It was another very tight finish and three of the range of similar finishes in this regatta have been with “Camper” so far. “Telefónica” finished in the early hours of the morning, at 01:28 UTC, completing the 3,600 mile leg between Miami (USA) and Lisbon (Portugal). It took the boat 11 days, eight hours, 28 minutes and 27 seconds of sailing with an agonising finish for the Spanish team to finish in fourth place with a lead of one minute and 42 seconds on “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand”.
“Fortunately, once again it was a good finish for us and with just 100 metres to go we managed to get past 'Camper' and to stay in there despite the current. It was a very difficult finish, at night and without us being totally clear on how the line was marked out, but we managed to beat them. Fourth is not a good finish but it does mean some important points all the same”, commented Basque trimmer Xabi Fernández back on shore.
An agonising finish with a happy ending
With the top three leg finishers tied up on the quayside, the waiting was with bated breath at the Team Telefónica and Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand bases at Lisbon.
Following over eleven days of racing, both teams were entwined yet again in a thrilling finish, with the boats even dropping anchor at one point, just a mile from the finish and at 30 metres from one another laterally as they hit a wind hole and three knots of counter-current.
After raising the anchor it was “Telefónica” who managed to get across the finishing line first, ahead of “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand” with a lead of one minute and 42 seconds to notch up another 15 points on the scoreboard.
“We had a painful finish”, admitted skipper Iker Martínez. “To top it off there were strong currents and we even had to lower the anchor. We stopped and then got going again as we passed 'Camper', then they got past us, but we pushed back up ahead again... It was another chapter in this regatta which has been just as eventful since we left Miami, with no rest at all. It was a tough leg in that sense and we're happy to have finished in fourth with 'Groupama' in second. We can be more or less content with this”.
War wounds: no port daggerboard
As they reached Lisbon, the “Telefónica” crew revealed that in fact the boat had been sailing 'wounded' for the past three days, with one less daggerboard after having suffered a collision with what Iker Martínez thinks was a whale in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The crew chose not to report the damage so that at the finish through the Tajo estuary, where a tacking battle was forecasted, their rivals would not know that the boat was sailing without the port daggerboard and therefore would not make a specific bid to attack from that side.
“Telefónica” had been sailing with 50 per cent of the port daggerboard at 20 knots and with some good breeze. “Camper” was nearby, just three miles away to windward.
Iker described what happened: “We were sailing tacked to starboard when we hit something fairly soft and we presumed it was a whale because to break one of these daggerboards it needed to be something pretty big. The daggerboard was completely broken but at least the rudder was safe and didn't break”.
Thereon the crew worked at fixing the problem: “At first we sailed with the damaged daggerboard and then we pulled it up and repaired it, but it was very small and we just did what we could. That's where 'Camper' got past us because we were busy dealing with the issue and carrying out repairs and then we were lucky enough that we didn't need it for the final stretch and we were able to sail at one hundred per cent”.
New overall standings
Following the unusual Atlantic crossing the teams are still very much 'on guard'. For the first time in almost seven months of racing the leader at the top of the overall standings for the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 has changed with Franck Cammas' “Groupama” moving into the top spot with a narrow lead of just three points on Iker Martínez and “Telefónica”.
There are also changes in third place, now in the hands of American entry “Puma”, eleven points behind the Spanish team. That has seen Chris Nicholson's team from NZ “Camper” pushed down into fourth, nine points away from third. It's a totally new podium line-up in Lisbon.
In many ways the changes haven't taken Martínez or his crew by surprise: “We always thought that things would be tight in Europe”, said the Basque skipper. “However, during the entire regatta we've been up at the front with more points than we'd ever imagined. It didn't go so well for us further ahead and the position we're in now isn't as good as it was in Brazil or before then, when we were in the lead, but we have to be realistic – this isn't so bad and if we react well and sail well we have a good chance. Right now it's all about turning this around and aiming for things to go well from here”.
Pepe Ribes was even more explicit as he reflected in the situation before stepping off the boat: “I'd have loved it if in the other editions I've been involved in I as in the position of possibly winning this with just two legs to go. We just need to keep fighting, all the teams are strong: who performs well wins, just as 'Abu Dhabi' showed here and that's who deserve congratulations. They won the leg with a slow boat and that is really something and shows that good sailing wins. Everything is still wide open and there to be fought for”.
With no time to waste, this morning (Friday) “Telefónica” will be lifted off the water for a comprehensive service set to take approximately five days.
Xabi Fernández, trimmer
Last night was really important and that we were well-positioned. We began to emerge from the calm after sitting still for five or six hours but just as it looked like we were getting away it caught us again. The boats beside us, “Groupama” and “Camper” gained tow miles on us in almost four hours. This morning's loss was brutal, but these things happen... So yes, last night was very important in terms of the end result and the test of that is the fact that “Groupama”, who were with us almost won the leg.
(On the broken port daggerboard)
As always, you need to look on the bright side of things as it could have been a lot worse and we could have really damaged the boat seriously. Thank goodness it barely felt the hit, although we'll have to take a really good luck now at what the damage is.
With the windward daggerboard we managed to make it along ok. We got close to “Camper” until they got past us in this morning's hole. We resolved the situation well and it almost didn't have too much of a knock-on effect, but these things are never good.
Pepe Ribes, boat captain
It's been a difficult leg with very changeable conditions and we've also had some problems with the boat which meant that we trailed a bit and found it hard to stay up at the front. Yesterday we got the chance to climb ahead but we were unlucky and the breeze dropped and came in from the north. We struggled right up to the finish. It's been very stressful on the boat but we've got five more points which will be worth a lot when we get to Galway.
FINAL RESULTS LEG 7
MIAMI (USA) – LISBON (PORTUGAL): 3,590 miles
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 30 points
2. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), 25 points
3. Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), 20 points
4. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), 15 points
5. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), 10 points
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), 5 points
PROVISIONAL OVERALL STANDINGS. Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012.
1. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), 183 points
2. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), 180 points
3. Puma powered by Berg (Ken Read), 171 points
4. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), 162 points
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 104 points
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), 32 points
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