Following the in-port race at Auckland, with the overall leader Team Telefónica finishing in sixth place, it's now time for the ultimate leg of the Volvo Ocean Race to kick off: over 6,700 miles across the Southern Ocean, with a rounding of the legendary Cape Horn and a return to the Atlantic Ocean, a sea the crews left behind them on the 12th of December during the second leg of the regatta.
The in-port race kicked off on time at 01:00 UTC in the Waitemata Harbour at Auckland (New Zealand). The local team won a race that didn't go “Telefónica”'s way, with Iker Martínez and co finishing in sixth place.
“80% of success in these races is the start and we didn't manage to do a good one”, said Alicante's Pepe Ribes, back on shore. “The best side was the right, where 'Camper Team New Zealand' were and we were to the left. That set the pace for most of the race and then further ahead at the leeward mark below the bridge we lost any breeze and 'Sanya' and 'Abu Dhabi' got past us”.
Iker Martínez said: “This new competition format with an in-port one day and the leg start the next, means that if you do win, you can't really enjoy it but perhaps the upside is that if you don't do so well you can run straight into the leg. It's been a tricky day, there wasn't much room for sailing between the other boats and the shore and really there were various other boats going fast from the start, very close to land. The others did better than us, and we knew the level was good out there and if you don't manage to do so well you get stuck behind, and that's what happened to us”.
“The good thing is that with the leg start the next day you can forget about doing badly straight away because you have to focus on the next thing, but when you win, it's the opposite. Right now focussing on tomorrow is key”, highlighted Ribes.
Focus on tomorrow's start
It'll be at 01:00 UTC, during the night of Saturday and the early hours of Sunday morning when the starting gun will be fired for Leg 5 of this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, a leg described by Iker Martínez as probably the hardest of this round the world regatta and where there is a possibility of one of the boats breaking the speed-distance world records for a 24 hour period.
“We have to think about the leg starting tomorrow”, emphasised the “Telefónica” skipper. “It looks like we'll be starting with a lot of upwind sailing and then we'll get quite a lot of downwind breeze, so it will be a complex leg on which the boats will do some very fast sailing. There will be teams who choose to take big risks and we've got to be intelligent enough to try to stay ahead but at the same time trying not to break anything, as there's still a lot of round the world sailing left to do”.
This leg will be doubly special for Watch Leader Joca Signorini who will be returning to his birthplace: “This is a leg I've been really looking forward to, with the Southern Ocean, Cape Horn and then we reach Brazil. There's no doubt that this is the toughest leg in the race. Everyone who competes in the Volvo wants to do this leg, sail down at these latitudes and round Cape Horn. I think it'll take us ten days or so to get there and another six to get to Itjaí. For me reaching Brazil will be very special and I hope we'll be doing it in first place so that we can really celebrate”.
With less than 20 hours to go until the leg start, the “Telefónica” crew are absorbed in last-minute details: “As always, it's a shame that we had the in-port today and the leg start tomorrow. We've got to switch into another mode. We've got a lot to prepare, to load up the boat and then we've got a very complicated leg that will last 20 days or so... but mentally we're prepared for it and in terms of what really matters, morale is high”, concluded Fernández.
It's going to be a tricky leg. At least until we get to Cape Horn and after that there are another one thousand or so miles of more unstable breeze. We have to take care with the boat and the crew. It's going to be very cold, the water will be very cold indeed and an error could even mean losing one of the crew.
All of the in-port races are tricky and we knew that this one would be too because it would be a much more limited course, within the channel and on a very narrow racecourse. We fought all the way, but we didn't do well at the beginning, then we passed a couple of boats and on the second upwind leg we dropped back again. It wasn't a good race for us, but it was tough and we did all we could.
FINAL RESULTS In-port regatta Auckland (New Zealand).
1. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson). 1h 0min 38s. 6 points.
2. Puma powered by Berg (Ken Read). +0:54s. 5 points.
3. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas). +1:26. 4 points.
4. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson). +2:20. 3 points.
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker). +2:52. 2 points.
6. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez). +3:27. 1 point.
PROVISIONAL OVERALL STANDINGS. Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012.
1. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), 122 points
2. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), 107 points
3. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), 104 points
4. Puma powered by Berg (Ken Read), 83 points
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 55 points
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), 25 points
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