In second position, “Telefónica” continues on course to Auckland (New Zealand) with “Groupama” in their sights, currently some one hundred miles ahead . Astern America's “Puma” is 12.5 miles behind and New Zealand entry “Camper” is 35.5 miles away. This pack is currently in a compression zone from which the French boat is slowly starting to push away, joined by “Telefónica” on a veritable tacking battle.
For Andrew Cape, naviagtor on “Telefónica”, the past 24 hours have been “very good, with some good progress”. The Spanish boat also overtook American boat “Puma” yesterday afternoon, moving into second place, a position that is being defended tooth and nail from on board the boat. “Being to the leeward side has helped us in terms of getting ahead of 'Puma'. They also got some bad cloud yesterday, which is bad luck. 'Groupama' dropped their speed in the low pressure, but we've also dropped the pace too. They should get out first and unfortunately we'll be second. We'll then have some southwesterly breeze and we'll head out to the North Island”, said Cape from on board.
In his daily report, Diego Fructuoso referred not only to the good weather, but to the good mood on the boat skippered by Iker Martínez have swept into second place. “The situation has improved considerably for us with respect to 'Puma'. We know that there's still a long way to go, but we're in a good place and if we carry on like this we could finish in second place, which would be a success”.
Iker Martínez was perhaps the most cautious as he made reference to his most immediate rivals: “we would love to finish second and it would taste of victory for us, but it's tricky. We've just got through a very difficult zone and both 'Puma' and 'Camper' have taken risks which have played out well for them. It is and it will continue to be very close”.
Welcome to the compression zone
Over the past few hours, the speeds being notched up by the top pack in the fleet have confirmed that the boats have reached the area of light air where the fleet will bunch up. How each boat handles the new situation will very much shape the final finishing formation in Auckland (NZ). On “Telefónica”, Fructuoso, the team's MCM highlighted: “We're in a transition period right now. After so many days of sailing, being in the fight and all of us being so close to one another is incredible!”.
Therefore the coming hours will be crucial. On board “Telefónica” the Spanish crew has their sights firmly focussed on “Groupama”, as “right now, anything could happen. They might tack too soon or find themselves with no breeze again. They're only one hundred miles away and we still have to make our way down the New Zealand coast, so anything could happen there. There are still chances, not big ones, but there's still a chance” said Andrew Cape, although he also spoke about “Puma”, and according to the navigator: “I've got as much faith as I can have now, but I'll be able to give you more of an idea tomorrow. It's difficult to know and it will depend on how we get out of this”.
Are we nearly there yet?
At 13:00 UTC “Telefónica” was just over 500 miles from the finish, but the tricky situation they are facing means that there's quite a variation in the estimated times of arrival, spanning a 24 hour range. In a best-case scenario, “Telefónica” might cross the finishing line early on Saturday morning (UTC) or maybe even earlier.
Andrew Cape was optimistic about the conditions awaiting the fleet over the next 24 hours as “the light air patch won't be too big”. The trickiest part will come immediately afterwards: “we'll get some very strong upwind conditions. It won't be a very pleasant sail because the sea will be pretty choppy. It's not the most comfortable thing in the world, but when you're so close to getting to shore the only thing that everyone wants to do is to finish, so we'll be focussing on that”.
Meanwhile, Fructuoso commented on the situation with the rest of the crew and the MCM didn't hesitate in writing: “Iker told me that if we get through this part well we won't have many problems up until the finish”. The MCM also chatted with Cape about the end of the leg: “Cape told me that the feeling he's getting from the boat is good and we're hoping for a happy leg ending in Auckland with all of our fans”.
Whatever happens, 'Capey', as he's known to his friends, concluded that after 18 days of extreme competition on board “Telefónica” life's not so bad. “Everyone has enough food and is getting some sleep. Nobody wants to get off the boat until we see land. We know we'll be finishing in a couple of days and we'll be out of here, so it's all good with no drama”. As Fructuoso added: “There are things that we are looking forward to the most, as you can imagine: a warm shower, eating, a shave, sleeping etc. But most of all we want to finish this leg as best we can in terms of positions”.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 4
SANYA (CHINA) – AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND): 5,220 miles
Day 18 – 13:00 UTC – 8th March 2012
1 Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), 460 miles from finish
2º Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +108.3 miles
3º Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +120.8 miles
4º Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +143.8 miles
5º Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +219.6 miles
6º Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), +244.9 miles
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