On course north and almost at the height of French Guiana, Iker Martínez and “Telefónica” are hoping that the Doldrums will permit a new attack on their most immediate rivals: American boat “Puma” and “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand” before they make their exit from the belt of calms at the Equator. It has now been eight and a half days since the leg began and the Spanish boat had completed half of the course between Itajaí (brazil) and Miami (USA) at average speeds of 12 knots. The final stretch of the Doldrums will be key. Who will catch the highway to Miami first?
One eye on the clouds
The first night in the North Atlantic wasn't easy, with the Spanish boat locked in a head to head battle with the New Zealanders with less than 2,500 miles to go to the finish.
Until 04:00 UTC, the boat skippered by Iker Martínez had been sailing at average speeds of 17 knots, when, as Diego Fructuoso pointed out: “Here on 'Telefónica' the breeze has never dropped below 12 knots”. However, the situation took a radical turn at the 07:00 UTC position report when speeds saw a steep drop, although the Americans and New Zealanders saw “Telefónica” maintain a knot more speed than their boats.
Down in the Doldrums, the board this game is played on is a minefield, with clouds featuring as the lethal weapons of action. The close weather forms clouds which house an array of difficult conditions with strong intense bouts of rain, storms and rapid drops in wind speed, calms and bursts of accelerations... Not getting stuck in the clouds is key, especially if the rest of the competition are managing to avoid them, as this is where a considerable amount of distance may be lost.
It looks like the drop in speed at the 07:00 UTC report, from which the boats have now fought back, may have been down to one of these phenomena. Thankfully there have been no devastating consequences for “Telefónica”. The Spanish boat has also become one of the fastest in the fleet having covered 322 miles over the past 24 hour run, notching up 27 more than “Puma”.
Less wind, more days of sailing
At 13:00 UTC “Telefónica” is sailing with light winds of between ten and twelve knots from the east, reaching average speeds of twelve knots.
According to Diego Fructuoso's latest report, the light airs situation at the front of the fleet is turning into quite a challenge, also because there is so much to play for; “None of us have any breeze right now and anything could happen and it really is a fairly exasperating situation.Here on board you can almost sense the importance of the point that we're at, because you might push away or get stuck whilst the rest of them make a run for it”.
The biggest problem that the lack of wind is causing is directly linked to the days left of racing on this leg. It looks like the difficult conditions will delay the fleet's arrival at Miami, which means that food and on board resources will have to be carefully rationed. Fructuoso said: “I imagine that we are going to find ourselves in a few situations like this over the next few days because we've got 2,000 miles to go, which we might usually do in a week, but this time it could take us up to eleven days to get to Miami. That means we'll have to save food and fuel to be prepared for what's ahead”.
With “Telefónica” making the most of the light airs, life on board the boat continues, despite the extreme Equatorial heat, “we're almost all just in our swimming shorts or we've got our T shirts off because the heat is brutal. Sleeping, moving around below deck, eating... Everything is more difficult at such high temperatures”, concluded Diego Fructuoso.
In any case, there's a consensus on board: it's much better to put up with the heat than the extreme cold of previous legs. So, on we go!
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 6
ITAJAÍ (BRAZIL) – MIAMI (USA): 4,800 miles
Day 9 – 13:00 UTC – 1st May 2012
1. Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), 2,317.4 miles to finish
2. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +1.8 miles
3. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +2.8 miles
4. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +81.8 miles
5. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), +93.7 miles
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), DNS
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