Over 6,700 miles of sailing across Southern Ocean, with some of the toughest conditions seen in recent editions of the race. Round Cape Horn and an unprecedented pit stop, with the boat resuming the leg 16 hours and 57 minutes later. “Telefónica” didn't stop clawing back miles until crossing the finishing line in Itjaí (Brazil) and at 19:22 UTC, just 12 minutes and 38 seconds behind the leg winners, American team “Puma”, “Telefónica” finished the Volvo Ocean Race's supreme leg. Yet again it was a thrilling finish.
This has been an amazing leg from “Telefónica” and an incredible reception at the city of Itjaí for the fleet, with over 25,000 people singing the name of Joca Signorini, watch leader on the boat skippered by Iker Martínez. The Basque skipper said: “it's incredible. There are so many people... A pleasant surprise and a real honour! It's really wonderful to finish here like this”.
An epic leg
On the 18th of March, some 20 days ago, “Telefónica” set off from Auckland (New Zealand). Ahead lay over 6,700 miles and the longest leg in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, with the course including a passage around the legendary and revered Cape Horn.
Conditions were tough right from the outset, with some upwind sailing and slamming featuring more heavily than ever. Along with the other boats, “Telefónica” had her fair share of problems, and on day 6 of the leg the boat was experiencing some delamination at the bow that the crew spent a week trying to repair with a knock-on loss of boat speed and caution taking over.
A few days into being in third place, Iker Martínez and his crew announced that they would make an unprecedented pit stop for repairs: at Cape Horn itself, meeting up with members of the shore crew for the repairs. Within 17 hours the team was back in the race, back in shape and 412 miles from the fleet leader “Groupama”.
“Why not dream that something good might happen?”, wrote skipper Iker Martínez from on board the boat. And it did. Five days later, and following the unfortunate dismasting of “Groupama”, the distance to leader was standing at just 53 miles.
With 70 miles to go to the finishing line only two miles separated the Americans and the Spanish, a figure that reached 0.4 miles with less than an hour to go until the leg ended.
“It's been amazing. We'd never have imagined that we could catch up with the guys in front, but we did”, said Iker as he arrived at Itjaí. “I really feel for 'Groupama' and they didn't deserve that to happen. In the end we caught up with 'Puma' and almost got past them, but they were faster and took the win. It was a well-deserved win and I think they did a fantastic leg”.
Xabi Fernández admitted that the last week had “gone very well. We set off from Cape Horn almost seven days ago 400 miles down and we got here having almost got past the leaders, so we're really happy”.
The toughest leg
All the crew agree that this was the toughest leg of the Volvo Ocean Race so far. “In terms of the weather conditions – for sure, but maybe not in terms of the racing”, said Jordi Calafat, who added with a grin: “When you're in the Southern Ocean it's pretty cold, and a person from Mallorca like myself doesn't handle that well”.
Iker Martínez said: “it's been a very tough leg on the boats with very tough conditions, very big waves at certain points and we found ourselves sailing to preserve the safety of the boat and crew, but well... that's what the round the world race is like”.
Joca back home
Despite the tiredness, one of the happiest sailors on board was Brazilian Joca Signorini, who was home, at last. From early in the morning echoes of his name could be heard throughout the Race Village. There's no doubt that he was quite the star of the day.
He's finished a Volvo Ocean Race leg three times in his native Brazil, with different results. Although victory will have to wait, that was no dampener for the Brazilian's celebrations: “The reception they've given us has been fantastic. The people of Itjaí and the organisers have obviously put a lot of work into this and it shows. It's been really special for us, as was the fact that we got here fighting for the lead in a very. Very tough leg”.
Even more in the lead
When the French entry “Groupama” and New Zealand's “Camper” finish in Itjaí, with 20 points going to third place and 15 to the fourth placed entry, the results for the leg will be in, a very tough leg where the boats and crews endured the wrath of the Southern Ocean.
With a second place finish, “Telefónica” adds 25 points to the scoreboard, increasing the team's total number of points to 147. Whatever happens with “Groupama” and “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand”, mathematically speaking, the Spanish boat has strengthened her lead, first gained following a leg win in the first leg of the regatta from Alicante (Spain) to Cape Town (South Africa) and increasing leg on leg.
Now past the mid-point of this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012, of the 180 total points available until now “Telefónica” has taken a total of 146. There are four hours to go and 5 more in-port races, so another 150 more points in play.
“This is a result which is surely going to be very important when it comes to the end of the regatta”, declared Iker Martínez.
Iker Martínez, skipper
Perseverance was the key. Since we started the guys on the boat have always made an effort to make sure the boat is always ready and that it doesn't get damaged, aiming to go fast, but trying to look after the boat at the same time. Some of the time we've managed it and at others we've been less successful, like when the hull delamination occurred. It's difficult to know when you cross that line and we did there to an extent, but we managed to solve the issue further ahead.
The shore crew: Incredible. They helped us at Cape Horn to reinforce the damaged area. They deserve some of the credit for us getting here in second place. The did a great job and I think that it showed yet again that in a round the world race, the boat matters, the crew is important and the shore crew are essential. It all has to work well together and if one of those parts doesn't work,then you haven't got a chance.
FINAL RESULTS LEG 5
AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND) – ITAJAÍ (BRAZIL): 6,705 miles
Day 20 – 6th April 2012
1. Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read). 30 points.
2. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez). 25 points.
Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), suspended racing
Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), suspended racing
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), DNF
Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), DNF
PROVISIONAL OVERALL RANKINGS. Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012.
1. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), 147 points
2. Puma powered by Berg (Ken Read), 113 points
3. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), 107 points*
4. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), 104 points*
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 55 points
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), 25 points
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