The moment to gybe that everyone had been waiting for finally came on this eleventh day of racing on the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. The first to do so was fleet leader “Groupama”, followed by “Telefónica” with Iker Martínez who made the manoeuvre at about 02:00 UTC, just as the yacht reached the eastern ice limit, now well behind them. The Spanish boat is now sailing downwind on a port tack and is still holding onto third place, sailing at average speeds of 17 knots with west-northwesterly winds of 26.6 knots hitting peaks of 35.
Despite the freer limits to move South, “Telefónica” the boat which announced a pit stop in Ushuaia for repairs yesterday, is currently favouring the northernmost position of the three frontrunners. Iker Martínez and crew are at 53º South, whilst “Groupama” and “Puma” are at 56º S and 57º S respectively. The water temperature is currently at around 5ºC.
“The boat is doing well,” said skipper Iker Martínez in a telephone link from on board this morning. “We're able to do some good sailing but we don't want to push any faster because we're worried that it may cause further damage. We just want to keep sailing and making up the miles to Cape Horn.”
The latest estimates put the crew of “Telefónica” at the cape in four days' time, on approximately the first of April. The plan is to round Cape Horn and then head for the port of Ushuaia.
Repairs against the clock
There are lots of question marks surrounding exactly how long “Telefónica” will need to repair the delaminated section of the bow. It'll be a battle against the clock, with the two rivals ahead currently sailing with more breeze and faster than the Spanish boat, having pushed slightly further away from the blue boat over the past 24 hours.
Iker Martínez has confirmed that it is difficult to say exactly how long they will need but admits that “we'd like to get this done quickly, but you have to take as much time as you need to do the job properly, as it should be done.”
As the team's MCM Diego Fructuoso says, the Spanish crew must “keep an eye on the guys behind, especially on 'Abu Dhabi', which is at quite a distance now but is beginning to close in.”
The clock is currently at 1,023 miles between the Spanish team and the boat from the United Arab Emirates. However, it will be even more interesting to see what that figure stands at when Martínez and co finish repairs and restart the leg.
Will the repairs be complete before “Abu Dhabi” can catch up with them? “That's what we're hoping”, said the Basque skipper. “It all depends, and you never know, but I think we'll do it. We still have to round Cape Horn and then to reach port but I hope we'll manage it.”
“In any case, there are almost 2,000 miles to go to Itajaí after that, so we'll be able to do the repairs and there'll still be a long way to go until we get to the finishing line,” added Iker Martínez.
Diego Fructuoso is clear: “We have to defend the leg podium position and our provisional lead in the overall standings, which we have worked so hard for. We are 1,400 miles away from the stop, and then about 1,800 miles to Itajaí. We are confident that everything will be fine,” he signed off in his daily report.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 5
AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND) – ITAJAÍ (BRAZIL): 6,705 miles
Day 11 – 12:55 UTC – 28th March 2012
1. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), 2,682.3 miles from finish
2. Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +50.2 miles
3. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +370.7 miles
4. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +1,106.6 miles
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +1,393.7 miles
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), DNF
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