Whoever put the 'Pacific' in 'South Pacific' surely had a great sense of humour. That is surely running through the minds of the crews who have been battling against the conditions the famous Southern Ocean conditions for days now. The past 24 hours has been eventful to say the least in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet: 50 knot winds, repairs, a blow or two, position changes, speeding up and slowing down... “Telefónica” with Iker Martínez is now in second place having pushed past “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand” early this morning, who also reported a delamination issue with their bow that they are attempting to repair. North American entry “Puma” is in third, whilst the winner of Leg Four, French boat “Groupama” continues to lead on the seventh day of racing on the round the world regatta's supreme leg.
In second place, 18 miles from the leader
Since yesterday (Friday) afternoon the leader in the overall standings for this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, Spain's entry “Telefónica” was charting a more southerly course than the other boats in the leader-pack, gaining windward without giving an inch nor letting up in the speed stakes. Some hours earlier Iker Martínez and co had moved into third place, pushing Ken Read's “Puma” back, who in a move in the opposite direction to the Spanish boat chose to climb North.
At about 02:00 UTC “Telefónica” reaped the rewards of the move overtaking the New Zealanders on “Camper” and currently in second place, the yacht is the furthest South in the pack of frontrunners.
The most recent position report, published at 13:00 UTC reflects that the entry skippered by Iker Martínez is sailing with average winds of 32,6 knots, although in the past 24 hours, the top four entries have recorded peaks above 45 knots, reaching even 50 knots (92.6 km/hr), as happened on “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand”.
The leader is only 18 miles ahead of “Telefónica”, whilst third-placed “Puma” is 25.7 miles astern. “Camper with Emirates Team new Zealand” is now in fourth, 56.1 miles behind the Spanish team. That means that the top three entries are currently within a margin of just 74 miles from on another and Martínez says that this: “is a comfort. If something happens on your travels it's always good to know you've got a mate nearby and in this case we've got three, which is very fortunate indeed”.
Safety vs Speed: making miles, minimising problems
Despite the very strong winds pushing the fleet, a glance at the distance runs for the past 24 hours reveals that none of the boats have logged distances over 479 miles, with safety obviously knocking speed off the top of the priority list.
Iker Martínez himself admitted today that “the boat could sail at 30 knots the whole way, but I don't think it'd last more than ten minutes without falling apart like that, so we're going at 18-20 knots, 'chucu-chucu' as my wife Barbara calls it”. The average speed of “Telefónica” at the last position report was 18 knots.
The most important thing for now is to keep both the boat and crew in one piece, as well as “being intelligent and knowing how to weigh up the risk with the speed”, as the double-Olympic medallist says.
It seems as if that goes for the whole fleet. “It's almost as if we'd all got together to agree to stick together until Cape Horn and then after that if the wind drops we can puff our chests back up, but for now there's nothing else to be done but to keep our heads low, to make the miles whilst minimising problems”, added Iker.
In his email today (Saturday) skipper Iker Martínez revealed a situation experienced on board yesterday that reflects that thins are “not easy down here” with “a couple of days of immense swell”.
Yesterday a wave described by Martínez as 'poisoned' broke the aft post which supports the sails on deck, also hitting two crew members and affecting the wheel on its way. “Jordi (Calafat) went flying from the wheel due to the impact of the wave and Ñeti (Cuervas-Mons) also flew and fell on top of him. The sails broke the wheel protection tubes and blocked it, but it wasn't broken... we couldn't steer for a while, but it was fine and nothing else happened. We were very lucky”, said Martínez.
“The two guys fell against the aerial frame which broke at the starboard base, but luckily they didn't break the cables, which would have meant losing our GPS signal and any connection with the outside world and all that it would have implied. We were able to fix it with some ratchets and by stacking further towards the bow for now and the rudder system is fine. What a situation”.
Another reflection that Martínez touched on was the importance above all in these waters and in these conditions, of having good seamanship: “There's no doubt that the South Pacific pushes you strive to be a better seaman. Down here we put aside the 'yachtsman' side of ourselves to strive to be better seamen, as that's what's going to get us to Brazil”, said the Basque skipper.
To get there, there are still 4,489 nm to go… Fasten your seat belts guys…
To read the last quotes from navigator Andrew Cape, click here.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 5
AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND) – ITAJAÍ (BRAZIL): 6,705 miles
Day 7 – 13:00 UTC – 24th March 2012
1. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), 4,470.8 miles from finish
2. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +18.3 miles
3. Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +43.7 miles
4. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +74.1 miles
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +646.40 miles
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), +1,447.7 miles
NOTE: “Team Sanya” is heading towards New Zealand for repairs.
Skipper Iker Martínez explains how is the situation on board "Telefónica" and tells us what has happened in the last 24 hours
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