It's been just five days since “Telefónica” reached the 'City of Sails' and the Spanish boat, the current leader in the Volvo Ocean Race rankings, will be back in the running for six fresh points at 01:00 UTC. They'll be making their bid for those points in the bay at Auckland, a tricky racecourse for many reasons, where 15 to 18 knot winds are expected to blow during racing.
On the 11th of March, as the boats finished, there were numerous spectator boats and according to estimates by the organisers some 47,000 people were on shore to greet the fleet. For the in-port race tomorrow hundreds of spectator boats are expected to hit the water to witness the action.
“When we reached Auckland we saw the crowds of spectators. It really is very pleasing to see so many people who've come to see you, although for the in-port that may even be a problem because there isn't much space. It's a bit like a river here and there's some strong current and it's shallow in places and these boats have a large draft...” explained skipper Iker Martínez.
“We'll have a struggle between racing and being where the best shifts are and at the same time we've got to keep our eyes wide open because we're off 24 hours later and we don't want any sort of significant damage that may slow us down on the leg, as there are lots more points in play there than in the in-ports”, added Martínez.
One thing is theory and the other is putting that into practice. In the end, wherever points are in play, a competitive streak emerges and “every point counts”, as the Basque skipper says, so “we'll have to fight for every one. Let's hope we get some luck and more importantly that we don't run into any difficult situations”.
If the Spanish crew agrees on anything, it's that this will be a tricky in-port race where they'll have to be careful of the many handicaps around – shifty breeze, both in terms of direction and intensity, islands, shallow areas of water, spectator boats... And, as always, the start will be crucial in this regatta which is estimated to last about one hour.
“We'll be heading out of the river channel, whether there is breeze or not. We'll be reaching, beating upwind or downwind or whatever we get and then we've got a course marked out by buoys to complete to the northeast of Auckland and then it's back to port”, said Xabi Fernández, trimmer on “Telefónica”.
Spanish bowman 'Ñeti' Cuervas-Mons says that “this will be a very complex coastal race because conditions in the bay at Auckland can be very changeable, with lots of buoys and lots of lows...I think that's definitely an advantage for the local team (“Camper With Emirates Team New Zealand”), but we've demonstrated many times already that we can sail very well in the in-port races and I hope that we will at least make it to a podium position”.
With 121 points on the overall scoreboard so far, “Telefónica” is looking for another podium finish in Auckland: “I hope it goes well for us. As always with the in-port races, out aim is to get to the podium and it would be a good result”, concluded Xabi Fernández.
The race will be broadcast live at the website. www.volvooceanrace.com and will be shown on other channels at different times. Please check listings for your local channels also at the website above.
I don't like this sort of in-port racing. This type of race where you're going backwards and forwards for the spectators don't please me as a sailor and I don't think many of us enjoy them. I prefer windward-leeward racing, which is more tactical. I don't think these boats are made for this.
All of these races are tricky, but this one even more so because it's in a very narrow channel and there will be lots of spectator boats out there because sailing is a really important sport here... There's potentially a very high risk of crashing into a spectator boat or that something may happen out there...
It's a really complicated in-port and we're dealing with it as we have with the others. These are very short races and there are only a few of us on board and we have to be very careful, be safe and try not to make any serious mistakes and to sail calmly.
We have to fight to get to the podium. The race is in the bay and the wind is very changeable with lots of gusts and shifts... It's possible that “camper with Emirates Team New Zealand” may set off with an advantage as they're on home turf and in this sort of place, that shows, but we're going to go for it and to try not to lose out on the manoeuvres.
We're taking on this in-port race with a lot of uncertainty and with the feeling that anything could happen. This is a special sort of place. Auckland's talked about a lot, it's a well-known spot but the reality is that there are a lot of islands, a lot of channels... and it's not the best racecourse we can think of. The start, as always, is going to be very important.
The in-port race here in Auckland will be very difficult. We already saw how “Camper” pushed us hard at the finish, with lots of people out to cheer them on, both on shore and on the water. There were lots of people out there to cheer them on and to will us to slow down.
The race itself will be very close to the coast and the port, so there will be some very shifty breeze, both in terms of intensity and direction. It was be a crazy race, but spectacular to watch. There will a lot of changes in the lead and lots of sail changes. It will be tricky for us but we'll try to get to the podium. It will be very tough because there are teams that are already taking risks to get good results and in these conditions, that could mean madness.
PROVISIONAL OVERALL STANDINGS. 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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