On board “Telefónica” the short-term aim is clear: gain South to take on the area of calms ahead of the chain of squalls that will take the fleet down to the legendary Cape Horn. Whilst the organisers are constantly checking the situation for icebergs to see if the ice exclusion zone must be modified.
“Now we're on a southerly course to see if we can catch the winds to push us down from the West” said Pepe Ribes from on board the yacht, whilst Iker Martínez explained: “The boat is still in perfect condition but we'll make the most of the lulls to give everything as much of a check over as we can because after that we're likely to get back into a routine of very high speeds until we get to Cape Horn. Once this thing really gets moving there's nothing else to do but to hold on and push forward”.
Fortunately the decisions taken on board “Telefónica” appear to be the right ones and now “we're in a very good position to be able to get through the calms that will take us through to the South for real, with strong winds and cold waters to follow”, confirmed Iker.
For now, and according to the 16:00 UTC position report the Spanish team is second, followed by “Puma” from America. French entry “Groupama” is leading whilst on the Great Circle Line (the shortest possible route) the distances are small, if the North-South distances are calculated, which are key right now, “Telefónica” has a 10-mile lead approximately.
With “Telefónica” still in the lead and the yacht's bow pointing South the Volvo Ocean Race organisers have been busy monitoring the progress and evolution of icebergs which could appear on the fleet's route, which is why the ice exclusion zone changes over a matter of hours, as do the rankings.
An unknown 'Roaring Forties'
Sailing down at 42º South, at the 'Roaring Forties' the conditions are more pleasant than those experienced during the first few days of this fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race as “we had strong head winds on the first day and the first night and then the breeze shifted little by little and we were all able to pick up speed” said the “Telefónica” skipper, before adding: “The last 24 hours have been fast but the biggest change has been the swell with the waves now shaking us around as they did at the beginning”.
The feared South is proving kinder than it has been on other occasions, at least for now: “the water temperature is at 18ºC... quite a treat”, said Iker who knows from direct experience that the situation will take a radical turn from one moment to the next as “Telefónica” makes its way further and further down into the uncertain latitudes: “The cold water is by far the toughest thing on this leg and that's still to come, but I think we'll have enough time to build ourselves back up after the battering we got at the beginning before we get to it”.
Early hours to forget
On board “Telefónica” no one's forgetting the first few days of the competition in a rush. For Pepe Ribes it was: “what they'd warned us we'd get: 20-35 knots upwind for 24 hours with lots of tacks to boot. It was tough but brief”.
Iker Martínez revealed that not all of the crew had taken it as lightly as Ribes: “What we went through was the worst possible thing for the body. Starting off a leg like that going straight into upwind conditions like that with strong winds... well it takes the body time to get used to and almost no-one can eat and some, those who are most badly affected get ill and are sick and are weak for hours or even days”.
As always, the Spaniards haven't lost their great sense of humour and despite the difficult situation experienced on board they've even developed some of their own slang, as Iker explains: “On board definition: 'piece of meat' and not 'a person', said of the crew member who is sea-sick or weak because of any given circumstance. However many miles we've got on us, we've all been through these times and often suffered in silence. Over the past few hours we've recovered a few of the crew who are now back to being more 'people' than 'pieces of meat', so little by little we're returning to normality”.
Diego Fructuoso who will take on his first rounding of Cape Horn in a question of days explained that on board the situation was tricky and the 'war' has left a broken bunk and the galley in quite a state: “We left Auckland on Sunday and from when night fell to this very morning we've had some really tough conditions. So you get an idea – we've broken a bunk and the entire galley crashed onto the floor. Everything's ok, just that when it fell, after a jump it broke. Xabi is fine. We also have two hangings where our plates, cereals and toothpaste go... and they also brake with everything being scattered all over the floor”. It's been, as the Spanish MCM says: “a hellish 24 hours” and according to him what lies ahead is going to be “tough, very tough”.
Despite the difficult conditions on board, the good humour remains strong and before reaching the transition zone, Iker joked: “Maybe we'll even get a chance to take our boots off for an hour or two. Since I put mine on at the port when the boat was still tied up, I haven't taken them off. It's a sure sign you're notching up the miles, which is what really matters in the end”.
When “Telefónica” catches the train of squalls South the boots will be firmly back on as Cape Horn will be in the sights: “One 'piece of meat' says to another at a tough point: 'All this, just so we can pee to windward...'. Tradition says that those who reach Cape Horn can pee to the windward side, which is fairly tricky if you don't want to get soaked, but it's a tradition, just like the whole earring thing”, said the skipper of the Spanish yacht.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 5
AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND) – ITAJAÍ (BRAZIL): 6,705 miles
Day 3 – 16:00 UTC – 20th March 2012
1. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), 6,063.3 miles from finish
2. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +1.5 miles
3. Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +1.8 miles
4. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +13.4 miles
5. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), +29 miles
6. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +406.8 miles
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