Now with under one thousand miles to go until Auckland (New Zealand), “Telefónica” isn't giving an inch in its battle for a podium spot on this leg of the race, especially now that only 21 miles separate the Spanish yacht from “Puma”. There's also a brand new scene weather-wise and now the question of how each boat will handle the approach to New Zealand will be a deal-breaker in terms of the finish. Iker Martínez, who was considerably more optimistic than in previous days highlighted that “things have changed for the better over the past few days”.
Over the past 24 hours, the Spanish boat has covered 372 miles, which means two more than French entry “Groupama” and 36 more than the USA's “Puma”, which was made possible by the good data logged during the night with “Telefónica” managing to maintain an average speed of 17 knots for three reports in a row.
One thing's for sure, and that is that the Spanish boat has been posing a constant threat to the Americans since the 16:00 UTC position report when the data confirmed that “Telefónica” was then 28 miles astern of her most immediate rival on this fourth leg. “Yesterday “Puma” were caught in a light patch, which we presume was caused by a cloud coming in from New Caledonia. Their stopping has renewed our hopes of getting some access to second place; now just 53 miles to windward and tomorrow we'll have a passage through some lulls that could easily mean we push forward or drop back. “Camper” is 50 miles from our stern so there may be little distance from the first to the fourth entries as the hit the finishing line” commented Iker Martínez during a telephone link-up with the shore.
Reaping the rewards
Over the past few days the crew on “Telefónica” has been working itself to the bone to get as close as possible to American entry “Puma” and it looks like the sacrifice is now paying off. “Once we were to the West of the fleet, we got a few days of very shifty winds and we had to do a lot of sail changes. It was sail up, sail down and with that we managed to move in a bit closer to “Puma”, said Iker from on board.
According to the 10:00 UTC report, “Telefónica” continues to fight with “Puma” and there are now only 21 miles separating the American and Spanish entries. Everybody is keeping a close eye on the met situation because the approach to New Zealand at the height of the North Cape the fleet are expected to regroup due to the light airs blowing in the area.
“The weather forecasts are showing some possibly tricky times ahead until the end of the leg: the first will a complete drop in breeze in 24 hours and the next will be once we get to the North Island where we have some 200 miles to cover until we reach Auckland and cross the finishing line. The first big key point will be tomorrow and then according to how we get out of there we'll see what happens further ahead”, confirmed the Spanish skipper from on board the boat.
There's no doubt that this is going to be one of the tightest finishes, as Diego Fructuoso, the team's MCM points out: “There are now less than one thousand miles to go until Auckland and it's looking like it's going to be very a exciting battle to the end: 'Puma', 'Telefónica' and 'Camper' are all very close to each other and we are going to be fighting it out for the second to the fourth place. Right now 'Puma' has the edge, but there are still a few days to go and anything could happen. We're not going to give up trying, as always”.
A bit colder in the Southern Hemisphere, but with food
Contrary to the forecasts, the temperature in the Southern Hemisphere isn't as “Telefónica” expected, although the effort the guys are putting in hasn't dropped one bit. “Work never ceases on board the boat and we're always changing a sail to go as fast as possible and shifting everything around. The temperature's dropped and we've started to use our sleeping bags, which is something we haven't done for a while”, said Fructuoso in his daily report.
Iker Martínez also referred to navigator Andrew Cape's excellent weather forecasts: “Fortunately we listened to Cape who was sure in China that this leg would last some three days longer than the organisers had predicted, because if not, we'd have run out of food by tomorrow. Having eleven hungry little monsters on board could be crazy and we experienced that on the last one when the stay broke, not far from where we are now, and it was hell, with some unhappy faces indeed. This time around, we're not short on food and although we're all dying to get this tricky leg out of the way, let's see if we can get a bit of that much-needed luck and if we get a good day, as there are a lot of points in play. Also it's still hot and we've only got a day or so left of wearing shorts...we've got to enjoy it as much as we can”.
New Zealand, there and then gone
With the pace of things, the shore crew will have less than a week to get the boats ready for the next leg and that's why the guys on the boat have already started preparing for the jobs to be done in port. “We are all happy on board and already thinking of the stopover, where it's likely the boat will only be off the water for three days, so we need to get the job list and the priorities in order beforehand so that when we cross the finishing line the shore crew can get down to work straight away. That way we can get the boat ready in just a few days ahead of leg 5 which is historically the toughest of the round the world regatta because of the cold and the strong winds”, explained Iker, who continued: “We already knew that the fourth and fifth legs would have almost the same stopover, but as this fourth one has stretched out and now it's more like a Formula 1 stopoff in boxes for a tyre change, to fill up the tank and clock up the miles”.
That's why the “Telefónica” skipper is clear where his priorities lie: “checking everything over, changing whatever's broken, loading up the food and drink for winter, getting some thick socks, some fleeces and then it's down South to the cold! It's not normal for us to be thinking about the next leg before we've finished the one we're on, but in this case we've no choice and even though most of the work has been done now we have to focus on the lull tomorrow as it is likely to define the order of the finish for leg 4”.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 4
SANYA (CHINA) – AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND): 5,220 miles
Day 17 – 10:00 UTC – 7th March 2012
1 Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), 741.9 miles from finish
2 Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +134.4 miles
3 Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +155.2 miles
4 Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +212.3 miles
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +334.3 miles
6 Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), +399.1 miles
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