The third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race is underway. At 10:00 sharp (UTC), Spanish boat “Telefónica” took to the front of the fleet on a dash of just under 100 miles between Abu Dhabi and the Emirate of Sharjah.
Before setting out to sea, the boats had to complete a course opposite the Abu Dhabi Marina divided up with five marks. With 13 knots blowing, “Telefónica” made a strong start, close to the Racing Committee boat and with “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand” to starboard. After a breathtaking start, ESP-1 managed to sail consistently, rounding the first mark in the lead, ahead of the New Zealanders and the French, in second and third place respectively.
During the remainder of the course, Iker Martínez and crew stretched their lead out to 150 metres, whilst local team “Abu Dhabi” displayed their expert knowledge of the racing ground by moving up from last place to second at the third mark.
The yacht in pursuit may have changed, but “Telefónica” and her crew were focussed on defending their lead on their most direct rival. The breeze dropped to around six and seven knots as the crew rounded the fourth mark, but even so, the time gap between the Spanish and Ian Walker's guys remained: 23 second between the boats and some 120 metres.
After 40 minutes of sailing, “Telefónica” put the final buoy of the course laid out within close proximity of the Port of Abu Dhabi behind her. In her wake: “Abu Dhabi”, “Camper with Emirates Tea, New Zealand”, “Groupama” and “Puma”.
“We've left Abu Dhabi”, wrote MCM Diego Fructuoso at 11:30 UTC this morning. “For now things are pushing on smoothly, with the crew making a very good start and we've rounded the buoys at the front. We're close to rounding the final upwind mark and then we'll be setting course for Sharjah. Thanks for everything Abu Dhabi!”, he finished.
JORDI CALAFAT. Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Helmsman and Sail Programme Coordinator.
On the first stage of the leg between Abu Dhabi and Sharjah and the points:
We have to get these first few miles to Sharjah out of the way, and they are worth 20 per cent of the points for the leg, so we have to try to do as well as we can. I don't think many people are happy with the points, especially as it's such a short stage of the leg, but you just have to get on with things and push forward, as there's not much else you can do about it.
On the leg, overall:
The most critical point on the third leg above all will be the passage through the Strait of Malacca. It's a passage that we know will be a lottery, with lots of shipping traffic and we went through in the last edition of this regatta and we saw how tricky it was. Apart from that we should get courses that the boat will like. Maybe not right at the start because there's not much breeze around, but after that some steady breeze should set in. I think that the Strait of Malacca might even break up the race to an extent.
XABI FERNÁNDEZ. Ibarra (Guipúzcoa), Spain. Trimmer.
On the key and crucial points on the leg:
I think that this regatta is so even that in the end, every day, every position report, every three hours counts. It's hard to say exactly where the key points will be, but we have to get through the Strait of Malacca where there's lots of shipping traffic, very little breeze and it's a funnel in the middle of the sea, so I'm pretty sure it's where the fleet will regroup. Getting out of there in a good position will be important because you may get there in a good position, in first place at the Malacca Strait and then everyone bunches up together and it's like the leg starts all over again. That's why it's going to be really important, I'd even say essential to get out of the Strait of Malacca in a good position.
On the expected conditions:
From what we've seen in Singapore we'll be getting upwind and crosswinds with light conditions. From Singapore to China we could get a bit more breeze coming at us. Overall, the leg could be quite slow and quite tough because there'll be a lot of going into the wind, but anyway, we hope that our boat will sail well and that we can get a decent result.
ANTONIO “ÑETI” CUERVAS-MONS. Santander (Cantabria), Spain. Bowman.
On the strategy the crew will be following to finish in first place:
We are going to carry on as we have been doing up until now: fighting right up to the finish, really tooth and nail the whole way and sailing how we think we know best, always trying to do the best we possibly can. I wouldn't go as far now as to say that we will win, but we are going to try to make as few errors as possible, to not break anything and to keep sailing.
On whether the leg is very different to the two previous legs:
In theory yea, because there will be a lot less wind from behind than on the last two legs. In theory there will be a lot of upwind sailing, but then it's also true to say that the second leg was very unusual and unlike what we'd expected, so anything could happen.
On the general routing of the leg:
The first stage is a dash, which is almost like an in-shore and even carries the same weighting in points as an in-shore. After that we'll be at the safe-haven port and then it's a normal leg, where we'll be expecting lots of wind on the beam and lots of upwind sailing. Then we need to get through Singapore and the Strait of Malacca. I think that'll have a funnel effect and the fleet will find itself bunched together again. Then it'll be upwind again to Sanya, China, with hard breeze. To sum up, I'd say lots of close-hauling, which is no bad thing for our boat, but until we get there and we see what happens, there's a long way to go... For now we've got to get on with today's challenges, the first stage of the leg and to focus on that.
PEPE RIBES. Benissa (Alicante), Spain. Boat Captain “Telefónica”
On whether the close-hauling predicted for the leg will favour “Telefónica”, or not:
I think that so far we've gone very fast close-hauling and I think that we are one f the main candidates for being at the front at the first stage of the leg. After that, once we're at the Strait of Malacca, anything can happen and it's more a matter of concentration and being where you have to be...sometimes you don't get much warning, it's just luck. In any case, in upwind conditions I think that we've shown ourselves to be fast and we hope we can be in front.
PROVISIONAL RANKING LEG 3
ABU DHABI (UAE) – SANYA (CHINA): 4,600 miles
Day 1 – 11:04 UTC – 14th January 2012
1 Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), 91.8 miles from completing first stage
2 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +0.4 miles
3 Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), +0.4 miles
4 Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +0.7 miles
5 Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +0.9 miles
5 Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), completing Leg 2
PROVISIONAL OVERALL STANDINGS. Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012.
1. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), 68 points
2. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), 62 points
3. Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), 47 points
4. Puma powered by Berg (Ken Read), 31 points
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 25 points
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), 4 points. NOTE: SAILING THE 2ND LEG.
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