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Torben Grael
Scuttlebutt News:

Torben Grael: Crew rotation on Ericsson 4

(May 10, 2009) Not unlike any other major sporting event, the Volvo Ocean Race teams post their crew line-up prior to each race event. Thus far in the race, every team has made changes but one… Ericsson 4. Scuttlebutt spoke with E4 skipper Torben Grael on the coincidence of this lack of change and their abundance of success:

  • What was the crew rotation plan at the beginning of the race and has that changed any?

  • The plan on Ericsson 4 was to not have any rotation, and I think when things go well, normally you do not have the rotation. I think the rotation is something you do normally do to work around some circumstances. In Brasil 1 (during 2005/6 Volvo Ocean Race) we had a planned rotation to bring Knut Frostad for the Southern Ocean legs, the reason there was that we were quite an inexperienced crew and nobody had sailed those legs before so we thought it was a good idea to have someone with more experience on those legs. So that was the reason. Apart from that, the only other rotation was the navigator and that was for other reasons. I think the fact here that we haven’t had any rotations is that nobody has gotten hurt and that the crew is getting along well together. And I think that is a very good sign.

  • How much easier is it to keep the crew together when you are winning?

  • I don’t think it is necessarily about winning or losing. It is more if things are going well or not. I don’t think we necessarily need to win to have the perception of being successful. This was much the case with Brasil 1.

    It is harder when things are going bad, and there is not a good atmosphere onboard, that is when you have to change. It is very easy to need that, because it is a long period of time to be together with ten other guys in a high pressured environment. It is very easy for things to not go well and you need to make a change. The good thing is that we have done a lot of practice before so we had a good idea before that if things were not going to go well, we would have had an indication beforehand due to our proper preparation.

  • There is concern in this race that the sailors have a sufficient time to recover.

  • This edition of the race has grown on the sailing base more than 50% over the last race. It is a big deal. To have the length of the race the more or less the same, all the stop overs have gotten shorter, particularly in that we have more stopovers so that is quite demanding on people because the recovery time is a lot of less than we used to have. We used to have almost a month in some of the big stopovers and now the biggest we get is three weeks… it is a big difference. It takes a toll on the guys for sure. We have had injuries… we had to evacuate Tony Mutter on the first leg, and we have had minor injuries. But we have not had any serious injuries. This has been very important for us.

  • Much has been made of your preparation for the race. It was initially demonstrated on the first leg to Cape Town, when the winds got snotty in the South Atlantic, and your team sailed away from the fleet in the offwind conditions. It gave recall to your dinghy background, and how dominant you always were offwind. Any connection here?

  • Brasilians are good in those conditions, and there are reasons for that. But in the leg you mention, I was one of the drivers of a big crew, and it was a team effort there more than anything. We had trained at Lanzarote (Canary Islands) where it is also quite windy and so we felt good in those condition whereas other teams might not have felt quite as ease. So we were able to push a little harder. When we do dinghy or one-design boat sailing in Brasil, a lot of the time we sail on our own because there are not so many people. So it is a lot more fun sailing off the wind rather than sailing upwind alone. So we do a lot of downwind sailing there. Also, the conditions are pretty good. There is normally a lot of waves on our coast so we got used to that environment.

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