The horn will sound for the start of the eighth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race next Sunday, 10th June at 13:00 local time in Lisbon, Portugal. Lying ahead are just under 2,000 miles between the Portuguese city and the French port of Lorient. The aim of the Spanish team is clear: “We want to do well enough on this leg to have a good chance on the final leg”, said skipper Iker Martínez speaking in Lisbon.
One thing is for sure, and that is that the overall standings in this regatta could make another complete turnaround even before next Sunday and that is because there is still the Lisbon in-port race ahead. It's shaping up to be a head to head battle between Iker Martínez and Franck Cammas with just three points separating the two entries in the overall standings.
Speaking today Xabi Fernández said: “Let's see if we are back in the lead or not at the start of this leg, as we've got the in-port in between. Whatever happens, the approach to this leg must be to fight as hard as we can to win it as everything's so tight now that there's not even enough time to be reserved, measured or to mark your opponent. There are only two legs left now and three in-ports and this is the final sprint, so that's all there is”.
The shortest leg... so far
Regardless of what may happen on Saturday 9th June, the “Telefónica” crew is well aware that the next leg is going to be a tough one. This time the key to the race won't just be about handling the conditions the leg might throw up, but it will also lie in negotiating what will be all out battle for the boats lining up to take on the 1,940 mile course.
“Of course the fight between 'Groupama' and 'Puma' has heated up, as they are the boats closest to us at the top and we're the entries with the greatest chances of winning this regatta”, commented Iker. “'Camper' has trailed behind somewhat after this leg but they could also push forward again so we have to take this on thinking that we have to stay ahead and try to win it if we can”.
They have a total distance of 3, 592.88 km with which to do that in, or in other money: 67 lengths of the Champs Elysées and 645 circuits of the Grand Canal at Versailles. However, despite these figures this will be the shortest leg so far and the organisers estimate that the boats will take approximately one week to complete the leg, which is also forecasted to be one of the most intense in the competition.
“Telefónica” will be fighting tooth and nail to reach Lorient in the lead as the winner of this leg will notch up 30 points on the scoreboard. “We always give all we've got, we're going full out and we haven't stopped thinking for a second about how to make the boat go faster and preparing it as best we can so that nothing fails... We've managed to do that well throughout the regatta, so in that sense this is another leg and an important one for getting back into the lead”, pointed out one of “Telefónica”'s helmsmen, Spaniard Pablo Arrarte.
A brand new Atlantic leg
As on previous occasions, this new leg will be raced entirely in Atlantic waters, but whilst the Miami (USA) leg to Lisbon (Portugal) was from east to west, the boats are now going on a route from the south to north and exiting the river Tajo promises war. “Telefónica”, and the rest of the fleet, have already suffered some of the complications the Tajo has to offer when due to the light airs and some strong counter current more than one of the boats were forced to anchor to avoid being dragged backwards.
Whilst the crews wait to hear if the course will include or not a passage through the Azores, in which case they would be put to starboard, it looks like the start is likely to be given with northerly winds, which are predominant at this time of year. “If they confirm that the route will take us to the Azores and then back to Lorient, the high at the Azores is where the differences are likely to emerge and they should be big enough that the final results will reflect these”, says Iker. “If there's a calm then it's likely to shape this leg, because the first boat to exit will have a big advantage”.
From Sunday, the penultimate offshore leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 begins.
(On how they will approach the leg if they set off in second place in the overall standings)
The approach to this needs to be the same setting off in first, second or even third place: to go out and do the best you can and to get the best possible result. If it's not possible, a second place is never bad and third is always there. Below that we're not talking about a good result any more.
With just two legs to go, whoever wants to win this has to win legs or at least come second. That has to be our aim: to be up at the front. Our objective is to do well enough in this leg to have a good chance at the last leg. If things play out as predicted and there may be calms, it will be a bit tricky and anything could happen and if anything does happen we'll have to try to make the most of it.
This has turned into a very interesting regatta again, with all sorts of conditions. It's possible we may start with fairly strong northerly winds from Lisbon, then as we head for the Azores it will die down and then after exiting the Azores anything might happen and it just depends on the weather. We should get some more or less strong winds and then as we take on the final sprint to Lorient we'll get a mixed bag and we'll have to fight. We've seen how all of the legs have been very tight. We crossed the Atlantic in eleven days and we all finished within two hours, I don't want to even think what'll happen from here to Lorient.
The approach to the leg doesn't change much because in the end the aim is always the same: stay in front, try to win the race and try to win the leg.
It's going to be a tricky and very important leg. We set off from Lisbon, we pass the Azores and then we climb up to Lorient. We might come across a mix of conditions, but it looks very much like we might get headwinds, upwind conditions which are in our favour, and not much wind. If for whatever reason the conditions confirm that we'll get light airs, maybe the organisers will take the Azores out of the equation and place the waypoint a bit higher so that the leg isn't too long.
RACING SCHEDULE FOR THE WEEK
Friday, 8th June
Pro-Am (11:00 UTC – 12:00 local time)
Saturday, 9th June
In-port race (12:00 UTC – 13:00 local time)
Sunday, 10th June
Start of Leg 8: Lisbon – Lorient (12:00 UTC – 13:00 local time)
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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