An unusual leg start, but a leg start all the same. At 14:00 sharp local time (06:00 UTC) with ten knots of breeze “Telefónica” with Iker Martínez and crew began the fourth leg in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race: 5,220 miles between Sanya and Auckland, now split into two stages for safety reasons: the forecast in the Luzon Strait, an obligatory waypoint for the fleet on their way to Auckland (New Zealand) indicates extreme conditions with very strong winds and gusts of over 40 knots, as well as waves of up to 8 metres, with the race organisers choosing to keep the start on pause for some 13 hours.
“This was a difficult decision for the organisers to take, because on one hand these boats and crews are trained for anything, for the toughest conditions. It's also true however that forecasts are giving a lot of wind coming at us and that's always dangerous”, said Iker Martínez moments after the starting ceremony had begun. “We said we'd do whatever we were told to do and that's that. If we had had to set straight out for New Zealand we would have, but taking care, of course. It's a tough call and if we have to start later, well we'll do that and that's all there is to it”.
First stage complete: a 43 mile course in Sanya
43.2 miles of racing in Haitang Bay with 7.2 miles of sailing between buoys and 36 nautical miles of open course to the great Guan Yin statue, one of the world's highest at 100 metres tall and then a return to the Serenity Marina in the Chinese city of Sanya. Opposite the Marina and the light house was the virtual line marking the end of the first stage of this fourth Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 leg start. It has been a stage of the leg where the teams were dished up a bit of everything: some downwind sailing, upwind sailing and a key point on the course where the breeze shifted.
American boat “Puma” began on the best footing by rounding the first mark in the lead, with “Telefónica” getting round in third place, a position they held as they passed the imposing statue of the buddha. A transition moved in, with the breeze going from westerly to easterly, benefitting “Telefónica” and punishing “Puma” who had been in the lead up to that point. “It was a complicated day and that was clear by 'Puma' holding the lead in the race and then losing any breeze they had, they just stopped”, explained the “Telefónica” trimmer Xabi Fernández.
“We were in a really good position and we were able to take advantage of that. We went from the spinnaker to the genoa and we got ahead and then going upwind we were able to hold onto the lead to here”, said skipper Iker Martínez. “It's great for us but I'm disappointed for the guys on “Puma” who have been getting some really bad luck”.
For Xabi Fernández this was “a difficult day on which we had various objectives: one was not to break anything and another was to avoid trailing behind the rest of them”. Mission accomplished as “we didn't break anything and everything's ready to go tomorrow and we'll even get a few minute's head start on the rest”.
“Second” start tomorrow at 07:00 local time (23:00 UTC)
The organisers have announced that the “second start” after which the fleet will set course for Auckland will be at 07:00 local time (23:00 UTC) in Sanya for first entry “Telefónica”.
The second start will be staggered according to the time it took the boats to complete the first part of the course. That means “Telefónica” will be the first boat to take the start. “Groupama” will be second, starting two minutes and 34 seconds later. “Abu Dhabi” will start in third place at 07:03:36 in Sanya. Local team “Sanya” will start in fourth place whilst “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand” will retake the start in fifth place followed by “Puma”.
“The result doesn't come with any points, but it's always a good thing for us to be able to start first tomorrow with the time that we've gained on the rest. It's not a big deal but it's better to be in front than behind”, said Iker Martínez.
This has only just started and there are still 5,100 miles to sail. That's not lost on “Telefónica” “The lead is minimal and you've got to realise that there are 21 or 22 days of racing left and this isn't going to be decisive. It's always good to get a good result and to have an advantage, however small”, said Xabi Fernández.
RESTART TIMES – LEG 4
Team Telefonica: 7h 00m 00s local time – 23h 00m UTC
Groupama Sailing Team: 7h 02m 34s local time – 23h 02m 34s UTC
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing: 7h 03m 36s local time – 23h 03m 36s UTC
Team Sanya: 7h 07m 32s local time – 23h 07m 32s UTC
Camper Emirates TNZL: 7h 09m 13s local time – 23h 09m 13s UTC
Puma powered by Berg: 7h 39m 17s local time – 23h 39m 17s UTC
OVERALL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS. Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012.
1. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), 101 points
2. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), 83 points
3. Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), 73 points
4. Puma powered by Berg (Ken Read), 53 points
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 43 points
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), 17 points
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