It looks like Christmas has come on board “Telefónica” and it's arrived with an unbeatable gift: the lead in the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. It looks like the Spanish boat's eastern routing is dishing up some superb results.
After entering the so-called 'stealth zone', where data is limited due to pirate activity in the Indian Ocean, “Telefónica” with Iker Martínez began to make up miles and in the 01:00 GMT report the boat was in second place having overtaken “Puma”. However, by the 10:00 GMT report the Spanish boat had moved into the lead on a leg which, as Diego Fructuoso points out today, still has to be decided: “We are here at that critical point in racing. I don't think you guys can see the boats any more via the web (only the distances from the leader) and that's a real shame because there's some red-hot racing going on. The race could be anyone's. We hope it'll go to us...”
Fully immersed in the Doldrums, for now “Telefónica” is positioned to the East of the fleet and is sailing at an average speed of 15.1 knots, which is two more knots than the second placed entry, “Camper”, nine miles away. Xabi Fernández says that this will be a “very tricky finish, a real sprint. As usual, the fleet has been pushed together at the Equator. For now, things are going well for us, as they have been for 'Camper'. 'Puma' and 'Groupama' are having a tougher time of it. I hope things carry on like this and we can hold our ground.”
If the calculations are right, whoever emerges from the Doldrums in first place should take this first stretch of the leg, although as Joca Signorini reminds us: “The Doldrums are always tricky. Let's see if we get a good Christmas present!”. Xabi says that the coming hours are critical: “The Doldrums are where everyone suffers the most. Once we are through them I hope we can set course North with westerly breeze. We are in great spirits and things are looking up in terms of taking the leg. We hope that things continue well for Christmas, with breeze. I imagine that Diego has some surprise up his sleeve for us, but even some breeze would be good enough.”
Happy Christmas from the Southern Hemisphere
The traditional snowy Christmas scenes are nowhere to be seen on “Telefónica”. Not only are the crew hard at work, but the heat is already starting to reach unbearable levels, as Pablo Arrarte jokes: “You can really tell Christmas is here – the heat! Out on deck, inside the cabin... it's incredible, and we haven't even hit the Equator yet... We've still got that to look forward to!”
Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández might be well-seasoned in spending holidays a long way from home, but nevertheless they still get the odd pang of homesickness. For the “Telefónica” skipper it's “more of the same as we were in Barcelona last year ahead of the regatta start and I think we were in India the one before that and maybe Australia the year before...so there you go! We've had quite a few Christmases away from home, and this year is yet another one. It's a bit sad because I would like to be at home with all of the family, but it's just the way it is and at least we are out here sailing, doing something that we love.” Xabi Fernández's thoughts are on his kids, the best thing about the holiday period for him: “We'll be sailing over Christmas and although on one hand you feel a bit sad, on the other you just get on with it. In our line of work we are almost always away at Christmas and I think that this is the fifth or sixth Christmas in a row that we are not at home for one reason or the other. Normally we are sailing in the Southern hemisphere where it is summer, so you could say we are pretty used to this, but you do feel a bit sad, mostly because of the kids as things are starting to get even more fun with them. Anyway, for now we've got to be away from home.”
The words of Antonio Cuervas Mons “Ñeti” are also brimming with thoughts of his family and friends, although, as we have come to expect from the young Spaniard, he's a glass half-full guy: “On one hand I do miss my family, because it's that time of year when we would all like to be at home with them, but on the other, we are out here doing what we love, which is racing and sailing. We are in the fight for the leg lead and whilst I'll miss the chicken bucket, and it was also my birthday (they tell me I'm no young'un anymore) I'm here celebrating the third level in great company with my team mates and friends.”
Despite his extensive experience this is Joca Signorini's second year away from home for the holiday period and he thinks the best way to face it is with optimism: “There are two days to go until Christmas and here we are in the Doldrums. I just told the guys on my watch that this was my second Christmas at sea. It isn't great because it's not he best time of year to be far away from your family and the people you love, but that's life. I hope Father Christmas brings us a good present in the Doldrums. Feliz Natal and God Jul!”.
For Jordi Calafat celebrating Christmas and being on watch are not situations that mix well, but the sailor from Mallorca adds a sprinkle of good humour and a dash of irony to the situation, saying: “These are lovely holidays to be with your family, not out here playing the penguin! This race is like that, and we all knew it. We are lucky that we are not going straight to Abu Dhabi or we'd be on here eating grapes (a Spanish new year tradition) or chocolate covered peanuts, as we don't have any grapes on New Year's Eve. Anyway, in my opinion these holidays are for being with your family, not working”.
There's no doubt that this will be the most different Christmas for Diego Fructuoso, as this will be the very first time that he will be far away from his family: “I've never spent Christmas Eve or New Year's away from home, so this is the first time. I've competed in lots of the Olympic sailing races in the in-between period but I've never actually been away from home on Christmas Eve or New Year. This will be a very different experience, but one that's worth it to fulfil a dream. I'd be really happy o be with my family, but I know that they will be thinking of me because I am thinking of them. The important thing now is to do things as well as we can so that they can be proud of us, so here's a big kiss to all of them from me.”
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 2
CAPE TOWN (SOUTH AFRICA) – ABU DHABI (UAE): 5,430 miles
Day 12 – 16:00 GMT – 23rd December 2011
1 Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez)
3 Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +9.8 miles
2 Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), +47.3 miles
4 Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +72.2 miles
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +131.8 miles
Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), racing suspended
PROVISIONAL OVERALL STANDINGS. Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012.
1. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), 37 points
2. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), 34 points
3. Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), 24 points
4. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 9 points
5. Puma powered by Berg (Ken Read), 9 points
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), 4 points
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