“Telefónica” has raised the stakes in the battle with the fleet frontrunners. The two leaders, currently absorbed in an ocean-going match race, moved closer to the South American coast during the night, whilst Iker Martínez and crew, making the most of the leading pair's determined efforts to mark one another, made a move East in the Atlantic. That option saw the crew move up to just 46 miles from “Groupama” and “Puma”.
On the 31st of March at 21:33 UTC, “Telefónica” resumed racing on this fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race following a brief pit stop at Cape Horn itself. At the moment of reincorporation, the frontrunners were some 412.1 miles in front, but now, just 87 hours later the Spanish team has managed to cut that gap down to just 46.5 miles. Three days of competition have been more than enough for Iker Martínez and his guys to close in on the front of the fleet by an impressive 365.6 miles.
Diego Fructuoso commented from on board the boat in his daily report, written on Tuesday in the early evening: “We've moved a lot closer to the two leading entries, 'Groupama' and 'Puma', who are very close together and can surely see each other. The distance with the front is now at less than one hundred miles and we're continuing to push as hard as we can to cut that gap down by as much as possible.”
With the new racing scenario evolving, Pablo Arrarte spoke of moving in on the frontrunners: “Of course, it's tough, but we're going to give it a try. There's going to be light air at the end of the leg and it'll be a bit chaotic and we'll have to see if we can catch up with them and fight at the finish to claw back what we can. We can always hope.”
For now things are looking bright for the blue boat. At 12 knots, a similar average being notched up by “Groupama” and “Puma” and “Telefónica” is sailing with winds of almost 20 knots from the North, and as the team's MCM Diego Fructuoso reports from on board: “If we get even closer over the next few days, things could become very interesting indeed for us. A 50 miles distance is an accessible gap in a regatta like this.” That last statement is an echo of the fact that nothing has been set in stone.
Keeping up the pace, with one missing
As “Telefónica” continues to gain North, the fairer weather is setting in and that has, of course boosted spirits among the crew, who have been forced to adapt their pace of work to make up for the loss of Antonio “Ñeti” Cuervas-Mons due to injury. “Pepe has had to take his place as bowman and Jordi has been left without a crew-mate. Between all of them, especially Iker, they are trying to make up for the hours, which means that there's even more work to go around on 'Telefónica',” explained Fructuoso.
Fortunately the appearance of some sunshine “has given us all a boost and although it's chilly, with this breeze we're comfortable,” concluded Pablo Arrarte.
Antonio “Ñeti”Cuervas-Mons, in Itajaí
Whilst on board “Telefónica” the crew were experiencing some reorganisation to make up for Antonio “Ñeti” Cuervas-Mons, the Spanish bowman himself landed at Florianópolis airport yesterday arriving from Ushuaia (Argentina), along with members of the shore crew: Horacio, Fernando and Alex. The city is close to Itajaí (Brazil).
Making the most of the pit stop, the Spanish bowman abandoned the leg last Saturday after suffering a back injury requiring medical treatment. In the afternoon in Brazil, “Ñeti” was already making his way to the hospital where tests would be carried out to determine the severity and reach of his injuries, which will be confirmed over the coming days.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 5
AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND) – ITAJAÍ (BRAZIL): 6,705 miles
Day 18 – 13:00 UTC – 4th April 2012
1. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), 630.9 miles from finish
2. Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +2.2 miles from leader
3. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +46.5 miles
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), DNF
Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), suspended racing
Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), DNF
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