The countdown is on and it looks like this leg of the Volvo Ocean Race is likely to finish during the early hours of the morning, local time. With under 170 miles to Lisbon (Portugal), the entire fleet is grouped within a margin of 66 miles with “Telefónica” almost 32 miles from the podium positions. Nothing has yet been decided and positions may switch around from one moment to the next, even with the boats in such close proximity of the finishing line. We'll have to wait until the early hours of the morning, according to calculations to see how this seventh leg of the race that began back on the eleventh of May in Miami (USA) will finish.
We are south and you are north
The final stretch of miles has seen the fleet split into two clear camps: north and south. Yesterday afternoon “Telefónica” and “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand” chose the south to cross the patch of high pressure with light airs, whilst leaders “Abu Dhabi”, “Puma” and “Sanya” chose to attack to the north. “Groupama” remained in between the two, tipping slightly in favour of the northern option. This strategy is surely set to make an impact on the final results at the Portuguese port.
Last night was crucial for the boats on these final miles to the leg finish and the boats were quite clearly slowed right down. It wasn't a straightforward night aboard “Telefónica” and the light airs shook up the fleet. The speedos on the boats hit just one, two or three knots on various occasions throughout the night.
At 10:00 UTC “Telefónica” was still navigating a tricky area. The wind speeds for each of the entries decreased as one traced down the rankings for the leg. “Abu Dhabi” was getting 19 knots, second placed “Groupama” 14.4 knots, third placed “Puma” 13.5 knots. Iker Martínez and co were the unlucky ones with just 8.4 knots of northerly breeze which they are squeezing speeds of 10 knots out of.
“I'm writing from the port side of “Telefónica” which means we're getting northerly winds to Lisbon. It seems as if the light patch didn't last as long as expected, but I say 'seems' because we're still in a tight spot,” said Diego Fructuoso from aboard the boat this morning.
At 14:00 UTC “Telefónica” is sailing at 21 knots of speed, the same speed than “Puma” and one knot less than “Groupama”.
Do not sleep
There's no letting up of the pace aboard “Telefónica” both on deck and at the nav station. The team's MCM Diego Fructuoso said that the Spanish team is “making the most of every little gust to get the sails moving. We're sailing with the Code Zero now and I've just heard Iker gives the order to prepare the Genoa for what may come. It's a good sign that we're moving to a smaller sail, because that means there is some wind,” he wrote early this morning.
The distance to finish is decreasing, but the pace is picking up to coastal race pace. It's important to keep a cool head because the light airs can try even the steadiest nerves, especially if the boats up ahead are sailing at a faster pace.
“We're almost in in-port mode, with almost everyone on watch working as hard as they can. No-one's going to sleep on here until we get to Lisbon, I'm sure. The guys shut their eyes on deck when they can, but every metre and every miles is crucial,” explains the Spaniard.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 7
MIAMI (USA) – LISBON (PORTUGAL): 3,590 miles
Day 11 – 14:00 UTC – 31st May 2012
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 98.2 miles to finish
2. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), +15.8 miles
3. Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +35 miles
4. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +55 miles
5. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), +60.8 miles
6. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +66.7 miles
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