After a day logging some great racing data, in just 24 hours “Telefónica” managed to edge to just one hundred miles from the leg frontrunners “Groupama” and “Puma”. The pair of entries have been engaged in head to head battle which has opened up some new options for the crew of the Spanish boat, as navigator Andrew Cape explained from on board the blue boat: “I’m sure they’re sailing at 110 per cent, but they are sailing each other because they don’t want to give the other boat a chance, so it does give us an opportunity to sail differently. Being in a different place, with forecasts that aren’t quite perfect means we’re in a pretty good place”.
“Telefónica” has definitely continued to surprise the fleet and from 16:00 UTC yesterday the team were pushing average gains per report published by the race organisers of 19 miles. That all added up to a gain of 147.5 miles on the frontrunners, having notched up average boat speeds of almost 15 knots.
The 16:00 UTC report today was confirmation of a job well done for the crew headed up by Iker Martínez. On a northeasterly course the Spanish boat was the fastest in the round the world fleet, yet again, making it four in a row and maintaining averages of over 14 knots, two more than the French and American boats.
Close hauled and some options open up
The new Atlantic situation has opened up an array of options aboard “Telefónica”, that will surely be exploited to the best possible end. Andrew Cape touched on this in a telephone call today: “We’ve got to be brutally honest really, it’s just been blind luck really. But we’re back in it, we’re here, and we’re not going to give up. There’s still a long way to go and things are never perfect around here so, there’s plenty of opportunities for something to happen, don’t ask me which way, good or bad, but they’re there. The next 24 hours is not fantastic, it’s just upwind for quite a long way. But once we’re settled in, we’ll just plug away at it. When it lines us, the variability that might come with that means you take one side or the other, getting lucky again or getting the right side could determine who is the winner”.
Iker Martínez confirmed that “we're close hauling now. The gap with the guys in front has reduced considerably, so we've still got hope. Until you cross that finishing line, anything can happen”.
The gain North is making itself felt – a lot. The sun has made a welcome appearance on “Telefónica” and according to Joca Signorini, this is “the first really sunny day since we left New Zealand. We're almost up at Mar del Plata, although there's still a bit to go, the temperature's climbed a fair bit, so we're somewhat more comfortable”.
It has now been 17 days since the fleet cast off their lines at Auckland (New Zealand) and sailing in the sunshine has provided a boost to spirits among the Spanish boat's crew, as MCM Diego Fructuoso reported in his daily blog from the boat: “The sun has come out on 'Telefónica'! I'd forgotten what it was like to sail like this. It's still quite cold, but the sunshine is very welcome. Also today can also go down as the day we've got the least wet in the last ten days”.
One thousand miles until the finish... time for a job list
Less than a thousand miles to go until Itjaí (Brazil), the finishing port of this fifth leg of the regatta and Iker confirmed today that calculations aboard the Spanish boat put the team across the finishing line this coming weekend. That means that the job list for the stopover is already being prepared, so that as soon as the boat finishes the shore crew (who arrive at Itjaí today from Ushuaia (Argentina) following the 17 hour pit stop) can launch all hands on deck into getting “Telefónica” prepared to perfection for Leg 6.
“The next issue we'll have is how to remove these incredible reinforcements from the bow and we'll be getting the boat ready, back to the same shape it was in on day 1... but that's another story. The shoe crew guys are now in Brazil making another mould for the boat, but this time it's an exterior mould in order to perform the best quality repair job in a short period of time”, said Iker, who continued on the subject of plans for the crew: “We're forecasting a finish at Brazil between the 7th and 8th and we want to be sailing by the 16th to test out the boat and the new rigging that we want to fit, as well as the in-port training... It's crazy... but it's all easier on shore as we've got more resources available”.
There's no doubt that long working days will ensue, and yet again, Iker Martínez seized the opportunity to thank the shore crew for their efforts, who lead by Horacio Carabelli do an excellent job day after day: “Imagine where we'd be if our shore crew wasn't as good. They deserve more than anyone to see us cross the finishing line in a good position. I've got the feeling that we've saved a match point, because with the complications we've had we could have lost a load of points, or worse... and here we are, still fighting in the race”.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 5
AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND) – ITAJAÍ (BRAZIL): 6,705 miles
Day 17 – 13:00 UTC – 3rd April 2012
1. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), 852.8 miles from finish
2. Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +0.7 miles from leader
3. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +95.7 miles
4. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +1,855.7 miles
5. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), suspended racing
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), DNF
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