Our Sunday hasn't really been any different to any other day sailing, except for the fact that we ate rice, so we commented that in that way it was rather like a Sunday at home, maybe with a Spanish 'paella' (in my case it would be the 'caldero' dish from my area of Spain) and some rest. It was only like a Sunday because of the rice in our case though. We continued with our routine of watches, meals, rest and jobs on the boat… there was no watching football, no Formula 1, no newspapers or popping out for a drink with friends.
It's started to get colder and there's more breeze, although temperatures are still pleasant. Ñeti [Antonio Cuervas- Mons] was the first to put his waterproof boots back on and many of us (including myself) have followed. The light shoes were starting to rub, so I decided to take those off and probably won't be using them until the leg finish.
In the regatta we're still leading the provisional rankings for the lead, but closely followed by "Puma". These are difficult days until we pick up that breeze which will take us to Cape Town. I don't think we'll relax until we cross that finishing line!
We're now at the 20th of November and we've crossed 20º South. Little by little it's cooling down.
So far only one out of the eleven crew has swapped light footwear for boots, but I don't think it'll be more than two days before the cooler weather really sets in. We have to make the most of sleeping outside of the sleeping bags while we can and being able to enjoy a few more minutes of sleep coming off each watch because we don't have to wrap up... that's all over soon.
We are really looking forward to reaching 35º South, where we hope we'll find some stronger breeze. With each degree South it's 60 nautical miles, so 10º South is 600 miles, which is about how many we've got left until the meteorological conditions change. Until we get down to that latitude the differences between the boats can change quite considerably because we're in a very unstable area of breeze and you can get stuck.
We've gone from being in second place where the days slip by so quickly and you always feel like you want more time to be able to get closer to the leader, to being in first place and now it's the opposite. We are dreaming about getting out of this zone and reaching the South to find more stability. The mileage we have as an advantage are valuable in stable conditions, so we'll see if we can keep that up over the next few days. For now the hours just seem to last too long...
These days with only a little breeze have been useful to us for checking over the boat and we've checked over everything we have access to: the mast, rigging, ropes, hull and helm. We check the underwater parts almost every day with an endoscope, which is a sort of periscope like the ones they have on submarines, but instead of pushing up above the water we push it down under the water through a hole in the hull with some joins, you put your eye up to the lens and it's like binoculars.
Our endoscope is only 20 centimetres deep and half a centimetre wide, so once it's underneath the boat doesn't even really notice it, it doesn't slow down much at all and it means that we can dee if anything's been caught up in the centreboard or if the rudders, daggerboards or bulb have been damaged. It's a very useful gadget!
Sometimes we are even thankful for some calm so that we can get stuck in to repairing little bits here and there.
Every three hours there is a position report. In the last one we had dropped 2.8 miles on "Puma" because of a cloud that had held us up for a fair while. In a few minutes we have got another one coming through, but this time we have had a good three hours, even getting a push from a cloud which gave us some decent breeze for 20 minutes or so, so I hope that at least we won't have dropped back, or maybe that we have gained a few since the last report.
Warm regards from all of us on "Telefónica" at 21.10S - 25.08W
We've now been racing for over two weeks and things are going well. We are still leading the provisional rankings for the leg although, as I said yesterday, we can't sit back. Near to where we are, both up and down, there's little breeze and we must try to manage this situation as best we can so we don't get stuck and we can still continue to make ground to Cape Town.
It's been a day of little wind and sunshine so we've been making the most of that to repair things that have cropped up over the fourteen days of racing. Pepe (Ribes) said that this is normal and that we often use things carelessly and they need repairing as a consequence but the truth is that "Telefónica" is performing like a champion. Pablo (Arrarte) has been checking all the winches, Ñeti (Antonio Cuervas-Mons) has been checking all of the ropes and he has also been up the mast to see how things are doing there, Pepe (Ribes) has been checking out all of the hydraulics, Iker (Martínez) has been looking over the whole boat and Jordi (Calafat) has been making sure all of the sails are in good shape...
Capey [Andrew Cape] has told me that if we get through this area of light wind then it should just keep filling in and the next time we'll get light breeze again it'll be near Cape Town. We hope so!
Today we saw the first boat we've seen in many days. Apart from "Puma" who we are staying close to, we haven't seen anyone since we left the Gibraltar Strait and this afternoon some 500 miles from the Brazilian coast we saw a fishing boat in fairly bad shape. It had a rope hanging off the bow which we thought must be a drift anchor. It really was quite strange and it made us all curious. I was inside the boat and Ñeti [Antonio Cuervas-Mons] called us out to see.
In terms of the regatta we've got the lead back. The fight's still on and we can't sit back because we are in an area with only light breeze and mistakes would be costly. We've got a few days left with this weather.
We've still got heat and sun and it's interesting that our chafes and rashes and things are pretty well healed. I think that the temperature and being able to take off some clothes has definitely helped.
Diego Fructuoso MCM Team Telefónica
We've passed Fernando de Noronha and we're moving down the Brazilian coast until we pick up the winds that will take us down to Cape Town. For now we are in second place, very close to "Puma". We hope to get the chance to chase them down over the next few days. We won't stop trying.
On the boat everything's going well. Today I can tell you that a seagull made the bold move of performing the most basic of bodily functions all over Xabi's head (thank goodness he was wearing a hat), which generated a few giggles among the crew. Capey and Neal said that it was a sign of good luck, but Xabi insisted that for him it wasn't good at all.
We are still getting good weather, with less heat now, which I am particularly pleased about as working inside the boat is a lot more pleasant…
We are looking forward to getting an email through tomorrow about the Real Madrid - Valencia score. Pepe is a Valencia fan and Ñeti and I are Real Madrid supporters. Xabi will stick up or Pepe, so if the subject comes up there will definitely be some hot debate...
(Received at 22:30 GMT)
I crossed the Equator for the first time yesterday! I was the only one on the boat never to have done so, so I'd been hearing about this visit from 'King Neptune' for a few days. I wasn't that nervous, but I was slightly worried about what they might to do to me.
We crossed the imaginary line just before 12:00 GMT and I had work to do (to send photos, link up with the Volvo office and to put the water for lunch on). So as soon as we crossed it I took a picture of the screen that said we were in the South and I went back down into the boat to get on with my work. They began to call me from on deck immediately and I said I was working and that we could do the Neptune thing later. But Iker came and said:"Dieguito, up on deck". So anyway, I dropped what I was doing and I climbed up on deck to wait. A few minutes later I heard shouts and bangs. King Neptune had arrived: our Navigator Andrew Cape, the most veteran of the crew was kitted out with a boathook, a false moustache and a hat designed for him by Jordi Calafat. He stood in front of me to go over my "sins". I couldn't stop laughing as Cape looked hilarious dressed like that. Also as soon as he stepped out on deck the moustache and the hat went flying so he had to talk whilst holding onto the moustache.
They tied me to the rigging, the lines holding up the mast. Pepe took one of the belts we use for tying up the sails and tied me to the ropes. They got out some flying fish and stuffed one down my trousers and another two in my Tshirt. You can imagine the stench from the fish after days of intense heat... They also made a 'shake' with Tabasco and other things (I prefer not to think about exactly what), that I had to gulp down in one. It was disgusting. To finish off, Pepe took the scissors and began to chop my hair. There were doubts over whether to cut off lots at the front and leave the rest long or to cut off hair at the sides. In the end they let me choose. They called them a 'Ronaldo cut' or a 'Neymar cut'. I thought Neymar sounded a bit better. So they began their work of art. There were instructions shouted out by the others... A bit more here, a bit more there, even out the sides etc...
The boat was covered in hair. As soon as they finished they untied me and everyone came to congratulate me on crossing the Equator. I will always remember this first time across the line and I'll remember my crew mates. Now I'm waiting for nightfall to see the famous Southern Cross for the first time in my life.
Diego Fructuoso from on board "Telefónica"
We've crossed the Equator. As tradition dictates, 'King Neptune' paid a visit to the sailors who had never crossed the line before, to take a look at their sins and to grant them a passage across.
Of the entire crew I am the only one never to have crossed the Equator, so I was alone in the firing line. My initiation involved flying fish, which my fellow crew members had stowed for a few days and which were put all over me, then a haircut and a pretty unappetising drink. It was quite a fun experience all round. Pepe told me that it was something that they'd all been through and everyone recounted details of what had been done to them.
With the ceremony out of the way, we are continuing to push forward to Fernando de Noronha, the Brazilian islands that we must put to port side before heading to Cape Town. Joca is happy because we are going to pass his country and he told me that a couple of days ago it was Brazil's 'Republic Day'.
The battle with “Puma” burns on. We are behind them now, but we hope to chase them down. After so many days being so nearby... it's going to be a very close leg indeed.
I'm sure you're all already checking out the flights to Cape Town. We are already trying out simulated routes on the computer with South Africa as the final destination, so that means that there's not long to go now.
We are now near the Equator. We've been able to get through the lulls here, which were between 6º and 3º North this time.
We were stalled at 0 knots and we battled it out close hauling with all our might with some 8-10 knots for the most part and at certain points we even got up to 23 knots in front of some cloud, so we have really had the works here at the Doldrums. It hasn't been too bad. The lulls have treated us well and we got out quickly, and although our main rival “Puma” had a better time now there are just 12 miles between us.
Now we are looking South. We hope to cross the Equator in the morning and in 24 hours we hope to be near Fernando de Noronha. From there the difficult task of managing the shortest routing without hitting the St Helen High, which is looking pretty South right now.
It may be that we have to take a fairly long routing to get to South Africa, gaining a lot of South before making our way around the anticyclone and then gaining East to South Africa. It's still looking like we'll be fighting with “Puma” who'll be nearby, as both entries seem to be pushing forward at similar speeds and neither of us seem to let up for anything.
We are really enjoying it. Our boat is performing like a champion and little by little we are getting to know her better and we are discovering those little things that make you go that bit faster.
The mood on board is great and we are enjoying racing. When everything goes smoothly, as it is now, everything's a bit easier. We all know each other very well and we've found our racing pace and the best way to all live and sail together comfortably and efficiently.
We are trying to take as much care of the boat as possible and we check things as much as possible as soon as we can, as well as doing our utmost not to damage sails... they've got to last us!
An example of us taking care of the sails when we change them is that it's quite painful being astern when you're close hauling to furl a sail, but that's what it takes to keep the equipment in top condition.
We are also aware that during the leg there will certain points where we'll have to really push the material, and we'll have to go with it. Really we are all focussed on not giving “Puma” any chances to push ahead and time flies like that.
In half an hour we are due another position report and we'll see if we've cut the gap down at all... Even if it's 0.1 of a mile, it's something.
Skipper on “Telefónica”
It's already Tuesday night and there's not long left for us to pass Fernando de Noronha. If all goes well, on Wednesday we'll round them and then head straight for Cape Town! Before Fernando de Noronha we have to cross the Equator, which will be my first time... and as you already know, I'm going to get a visit from “King Neptune”.
The journey through the Doldrums isn't easy. I don't know what it's been like on other occasions but here it's: shower, wind, a little wind, shifts, etc. Iker told me today that it can be really something... after battling it out all the way down you can lose the leg because of one of these showers. So, we've got to watch out and to work as hard as we can. We are now in second place, but really close to “Puma”. It's an eternal battle for us.
The heat is incredible. When you enter the boat it's like stepping into a sauna. We're making the most of it to dry our clothes, but I just can't stop sweating. I almost can't use the computer during the day because I'm just soaked. Yesterday 'Patán' (Pablo Arrarte) made the most of a shower to give himself one. I was very jealous.
Warm regards to all,
Diego Fructuoso MCM Team Telefónica
Hello again everyone!
We had another day of good wind and high speeds. We are still bearing South and as I mentioned before, it's getting hotter and hotter. I'd been told about the flying fish that jump on the boat. I was curious and it's true that they really hit you and it can be very annoying! I throw them back in the sea, because if not the rest of the crew put them by for the famous "King Neptune". There's not long to go now for me... we are entering the Doldrums at latitude 5 North and when we get to 0 latitude Neptune will visit "Telefónica".
We've got through the first big squall. Suddenly a huge cloud came along with 30 knots and rain and if you're not ready it you can be in for a rough ride. Thank goodness we were ready for it and we got through without a problem.
Diego Fructuoso from on board "Telefónica"
I think that these past 24 hours have been the first where we have worked non-stop since the regatta started. Things got tricky early this morning: we were close-hauling very close to “Puma” and we had to tack to be able to take the routing South. We didn't want to let “Puma” get there before us and we wanted to go further West, so we chose to tack twice on a shift to position ourselves windward and to be able to tack with them where we wanted them, which is something that's done a lot in short-haul racing.
After that “Puma” began to tack and we did so with them, so we ended up tacking eight times. With so much manoeuvring going on the watch pattern goes out of the window and fatigue and tiredness increases across the whole crew. Once we were sailing to starboard and we waited for everything to calm down, the showers began. Huge clouds which exploded with all of the water they had been filling up with throughout the day. We continued with lots of changes in the breeze, lulls and strong gusts... and the worst thing: lots and lots of instability in the breeze direction. We changed sails on numerous occasions until we were totally exhausted. We were all weary and we decided to go for a slower sail configuration, but one which was more of an all-rounder. That's the situation when dawn broke today and to our surprise the latest position reports were positive.
It's likely that if we had chosen that option earlier we'd all be a bit more rested now and further ahead, but it is always difficult to choose one sail when you know you've got another faster one in the conditions you are in in that exact moment.
Right now we are sailing with breeze that is a lot more stable and we are trying to recover from the exhaustion of the last 24 hours. We are trying to east well, to drink as much as possible and to sleep, which is what takes the most time in terms of letting the body recover from the burn of a stretch like this. There's always a first time for one of these 'burns' in the Volvo Ocean Race and for us yesterday was the first of this edition. I hope we'll get a few days before we get the next one.
Tomorrow we hope to start scratching back the miles from “Groupama”. We've made a big investment, thinking about the future and we hope we'll be able to enjoy some better breeze and some better courses than the French entry to get to Fernando de Noronha.
The boat is still performing like a champion and although it was difficult to adjust and it was a lot of work to get everything in place, it's giving us some great feedback.
Over the next few days we will also be able to see other courses where it will be really interesting to see the performance of the yachts.
Today is Pablo's (Arrarte) 31st birthday. He was given a freeze-dried chocolate pudding prepared by Diego (Fructuoso) as a present to celebrate. That's probably just about the best present that you can get on a boat in the middle of a race.
I am going to try to sleep a bit and to recharge my batteries, as this could get tricky again at any moment.
Warm regards to you all,
Iker Martínez from on board “Telefónica”
PS: Gosh! I've just realised that today is the 11th of the 11th of the 11th year and it's 11 in the morning... what a coincidence! That's all ones... who wouldn't like to take all those in this regatta...Iker
We have now managed to get out of the Mediterranean. We've had two very intense days since the start. As you saw, we got away quickly from Alicante and the course down to Cartagena was very wet with over 20 knot speeds all the way.
We got to see all of the boats at speeds of above 20 knots for the first time, but it didn't last long because at Cartagena we pointed our bow towards Cabo de Gata and there we fully close hauled.
The first crashes and jolts began and with them the first serious damage. The darkness had drawn well in when we couldn't see Abu Dhabi any more and later we heard the news of them dismasting. All of us felt a pit in our stomachs with the news and the guys from Azzam certainly didn't deserve damage like that. We really feel for them and we hope that they will get the second mast up quickly and head on back out to South Africa as soon as possible.
We had a good battle with "Camper", "Puma" and "Groupama", firstly with very little breeze close to Cabo de Gata and then later on again but with heavy breeze. I think there were some ten tacks from cape to cape, which was tough for all the crew.
That's where everything took a bashing again: a reef, another... The breeze filled in up to 35 knots and the short Alboran waves claimed another victim - this time team "Sanya" with structural problems.
That second serious incident caused a shift in perspective for us all. It became clear to us that safety was the priority and we didn't want to risk any breakages, deciding to sail close to the coast where there was a lot less swell and less breeze.
Things were getting more complex in tactical terms and we were fighting as hard as we could but the New Zealand guys were doing a really good job and we made our way out of the Med in second place with the boat all in one piece and the crew all in tact! Of course we were in need of some rest, food and water to recover from the first 36 hours of racing.
For now only a few broken lines, nothing much, and they have been fixed and we are ready to get through the lulls ahead for the coming days.
Now we are almost 100 miles away from Tarifa and we are back up close to "Puma" and the New Zealanders. There's very little breeze and we are trying to fill the sails but with only momentary success.
The good thing is that we have all been able to sleep a bit and to eat well. We are starting to work up a routine according to the watches and to eat at night.
All good down here and everyone's in a good mood.
Warm regards to you all from on board "Telefónica".
We're past the point at Tarifa so we are in the Atlantic now. We'll be making our way down until we reach Cape Town, our next stop. For now we've had a fairly tough start with a lot of breeze. The fact that 2 of the boats have had problems was proof of that. From here on Telefónica we send them our total support. It's something you wouldn't wish on anybody.
We are happy that the boat is going well. Now we are going to pass close to the Canaries, the place where we have done so much sailing, so I hope the boat will know the way and we'll finish first, hahaha!
The passage through the Strait is always tricky because there are so many boats. It's incredible. I was chatting to Cape, our Navigator who has a lot of experience and he said it went really well. We got really close to some boats, but everything was under control. We had no surprises. Yet again I passed a familiar landmark for me, the bay of Algeciras where the town La Línea de la Concepción is located, and where Rafa Trujillo lives. La Línea is where the Finn Class Spanish national team base was situated, where Pablo and I trained. We took the opportunity to recall 'Rafita' and to exchange a few tales from back when.
We are on course for Cape Town. It's been an intense day of sailing, with a great start in Alicante with quite a lot of breeze that I hope the spectators enjoyed. Casting off was very moving as we had our families with us and on top of that there were Ñeti's fans who have shown us unbounding support!
It's been even more special for me as this is the first time I'll be off sailing for such a long time, and I hope to do well with it. We also passed very close to Murcia, where I live. There were lots of people at the Cabo de Palos light to watch the regatta go past. I'm sure that at least one of my friends was there!
Now we have to get down to Gibraltar and to cross the Strait, which is always tricky. The boats are very bunched up and there have been a lot of switches in position, which just goes to show how equal these boats are. During the day the temperatures have been better but now it's colder. Ñeti made the same comment to Pepe as they were getting ready for a sail change. The activity hasn't let up for a moment on "Telefónica".
It was a complicated race, but I think that the winning boat sailed an impeccable race. I think “Abu Dhabi” made a great start and they were exactly where they needed to be and so congratulations to them.
It's been a very tough day for us with a result that wasn't one we wanted. The start was tricky and we rarely start on a port tack, which switched the game up totally for us and we got ahead of ourselves slightly. That's where the regatta got really sticky for us. From there we managed to push forward well and the breeze gave us the chance to get ahead and we took it. We were fighting for third place when, with just a short distance to go, things got sticky again with a couple of manoeuvres and “Camper Team New Zealand” caught up with us and managed to get ahead of us. After that we got a penalty with “Sanya” and all our chances of staying in the race slipped away, so that was a shame. There's still a long way to go...
With this race there's direct judging, so the Race Committee decided that if “Sanya” didn't change course we would have crashed. In my opinion the judges weren't well-positioned, because that simply wasn't the case. When the judges are there it's all part of the game, and that's just the way it is.
We've got to look at the positive and that is definitely that in a very short time we'll be off. We have a long leg ahead that we know is incredibly important, so we have to look at that and put everything else aside.