It's the fourth day of racing on this new leg of the Volvo Ocean Race and it's thrown up a few surprises. With the South China Sea and the Luzon Strait astern, “Telefónica” and the fleet are now sailing in the Philippine Sea and an array of possibilities have opened up for overcoming the main obstacle on the horizon short term: the instability of the weather, which “Telefónica” will be forced to grapple with before aiming for the South.
The past 24 hours have been complicated on board the Spanish yacht. After getting through the feared Luzon Strait conditions haven't improved much. “The cocktail shaker situation that we had since we left Sanya has stopped. Right now we've got just a little breeze and although there's still a fair bit of swell it's not nearly as much as we've had the past few days. We are all pretty tired and last night we had a very intense night and things don't get much better during the day”, said Fructuoso in his daily report from the boat.
Iker Martínez confirmed the team's initial plans in a telephone call today: “We wanted to go to the East but the breeze was unstable. We continued where we thought we'd go fastest (the South). After an hour and a half or so we saw that those to the North were getting 20 knots whilst we were in light airs. We went up beside them to catch the same wind. We had it, but it slipped away fairly quickly. It's been the same sort of thing all day; the guys beside us catch the breeze but we can't. It's frustrating. We doing all we can with some really shifty breeze”. To add to this, the team also had a boom issue that forced the Spanish boat to slow right down but thankfully “we are now back to sailing as normal, but it took it's toll”, said Iker.
The tricky weather conditions mean that many are going for some apparently risky strategic moves, such as that played by American entry “Puma” who are on a northerly course, against all of the forecasts. “Telefónica” is playing a more conservative move by defending a position to the centre of the fleet on a northeasterly course “to look for the trade winds that will push us South”, explained the Spanish team's MCM. For now “Telefónica” is managing to get as much as they can out of the 14 knots of westerly breeze and are logging averages of 12.3 knots.
“We don't have much wind, It's a tough day for us. We can see that the others are doing well and we are here, with only light airs”. Despite the difficulties the Basque skipper remains optimistic, saying: “We hope we can catch some so that we can really start playing!”.
For now it's a matter of being patient and of waiting to see how the forecasts evolve because right now the instability is the big headache for the fleet. “Because of these conditions it's difficult to decide where to go in general. You only have to look at the computer screens to see that. You just need to go where you want to go and to try to make the most of it... We haven't had much luck but I hope that will change. If not the gap will be too big”, explained Iker Martínez.
Fructuoso pointed out that “there's still a lot of leg to go and anything can happen”, which is a reality that Iker also made reference to, saying: “All of us here on board have done a lot of sailing and we know that anything can happen in such unstable conditions. We are not the happiest group in the world, but that's to be expected! The guys aren't happy because we are not where we want to be, but we are still giving it our all”.
Thinking about terra firma
Life on board “Telefónica” continues on and the adaptation process seems to slip into the distance. With the body now used to the pace of extreme competition, it is also true to say that a delicacy or two on board has helped the adjustment: “Ourselves and the boat are well. There are always a few issues (with both) but we fix them and get on with it. It's hot, but not the heat we had on other legs and the ham we brought back from Spain is cheering us all up”.
With over 4,000 miles still to go some of the guys on board are keener for the leg to be over than others. Joca Signorini is eagerly awaiting news from his wife who is expecting a baby. As expected, the rest of the crew have been of great support and that was evident in the way Diego Fructuoso signed off today's blog entry: “We need to finish soon for Joca!”.
PROVISIONAL RANKING LEG 4
SANYA (CHINA) – AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND): 5,220 miles
Day 4 – 16:00 UTC – 23rd February 2012
1 Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson) 4,619 miles from finish
2 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +0.8 miles
3 Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), +17.6 miles
4 Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +28.5 miles
5 Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +48.3 miles
6 Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +88.6 miles
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“Telefónica” has been involved in a veritable tacking war with America's “Puma” whilst New Zealand's “Camper” continues to gain South and it looks like sooner or later the boat will ...
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At the height of New Caledonia “Telefónica” with Iker Martínez is hoping that on the approach to Auckland (New Zealand) the breeze will drop significantly, as the latest forecasts indicate. ...
The approach to New Caledonia promises to open up some scope for the fleet, and over the past 24 hours, “Telefónica” and the rest of the fleet have begun to ...