allowed without incurring a two hour penalty on the next leg. The Ericsson Racing Team has therefore decided to make the best of its unfortunate last place in the leg by allowing its shore crew to step onboard whilst the sailing team has a well deserved rest. When they cross the finish line, the team will pick up two points for arriving in sixth place, bringing its total to 18.5 points.
The team will use the opportunity to carry out maintenance and repair minor electrical problems such as hot wiring, before heading into the Southern Ocean. At the same time, it will check every piece of equipment on the boat to ensure she is in top shape for the next leg, which is possibly the toughest of the whole race. Once the work that needs to be done is completed, the sailing team will step back onboard, hoist the sails and cross the finish line.
It looked like a promising start for the Ericsson Racing Team as they headed out of Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne (AUS) on 12 February, to embark on leg three of the Volvo Ocean Race. Having analysed weather reports in preparation for the leg, they knew that their goal was to be as far ahead (and east) as possible in order to take advantage of the low pressure system that would take them most of the way to Wellington.
However, Ericsson didn't manage to stay ahead of the cold front and they missed the breeze that would soon propel the rest of the fleet across the Tasman Sea. From then on it was a case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer as Ericsson fell into the light.
During the last hours of racing, Ericsson caught up well with the boats in front, and actually managed to close a 30 nautical miles deficit on ABN Amro Two to about half a mile. However, the Dutch boat managed to hold its lead until the finish line, prompting Ericsson to take its decision to suspend racing.
The fourth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race will commence on Sunday 19 February at 14.30 local time, a 6,700 nm leg around the infamous Cape Horn to Brazil.