Crowds gathered at the port of Itajaí (Brazil) this afternoon to bid farewell to the Volvo Ocean Race fleet who are now racing their sixth leg of the regatta, with the finishing line at Miami (USA). The response from Santa Catarina was overwhelming, not only to the race itself, but especially to Team Telefónica, with the regatta's only Brazilian crew member aboard. It was felt by the Spanish team who were made to feel at home: “The Itajaí stopover has been marvellous and even more special for me, being Brazilian, and in the end Team Telefónica became the home team here in Brazil,” said Joca Signorini who has been the local hero of the past 16 days.
“It's been a fantastic stopover and I'm sad to leave. We've made a lot of friends here and I'm sure we'll be back,” said Iker Martínez, skipper, before setting off. “There's no doubt about the fact that they have won a return visit for the regatta here to Itajaí. They really showed what a stopover should be at this level of racing. People here have been following our progress and have been very warm and everything was impeccable. I don't think that you could ask for more from a stopover.”
14:00 sharp Itajaí time and 17:00 UTC and the starting gun was fired for the start of the sixth leg of a total of nine to be raced in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. Before heading out to the open sea, the fleet negotiated a 7.8 mile course between buoys, with six legs and some decent breeze from the south, between 10 and 15 knots.
Iker Martínez and his crew set off focussed and made a strong bid to the windward side of the course, taking a clear lead from the start, followed by “Puma” and “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand”. “Telefónica” hit a windless patch at the fourth mark when the Americans kept their foot firmly on the gas to take the mark with an eleven second lead on Iker Martínez and co, which was bumped up to 16 at the next mark.
“Telefónica” set course for the open sea at a good pace in the wake of Ken Read and his crew.
Jordi Calafat, “Telefónica”'s helmsman, had already forecasted a possibly speedy initial 24 hours and that's exactly what has happened, as can be seen from the first stream of data through from the boats, with “Telefónica” and “Groupama” notching up average boat speeds of 22 knots.
Next key point?
As they were asked about “Telefónica”'s chances in this current leg, the crew continued to exercise prudence, although on board there's only one clear strategy: to fight up until the very last mile of the course, especially at the start and up to the Equator: “We are going to be quite lucky, because we are setting off with southerly winds, which will give us a good push to Cabo Frío and then there should be a transition period from there to the Equator... that's where we'll play for this race: you might not win there, but you can lose it from here to the Equator.”
Once they are past that point, it will be almost a straight line to Miami, with the regatta possibly resembling something of a greyhound dash to the finish. “I don't think there will be too many position shifts there,” said Xabi Fernández. We'll have to wait and see, but “Telefónica” have a clear objective: “As always: to make the podium and try to win the leg,” finished the Basque trimmer.
JOCA SIGNORINI, watch leader.
We've been lucky in the end because we'll set off with more southerly breeze than initially expected, so the start of the leg will be fast. The approach to the front just after Cabo Frío will be very important and from there the Southeasterly Trades will kick in on the northeasterly coast of Brazil and we'll sail right up the Brazilian coast. It's a tricky leg in terms of lots of cloud, which can mean you waste a lot of time or gain a lot of time too. What concerns me most is the tactical side of navigating these clouds in relation to the rest of the fleet.
It was a real honour for us to reach Itajaí and I'd like to congratulate the organisers and thank everybody who turned up to support us over the past few days and especially today.
PABLO ARRARTE, helmsman.
We really appreciate seeing lots of people at the start. We're going for the leg. Let's see if we can scrape back the points we gave away yesterday. We're really looking forward to starting and let's hope we can get a good result in Miami.
For me the worst leg is over, especially because of the cold, which I hate. This leg will be warmer, although I'm sure you'll hear us complaining about the heat later on (laughs). The plan for this leg is to start strong and not to give an inch away. There will be a lot of showers and storms on the leg, so not getting stuck under a cloud with no breeze will be very important. We have to be very careful, go day by day and try to stay up front and go faster than the rest.
PROVISIONAL OVERALL STANDINGS. Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012.
1. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), 149 points
2. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), 133 points
3. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), 124 points
4. Puma powered by Berg (Ken Read), 117 points
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 58 points
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), 25 points
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