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 point West on their route South. It looks like the Spanish team will take on the next important point on the course as far away as possible from terra firma, because in this particular case the met forecasts are warning danger, with French boat “Groupama” which had been defending the opposite side of the course up until now even having had no other choice than to point West, with a knock-on loss of miles.
With Auckland (New Zealand) now under 1,500 miles away, “Telefónica” continues to maintain third position after a night of notching up average speeds of almost 12 knots, and 289 miles covered in 24 hours, exactly the same distance as provisional leg leader “Groupama”. The latest data shows that the French leader has begun to drop back closer to the rest of the fleet. Yesterday “Telefónica” was 142 miles away from the leg frontrunner, and today the Spanish yacht is just 114,6 miles astern, or in other money: the boat headed up by Iker Martínez has clawed a whopping 27,4 miles closer to Franck Cammas and co over the past 24 hours.
“It's been a good day, with light air and dropping. We started well and then in the afternoon we had to change the Code Zero and now we're suffering a bit, with five or six knots, but I think the boats to windward have suffered a bit more than us and overall we've done well”, explained Xabi Fernández from on board.
New Caledonia, a funnel that will see the pack regroup
The key now appears to be at New Caledonia, because that's where the fleet's expected to regroup, so “if we can get ahead it could be really important in terms of the final rankings in the leg”, said Fructuoso.
Xabi Fernández was even more graphic as he explained how the coming hours are expected to evolve: “We have to get past New Caledonia to the leeward side and it's a funnel where the fleet is likely to regroup, and that's why 'Groupama' and 'Puma' are dropping back so much. It's going to be complicated because everyone's likely to be pushed back together, but let's hope that's what happens and there are no problems and we really will get back together, especially closer to 'Puma'”.
News from shore
On board “Telefónica” the pace has eased to a certain extent for the crew, as the rhythm stabilised over the past few hours and over the past few hours “right now at last the wind has dropped, there's very little water on deck and it's very hot. We're soaked with sweat and all very spotty, but we can't complain. There's not long to go and it looks like we are doing better in racing terms”, commented Pablo Arrarte.
As the sailor from Cantabria commented, the heat continues to be unbearable and the consequences really are uncomfortable, but fortunately “although it's still very hot on board, it's a bit less so than the previous days, and we are grateful for it. We have all been looking at each other to see how the heat rash is developing, and for now we are all ok”, said Fructuoso, the team's MCM.
However, this has been no straightforward leg. “I don't know how many days we've been here” said the Spaniard and as is expected, the crew are starting to miss the comforts of a good shower or a plate of food on a table: “I'm really looking forward to reaching New Zealand to see what will happen because this leg has been hard and above all I'm looking forward to a long shower because we're all pretty grossed out by the heat on here as well as the sweat and the heat rash, so that's what I'm really looking forward to... and of course another thing is a good cut of meat”, said Arrarte, whilst Fructuoso said he'd be happy with a simple sweet: “It's a shame there are no more birthdays left on here to celebrate with some chocolate sweeties as prepared by Sarah: thank you!”
However, there's one member of the crew who's more keen to reach dry land than any of the others: Joca Signorini. The Brazilian is even more eager to finish after receiving a surprise email this week. “We received some photos of Joca's daughter and she's beautiful! The new Dad is besotted! We are hoping to see her on one of the stopovers”, said the MCM from Cartagena.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 4
SANYA (CHINA) – AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND): 5,220 miles
Day 15 – 13:00 UTC – 5th March 2012
1 Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), 1,372.3 miles from finish
2 Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +70.1 miles
3 Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +114.6 miles
4 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 151.5 +miles
5 Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +151.7 miles
6 Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), +235 miles
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