The rankings might tell a story of great differences in the fleet, but the geographic positioning of the top three entries shows that in fact they are lined up to the South as if lining up on a starting grid, with a 200 mile lateral distance between “Groupama” to the East, the Spanish yacht “Telefónica” to the West and bang in the middle, 100 miles from each of these two entries lies New Zealand's “Camper”. The question now is who has made the right call on the approach to the lulls at the Equator, the next question mark on the course for the fleet: is it the East or the West?
Traditionally the East has always been the better option when it comes to crossing the Pacific Doldrums, but the reality is that the met forecasts for the past week have been anything but reliable. That's why on “Telefónica” the guys think that they have a chance at getting through the lulls at the Equator speedily and of getting closer to the top of the fleet. There are still over one thousand miles ahead before it becomes clear which of the options was the fastest.
Diego Fructuoso: “We are now making up ground”
On a southeasterly heading and with northerly breeze of between 20 and 26 knots, “Telefónica” has stepped on the gas and has begun to devour miles at a good pace thanks to average speeds topping 20 knots that the yacht has been notching up. On board the Spanish boat the feeling is that the dog days are now behind them, as Diego Fructuoso comments in his blog from the boat: “It's as if the news of the birth of Joca's daughter has woken up the boat and we've been sailing very fast during the night. After getting past the light airs yesterday which made us drop back positions, we are now making up ground”.
Said and done... Fructuoso's lines are reflected in the rankings and since 22:00 UTC yesterday “Telefónica” features in third place and with the last position report the boat has pushed nine miles closer to “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand”.
Convergence of strategies
During the first week of racing on this leg, the fleet split up into two clearly defined packs: there was American boat “Puma” who set of to conquer from the North and then French boat “Groupama” followed suit. The rest of the fleet chose for a somewhat more conservative option in a bid to gain East and to latch on to the trade winds.
Now the time has come for the two packs to converge and little by little the lateral distances between the boats are decreasing. Fructuoso explained today that: “'Groupama' is in the best position in the fleet and to the windward side of them are 'Abu Dhabi' and 'Puma'”. “Telefónica” are to the leeward side of the fleet and on a southeasterly course, having commenced their descent South towards Auckland (New Zealand), the finishing port of the fourth leg and next stopover in the Volvo Ocean Race.
Sailing in the Mariana Trench
On board the Spanish boat the effects of sailing in the South are starting to be felt: “the temperature is pleasant and sailing is a pleasure. We've been surprised by how salty the sea is and it reminds me of the Mar Menor”, said the team's MCM who is from Cartagena in Spain.
Not only that, but geography has cropped up again as a topic of conversation, as not many people can say that they've sailed through the Mariana Trench, one of the world's deepest stretches of ocean. “The depth of the trench is 9,000 metres, which is really incredible. We've been arguing about which trench is the deepest, and no one knows exactly. It's fascinating too as we've also commented that this trench is deeper the the height of the world's highest mountain”, said Fructuoso.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 4
SANYA (CHINA) – AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND): 5,220 miles
Day 9 – 13:00 UTC – 28th February 2012
1 Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), 3,622.4 miles from finish
2 Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +55 miles
3 Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +78.5 miles
4 Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +86.7 miles
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +107.5 miles
6 Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), +110.3 miles
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