The the past 24 hours have been really intense on board the Spanish boat racing this Volvo Ocean Race. “Telefónica” has the movements and tactics of the New Zealand crew on “Camper” in her sights.
The differences between the two boats are inexistent, with the lead swinging between the two around the one mile mark at best. In this morning's 07:00 GMT position report the Spanish boat led the leg with a 1.8 mile lead, but by the 10:00 GMT report the New Zealanders were in holding first place, just 0.5 of a mile in front. Now, at 16:00 GMT, “Telefónica” is leading again.
Iker Martínez spoke of the tension on board this morning: “There are only a few miles left until the end of this first stretch of the leg and we've been trying to overtake "Camper" for some 15 hours now, but they're defending in true match-racing style. We tried to get past last night on the leeward side but they pushed forward and we just missed the chance. We almost took the position from them but it wasn't to be.” Finally, they did it.
Less than ideal conditions for "Telefónica"
The Spanish boat, which was designed and built in Valencia is strongest with above 15 knots of breeze, as was seen in the first leg and in Cape Town's in-port race. Built in New Zealand, “Camper”, on the other hand, proved in the in-port race in Alicante that it was fast in light airs.
The last few days in Cape Town (South Africa) before starting the leg saw the team at the “Telefónica” base concentrating hard on optimising the Spanish boat for breeze conditions of less than 15 knots. For now the work carried out by the shore crew seems to be giving good results: “We had seven knots, an open windward course with swell. Basically they were their conditions. However, "Telefónica" was happy in them and we were able to put up a fight. The second attempt was on the windward side. We were almost parallel to them but they managed to hold onto their position and a bit later we tried again on the leeward side. That time we were clearly in front but a gust came along and pushed them back alongside us and then they managed to push forward again to the windward side.”.
On board the Spanish boat, they were continuing to squeeze the maximum potential they can from “Telefónica”, as Iker explains: “We are going to great efforts to get past them and this will be the fourth big push, this time on the windward side. We have a bit more time now and we've still got the Code Zero up and 6 to 8 knots of breeze, the keep up and down and the guys in full swing at the bow and the stern going non-stop. Maybe this will be the one and it probably won't be easy, so I hope we'll get some luck come our way.” Now, at 16:00 GMT “Telefónica” is leading.
Same conditions until the finish and one eye on the rear-view mirror
The Basque skipper is sure that the conditions and therefore also the pace of the competition will be kept up until the finish of this first stretch of the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, which runs between Cape Town (South Africa) and Abu Dhabi (UAE): “It doesn't look as if the conditions will change much until the finish. Behind us "Puma" and "Groupama" are pretty far away. If nothing strange happens we should only really have to worry about the duel with "Camper", but just in case we've always got an eye on them and we'll see what happens.”
Iker Martínez, who was named ISAF Sailor of the Year alongside crew mate Xabi Fernández just over a month ago signed off today in good spirits, a refelction of the mood on board, despite the exhaustion: “The boat seems happy to me today... I'd row with my eyelashes if I thought it might make a difference!! Come on! Come on! Come on!”
Final preparations on shore
Whilst in the Indian Ocean there is a full-on duel between the Spanish and the new Zealanders, members of the shore crews and the organisation, some 20 people in all, are awaiting the imminent arrival of the boats. Horacio, Technical Director of Team Telefónica is one of them and he's been organising the arrival of the Spanish entry alongside Alex, the shore crew Boat Captain.
This isn't a leg finish, as the leg officially finishes in Abu Dhabi. There will be no families, no crowds and celebrations, nor quayside greetings. They won't be able to take anything off the boats with them nor will the shore crew be able to carry out any repairs. However, there will be fruit and a cold beer.
The crew will have to help with the loading of the yacht onto the ship. They'll also need to furl up all of sails, put away any gear and anything else inside the boat, but nothing must come off and they'll have to start again afterwards.
“We have to have everything ready for when the boat gets here and crosses the finishing line – the barriers, the lines and the rest”, explained Carabelli. “Once they are across the finishing line the crew have to go through immigration and then the boat will be ready to begin the whole loading process.” How long that immigration process will actually take is a mystery as it depends on the actual time the boat finishes.
In any case, as the Technical Director of the Spanish boat explains: “We've already got the cradles prepared and loaded onto a big boat.” From there the cradles will be loaded onto the heavy ship that will transport the boats to Sharjah, where the leg will restart.
Loading “Telefónica” and the rest of the yachts onto a cargo ship is by no means a common procedure. Not only is it not a usual procedure, but it's also very tricky. Even simply saying the the yachts will be loaded with their masts still in place. “We have to lean the mast to one side, get the boat up onto her cradle and secure her in steadily all on the heavy ship itself. Our main aim is to do all that without damaging the boat because we won't have time in Abu Dhabi to carry out any repairs and to train as we'll only have three days or so to do some sailing. Any damage now would mean a big setback on the second stretch of the leg”, said Carabelli.
However, that's no causing too much worry: “We work with this sort of thing with these boats all the time. We get them out of the water and we carry out lots of manoeuvres to to be able to do everything correctly... We're not nervous but it is true to say that we don't do this sort of loading all of the time..”, he admits.
Once the process is over and the boat us securely loaded onto the heavy ship, the shore crew will be able to leave 'Point A', with most of them heading straight to Abu Dhabi, except for two. Some seven days later off the Sharjah coast “we'll put the boats back on the water and three hours after that the leg will resume”, says Carabelli.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 2
CAPE TOWN (SOUTH AFRICA) – ABU DHABI (UAE): 5,430 miles
Day 15 – 16:00 GMT – 26th December 2011
1 Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez).
2 Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +0.0 miles
3 Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +52 miles
4 Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), +77.5miles
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +118 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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