“Telefónica” continues to make her way across the Southern Ocean, which, in the words of Iker Martínez has hit them hard this time: “more than the breeze it's been the waves, which have caused us some pretty serious damage”. Proof of the choppy conditions since the start at Auckland back on the 18th March, is that none of the crew have taken their harnesses off on deck. “We started off with some strong winds and upwind sailing and we all had to make sure we were safely tied up”, said Martínez, and that's the way it's been ever since.
Some 750 miles from Cape Horn and the Spanish boat has reached a zone of calms they'd been expecting, but according to the Basque skipper it's “the start of a small depression that may bring us some even stronger winds than we've seen already on the leg so far”.
For now “Telefónica” is maintaining average speeds of 18.4 knots. The two frontrunners, “Groupama” and “Puma” are at 379.1 and 326.8 miles ahead of the Spanish boat according to the 13:00 UTC position report, so the gap has widened by some 10 miles since yesterday's report at the same time.
However, the crew headed up by Iker Martínez is sailing six knots faster than “Abu Dhabi” in fifth place, the boat that the Spanish crew wants to keep an eye on the most, given that fourth-placed “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand” is heading for the Chilean port of Puerto Montt for repairs, 800 miles (1,480 km) North of Cape Horn.
Over the past 24 hours Ian Walker and crew have closed in just seven miles on “Telefónica”, and it would be a good sign for the Spaniards if it stayed that way until after Ushuaia where the team will make a pit-stop for repairs once they've rounded Cape Horn.
Thinking about how to keep the pit stop as brief as possible
This is the most delicate point of the leg and the regatta, with Cape Horn to be rounded, a pit stop for repairs to be made and “Telefónica”'s most direct rival in the Volvo ocean Race overall standings “Groupama” leading the fleet on this fifth leg of the regatta.
The crew are well aware of this on board the boat currently leading the overall rankings: “We've got a lot to lose if we don't keep our heads screwed on and we don't accept losing some points on the French boat. It is very frustrating as we've been preparing for this leg for a long time. That's just how things can happen and now we've got to fight for third place in this leg, which would be a good result in terms of the regatta as a whole”, said Iker.
The stop for repairs at Ushuaia also requires some clever planning, as the skipper explains: “We haven't stopped thinking about how to keep this stop as short as possible. Our plan is to use more than the materials we've got available to us on board to reinforce the bow. We'd be able to forget about the problems we might have if we have a particularly violent crash with a wave and it would mean we'd be sailing a lot more at ease for the rest of this leg. Once we're in Brazil the shore guys will be able to repair the boat suitably and get her race ready for the next leg”.
As the team's MCM Diego Fructuoso explained, the crew have made contact with the shore crew to describe exactly what's needed to carry out the repairs and they are waiting for them in Ushuaia, “with a team ready to repair the boat in the shortest possible time”. He added: “Pepe has done a fantastic job with the repairs so far and I don't think we're going to have any problems getting to the port”.
750 miles to Cape Horn
With Cape Horn approximately 750 miles away, the crew are thinking more and more about the fact that they'll be laying eyes on the great cape once more... or at least that's the case for some, whilst for others this will be the first time they round the legendary landmark. The three youngest crewmembers fall into that second category: “Ñeti”, Diego and Zane.
The rest of the crew have rounded the cape before. Iker Martínez reflected on this in his most recent email from on board the boat. It was just over a year ago, on the 3rd of March 2011 that he and Xabi Fernández rounded Cape Horn on the IMOCA Open 60 “MAPFRE”, which the pair took silver with in the double-handed, non-stop, round the world regatta: the Barcelona World Race.
“There are eleven of us on this boat and almost all of us have rounded the cape before. This will be my fourth time rounding Cape Horn, the third in four years. That's quite a personal record for such an extreme feat, but it's nothing compared to Capey [Andrew Cape, navigator] who will be rounding it for the eighth time, and is the most experienced at this on “Telefónica”. I think second place goes to Neal [McDonald, watch leader] at six times and third place goes to Xabi who'll make it five with this time” wrote Iker Martínez.
Despite notching up such impressive figures, there's no doubt that this rounding will be a great source of satisfaction for all of the “Telefónica” crew: “Despite how the racing is going, rounding this cape is always an important maritime passage and it is a symbol of great personal achievement for all of us, because of the tough conditions, the cold and because of the risk undertaken when you sail down at these latitudes”.
There's not long to go now!
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 5
AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND) – ITAJAÍ (BRAZIL): 6,705 miles
Day 12 – 13:00 UTC – 29th March 2012
1. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), 2,279.3 miles from finish
2. Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +52.3 miles from leader
3. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +379.1 miles
4. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +1,236.8 miles
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +1,447.8 miles
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), DNF
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