Out of hiding after playing their Stealth card, how did the team fare?
At 16:00 GMT Ian Walkerâ??s men came clean having spent the last 12 hours in StealthPlay an innovation for the 2008-09 race which allows boats to conceal their position from the rest of the fleet on the longer offshore legs.
When they returned to the radar of the rest of the fleet, any advantage they had sought to gain from their tactical ploy was minimal.
The 16:00 Position Report had them in fourth place (presumed) at a distance of 55 miles adrift of the leader PUMA who held a seven-mile cushion over Ericsson 4. Then came Ericsson 3 with a DTL (Distance to Leader) of 26, Delta Lloyd (DTL ï¿½” 71), Team Russia (DTL ï¿½” 94) and finally the Telefonica duo locked together at 110.
While in Stealth, Green Dragon ï¿½” and Ericsson 3 ï¿½” chose a central path through the Canaries while all around them there was separation.
Telefonica Black had headed west, an easterly path was favoured by the bulk of the fleet while Delta Lloyd and Telefonica Blue had hugged the African coast.
Commenting on Ericsson 3â??s choice of path compared to their stablemates on Ericsson 4, Anders Lewander, the Ericsson 3 skipper said: “We all have the same weather and we’re running our own strategy, so for sure we see differences in tactics between boats on the same team.
“When we’re out on the ocean we’re racing each other as well and making the decisions we think are best.”
Views varied on Green Dragonâ??s decision to enter Stealth as the fleet approached the Canaries.
Those views were shared in conversations from the boats with our Volvo Ocean Race radio colleagues, Guy Swindells and Amanda Blackley. (Listen to full interviews on the Audio and Podcasts section on home page). Here follows a snapshot of what was said.
Speaking prior to Green Dragonâ??s emergence from the â??shadowsâ??, Tony Mutter, helmsman/trimmer on Ericsson 4, said: “They used it at the right time, going around where they are.
“Maybe they’re going to sneak between the islands or do a slightly different route. It’ll be interesting to see how that comes out. I think it’s a good thing. It makes it interesting.”
Meanwhile, Guillermo Altadill on Team Russia felt the move came a little early. “I think it is maybe a little bit premature to use the StealthPlay option in conditions where it is quite clear what each boat is going to do,” he said.
“If they are west then they will go outside the islands, in the middle then through the middle, and if like us, they are further east then it is naturally going to be between Lanzarote and Africa.
“I would say it was quite obvious where they were going to go past so it was maybe a little premature to have used it now.
“It definitely gives the race a lot more interest and intrigue. The positions are every three hours so you know exactly where they all are, their position and wind, and we can even use the same tracking, to know the optimum conditions for us all.
“This way there is intrigue for both the public and the sailors. But you have to know when it is the right moment to use it. I would say the Doldrums or the arrival, for example if you are coming in to the finish close with another boat, it is probably then that you want to be hiding your position from the other.”
Race Director Jack Lloyd put forward a completely different theory. He suggested damage might have been the reason. “They may be using it to effect a repair. They may have gybed away and want the cover of darkness or secrecy to do something else.”
At the sharp end, Ericsson and PUMA have been neck and neck since the fleet departed Alicante last Saturday with never a hareâ??s breath between them.
“We’ve been sailing side by side, almost like two boat testing,” Mutter said.
“I think we’re looking at each other and matching gybe for gybe. I think we’re just staying in close contact and neither of us wants to give up too much leverage. We want to keep it tight.
“They seem to have the wheels on us at the moment, which is a little disappointing, but that’s the way it goes.”
Telefonica Blue is still playing catch-up following their pit stop. “Although we have to be patient it is proving hard,” said navigator Simon Fisher.
“We are still clawing back the miles however and although it is slower than we would have liked we need to try take encouragement from that right now and not think too hard about being eighth on the leaderboard.
“Things got a little tougher still this morning when the A2 blew up leaving us without our big running spinnaker but in the few hours that have passed since this has happened Daryl and Jordi our on board sailmakers have done an amazing job of getting it back together in record time.
“Hopefully before long we will be able to see the quality of there handiwork when we re-hoist it again which will get us back to full speed.â?