Ericsson gain a new skipper

As Neal McDonald is relegated to co-skipper and watch leader

Wednesday March 15th 2006, Author: Bernard Schopfer, Location: United Kingdom
The Ericsson Racing Team has decided to make crew changes for the next leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Rio de Janeiro to Baltimore. American sailor John Kostecki, who has sailed with the team as tactician during the in-port races, will take on the role of skipper and Neal McDonald will sail onboard as watch captain and co-skipper. Due to injuries amongst the crew, it is not yet decided who will step ashore.

In order to improve the team's performance in the Volvo Ocean Race, the Ericsson Racing Team has been analyzing every element of the campaign. Today, the team announces that American sailor John Kostecki will sail as skipper for leg five from Rio de Janeiro to Baltimore. The team also continues to develop the sail program for the next legs, and focuses on other improvements such as working methods and communication - two areas where Kostecki's experience will be invaluable.

"Neal has been Ericsson's skipper since the beginning of the campaign, but considering our current situation in the race, it has become clear that we need to improve team dynamics and performance. Following long discussions with Neal, John and other team members, we decided that a change of organization onboard is necessary for leg five," comments Ericsson Racing Team Project Director Richard Brisius. "We are in a unique position to have two world class skippers within the team and everyone has done their best to put their personal interests aside, for the benefit of the campaign, especially Neal and John."

Winner of the 2001/02 Volvo Ocean Race as skipper on board illbruck, Kostecki is one of the world's top sailors. An Olympic silver medalist (1988) and 10-time world champion in a range of one-design classes, he has also been involved in four America's Cup campaigns as tactician.

Neal McDonald commented: "It has been a tough race so far for the Ericsson Racing Team and we haven't had the results we expected. John Kostecki has a proven track record in both inshore and ocean racing and we all have a lot of respect for him, which is why he was associated with the team to begin with."

John Kostecki has joined the team in Rio de Janeiro, and he hopes to start sailing early next week in preparation for the next in-port race. "I am very excited and proud to join the Ericsson Racing Team for leg five," he said. "These boats are extraordinary inshore, so I can't wait to experience an offshore leg. I have a lot of respect for Neal McDonald and I can see how the entire team looks up to him. Now we just need to concentrate hard on the next legs and to remain focused. There are still a lot of points up for grabs and there are good opportunities to climb up the leaderboard."

Ericsson and other team partners have been informed about the planned changes since the team's arrival in Rio de Janeiro. "The support they give us and the respect they have for our decisions are very much appreciated", comments Richard Brisius. "We are fortunate to have partners who are focused on performance and result as we are, but who also understand the difficulties of an event such as the Volvo Ocean Race, with both human and technological challenges."

Ericsson is currently in a disappointing sixth place on the leaderboard, having failed to show its full potential. There are still five legs, four in-port races and more than 10,000 miles to sail. For the Ericsson Racing team, a new race is starting.

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