“Telefónica” is maintaining a course South after putting the Solomon Islands astern, and it's looking very much like the risky strategy chosen by the Spanish team for their approach to New Zealand has been a success. Now after passing the Pacific archipelago, the crew on “Telefónica” are now thinking about their approach to New Caledonia, where the fleet will find themselves at a new area of tough winds.
The Spanish team has been defending their third spot in the provisional rankings tooth and nail throughout the night and whilst “Groupama” and “Puma” have notched up better data, the Spanish yacht “Telefónica” was sailing faster than the Frenchs and Americans at the 13:00 UTC report. Is expected that sooner or later the two radically different strategic moves, which divided the fleet into two will see the fleet converge once again. The question now where and how that will happen.
A few miles before finding themselves fully engaged on the route through the Solomon Islands, Iker Martínez let slip that the crossing between Choiseul and Santa Isabel would be anything but simple: “We are going to go between two islands, there's a passage of 20 miles or so and then some low pressure so we'll have to tread carefully and we don't know for sure if the breeze will pick up, but it will surely drop later and then there's a stretch of some 80 miles. After that we have to pass another tricky zone past another island, but this time it will be to the leeward side and then there'll be another sort of lull. A bit tricky... As it's at night, let's see what breeze we get because that might complicate things a bit, so we'll have to take care there too, because there could also be some very strong current and you have to try to avoid the current taking you to a low. It's fairly tricky, so we'll be taking great care”.
Now with the islands astern, Diego Fructuoso confirmed from on board “Telefónica” that “we got through most of the Solomon Islands early in the morning. Now we have an island to the windward side (although it's quite far away) and then we'll be out of this area. It hasn't been a bad option, although right now we only have light airs. We'll have to wait and see what happens with the boats to windward”.
However, the passage hasn't been straightforward, as the team's MCM explains: “On board we are all really tired because the night was tough, with strong winds, light winds, heat and we have barely rested. I hope that the stable breeze will move in soon and that the temperatures will drop and we'll be able to get some sleep”.
At speeds of 13.6 knots thanks to southeasterly winds of up to 20 knots, “Telefónica” is taking on the final 1,800 miles to the finish, this time situated in Auckland (New Zealand), and in this final week of competition the situation could take an unexpected turn.
For now, as navigator Andrew Cape has commented, the fleet is drawing closer and closer to a zone of hard winds positioned at the island of New Caledonia. This is a new question mark for the fleet and “Telefónica” will be back racing head to head with her rivals. As the navigator reminds us: “We've still got some options. We've now gained ten miles. Also the met situation isn't very clear. There are still six or seven days until we get to the edge of New Zealand and everything is changing rapidly. This is always an area where things get mixed up a bit. Beyond the forecasts for the next three days lots of things could happen. You can win or lose so you have to ride the crest of the wave... We are still going to have easterly winds and fortunately good speeds of 10 to 15 knots. The boats to windward have had the chance to point their bows downwards and to gain miles on us and that's probably what they should be doing. That's what will happen in the next phase. Then we have New Caledonia to navigate”.
A 'king' on board “Telefónica”
As Fructuoso explained in his daily report, it looks like the Spanish team's choice of strategy was spot on, leading “Telefónica” navigator Andrew Cape to be nicknamed “the King of the Solomon Islands” by his fellow crew mates.
The Southern Hemisphere is starting to make an impact. In mid Summer according to Fructuoso: “The heat is unbearable. You can't possibly imagine what it's like to live inside the boat right now. Almost all of us are covered in spots: our backs, our bottoms, our legs...”. It's not all bad news, and the experiences on board have brought back some good memories for the crew: “We were reminded of the summer we spent training in the Canary Islands and in particular of our trips to Lanzarote and Gran Canaria. The time we spent at the Marina Rubicón was great... a big hello to them all”, said the sailor from Cartagena, Spain.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 4
SANYA (CHINA) – AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND): 5,220 miles
Day 14 – 13:00 UTC – 4th March 2012
1 Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), 1,597.1 miles from finish
2 Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +89.4 miles
3 Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +142.1 miles
4 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +170.8 miles
5 Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +190.4 miles
6 Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), +269.4 miles
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