Over 30,000 people gathered on shore and hundreds of boats were on the water at midday today in Auckland (New Zealand) (23:00 UTC) to greet the three boats that had been fighting for the final two spots on the podium in this fourth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race: “Puma”, “Telefónica” and “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand”. “Groupama” had taken first place thirteen hours earlier, notching up 30 points on the scoreboard for the leg between China and New Zealand.
A totally thrilling finish!
The finish at the 'City of Sails' was one of the most exciting ever, with less than an hour between the three boats fighting for podium positions for the past three days. “The past few days have been very long and we've barely slept”, commented Cantabria's Ñeti Cuervas Mons as he arrived at Auckland.
The last 300 miles of this leg have seen an authentic match race between the three boats on their approach to the finish, with “Puma” taking second place, crossing the line at 11:55 local time and “Telefónica” taking the third position on the podium, finishing the leg at 12:43 local time (23:43 UTC).
“It was a very tight and a spectacular finish”, said Alicante's Pepe Ribes. “We've been so close to “Camper” for the past 36 hours and it's been very tricky. I suppose they know this area very well, because it's where they trained and in the end the gap was only just over one minute. When we entered the Hauraki Gulf we were over three miles ahead but they got closer and closer and there were lots of people out there willing them to get past us and willing us not to get in before them”.
Now Skipper Iker Martínez is breathing easily on the quayside and he also highlighted the intensity of the last few miles to the finish, a zone that the New Zealanders of course know very well: “The finish was very tight, with 'Camper' just behind us, thank goodness, just under a couple of minutes away I think. They had the advantage of knowing exactly where they were finishing and in as tricky an area as this it was a struggle for us but we were able to push forward and hold on. It was a lovely finish, for everyone I think, both in terms of the spectators here to greet us and for us as we were so looking forward to finishing”.
The podium was a struggle, with fourth placed New Zealand playing at home and managing to cut down their gap with “Telefónica” to just one minute and 33 seconds. The gap was very small after more than 20 consecutive days of racing, but it was more than enough for the Spanish boat to increase their lead on the Kiwi boat from 18 to 23 points in the overall regatta rankings.
Martínez reminded us that in this edition more than ever, “getting to the podium is difficult and it's costly. The level here is very high, the teams are really strong and getting a third in a leg like this, which was complicated for us right from the start is a great result. It's also very important in terms of the future and all we've got to do is to say congratulations to 'Groupama' as they sailed a fantastic leg, really great and they are the worthy winners”, said the Basque sailor.
New direct rival in the general rankings
Now “Telefónica”'s most direct rival has switched to “Groupama” with Franck Cammas in charge. With victory in Auckland, the boat is now in second place, 18 points from the Spaniards, which is the same difference as Martínez and co had with the New Zealanders as they left Sanya (China).
Three days for the crew and boat to recover
The stopover at Auckland has only just begun, with the countdown to the next leg kicking off as the boat crossed the finishing line for the shore crew (composites, sails, ropes, mast. Etc.) and exactly the same happening for the medical team (coach, doctor and physio) as they have the task of getting the crew back to form in just 72 hours, so that on Thursday 15th of March the guys can take on the official training race with the maximum guarantees.
“It's a real shame that in the end this is such a short stopover because the next leg is probably the toughest yet and I think that most of the boats have repairs to carry out and very little time to do them in, so I really hope everyone can find the time to fix what they need to and to do do it well, because breaking something on this next leg could be really costly”, said bowman Cuervas-Mons.
Joca flies home
One person who'll barely have time to catch a glimpse of Auckland is watch leader Joca Signorini who was collected from the finishing line by the team's 'rib' for a race to catch a flight at 14:40. The aim was to reach Stockholm, where he lives with his family, to meet his first child, a little baby girl, born on the eighth day of the leg, the 26th of February.
From crossing the finishing line, Joca had three hours to catch the first of three flights that would see him arriving in the Swedish capital. He got off the boat, went through customs (the officers in this case kindly agreed to await him on the quayside and to give his passport priority) and a Volvo courtesy car was waiting for him to transfer him to the hotel where he would pick up his suitcase to then go on to the airport, 45 minutes from the city centre, aiming for the 14:40 flight to Hong Kong.
Auckland-Hong Kong-Helsinki-Stockholm – quite a journey. He won't get there until tomorrow, 12th March. He'll spend just 48 hours in Stockholm. On the 14th he'll be flying back to New Zealand to reach Auckland by Friday 16th March at midday. That's the same day as the Pro-Am regatta. It's an exhausting trip, but seeing his daughter's face will surely be worth it.
PEPE RIBES, Boat Captain “Telefónica”
Third place is fantastic. During the first week of this leg, we thought that a fourth place for us and a fifth for the New Zealanders would be a good result. By the second week, we were already thinking that maybe we could get a third. We were very close to second and yesterday morning we were fighting against “Puma”. When we got through some islands we did a sail change and they got away from us. We forgot about second place and we began fighting for third. I think it's a really good result for the team and we've got to keep focussing on Galway.
The key on this leg for us was being able to hold out on the leeward side after Taiwan, because we were in a really bad position. We then went through the middle of the Solomon Islands and that's where we really stepped on the gas and we made up some ground.
ÑETI CUERVAS-MONS, Bowman
I'm a bit stressed and also very tired. The last few days have been very long and we've barely slept. Ten days ago we'd said that if we came in third it would be a victory, so we're very happy. The entrance into the bay was very close with “Camper” on our tail. Now we've got to get the adrenaline levels back down to normal and to be able to enjoy thais and get our heads around where we are.
XABI FERNÁNDEZ, Trimmer
We were doing really well until five or six miles out. When we got into the estuary we got a bit confused and we were very conservative with the lay lines and we weren't able to sail very well. The truth is that the New Zealanders caught up with us and we had a really hard time. That's not just true of today, but of the last three days which have been really difficult as we fought with “Camper” and “Puma” and even with “Abu Dhabi” who made a spectacular recovery, and we weren't able to relax for a moment. We are really happy with the result.
I think that the key, as it was in the second leg, was not to give up and to wait for our chance, which came and we even got into second. The last few miles were a very intense struggle with “Camper” and “Puma”.
FINAL RANKINGS LEG 4
SANYA (CHINA) – AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND): 5,220 miles
1. Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), 19d 15h 35m 54s. 30 points.
2. Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), 20d 3h 57m 50s. 25 points.
3. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), 20d 4h 45m 22s. 20 points
4. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), 20d 4h 46m 55s. 15 points.
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 20d 5h 20m 35s. 10 points.
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), 20d 5h 55m 43s. 5 points.
CLASIFICACIÓN GENERAL PROVISIONAL. Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012.
1. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), 121 points
2. Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), 103 points
3. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), 98 points
4. Puma powered by Berg (Ken Read), 78 points
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 53 points
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), 22 points
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