This coming Sunday, July 1st, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet will be hearing the sound of the starting horn for the start of the ninth and final leg in the race, connecting the ports of Lorient (France) and Galway (Ireland). This is the defining leg of this Volvo Ocean Race and “Telefónica” will be taking it on with their batteries fully-charged, as Xabi Fernández explains: “I think that it's very important to sail a good leg and to try to make the best finish possible, to end on a high and to try to finish, of course. We'll be fighting for the podium, for that second spot which is still totally within our reach and right now whoever takes the leg of the three in the running will move into second and we'll be fighting with all we've got.” “Telefónica” skipper Iker Martínez backed that up by firmly stating: “This will be a final leg in which everyone can be assured that we'll be giving 200%.”
No sleep allowed
Predictions indicate that this is set to be a very close final leg of the round the world competition indeed. Exactly 485 miles over which the fleet will be giving every last drop they've got and that's why on “Telefónica” everyone is well-aware that getting to the podium in Galway requires maximum working effort, and that may mean doing away with the watch schedule all together.
Xabi Fernández explains: “On Sunday we begin the leg to Galway, the final leg of this Volvo which will be a dash. It's set to be a very short leg and with the met info we've got right now we're looking at under two days to finish the leg, some 40 hours of racing,” with the double Olympic medallist adding: “This will be a final dash on which I'm sure no-one will be resting or sleeping. Winning this last leg is really important and that's what finishing this very tough Volvo on a high or not may depend on, after we had been leading for almost the entire regatta before running into the complications we had recently.”
Jordi Calafat said: “We'll be doing a lot of downwind sailing, according to the weather forecast. It's a short leg, a final sprint that we can do in under two days. They will be two very tough and demanding days with no sleep because it will be a high speed dash to Galway. Perhaps we'll be approaching this leg differently because it probably isn't even necessary to have a watch schedule. This is a bit like the old short legs they used to do where there weren't any watch schedules and you just had to work full-on, the whole time because they were so short that you wouldn't even have time to get used to a watch pattern. We need to think about how to organise the crew. This leg gives one the opportunity to do things a bit differently to the two week legs.”
Speed: the key
Facing such a short leg, Iker was clear about one thing: “The final leg is a leg lasting just a couple of days, so it will be very important to get into a good position right from the start.”
According to the “Telefónica” skipper, speed will be the key because: “once we all start sailing, we'll all be very close to one another, so the fastest boat is going to have an enormous advantage although I imagine that it's unlikely that we'll see huge differences between the boats, so we'll have to try to push the boat to full speed the whole time, to maintain our concentration, to push hard. I think that the key lies in being faster than the rest. It doesn't make a difference why that happens, whether it's because your boat is better in these conditions, or because you are more focussed and manage to get more from your boat and your crew.” Because, as the double Olympic medallist concludes: “In the end whoever manages to go that bit faster on such a short leg is going to enjoy a big advantage.”
A question of... points
Before this edition of the round the world regatta draws to a close, the fleet will have to take on two more In-Port Races; one on Saturday 30th June in Lorient (France) and the other on the 7th July in Galway (Ireland) and one more offshore leg, which adds up to a total of 42 points to play for. It must also be said that there are a mere 28 points lying between the top four entries.
Whilst French boat “Groupama” leads the overall standings, between America's “Puma”, “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand” and Spain's “Telefónica” there are just five points, which means that the leader board could take a 360º turn.
The starting gun will be fired from the French waters of Lorient, the cradle of offshore sailing, at 13:02 local time. From there, the boats will head for the open seas until they make the legendary passage past the famous Fastnet rock, an area well-known for its strong currents and big seas and which may even decide the Galway (Ireland) podium. On “Telefónica” the crew know that until the leg finishes anything can happen, and as Jordi Calafat points out: “We'll be fighting right to the end for this, as we have been up to now. We just need a bit of luck, because lately we haven't had much of that.”
With the aim crystal clear, Iker Martínez said in an interview that: “the boat is fine now, ready for racing again. We've also been able to rest because the stopover was fairly long, so now everything is in good shape,” so according to the “Telefónica” skipper. “One hand we're not exactly where we'd like to be, but on the other, I think we're all really looking forward to finishing this round the world regatta and that means that we are also really looking forward to sailing a great final leg and finishing this on a high note.”
PROVISIONAL OVERALL STANDINGS. Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012.
1. Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas), 219 points
2. Puma powered by Berg (Ken Read), 196 points
3. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), 191 points
4. Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), 191 points
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), 122 points
6. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), 39 points
RACING SCHEDULE LORIENT (FRANCE)
Thursday, 28th June
Training Race 13:02 local time (11:02 UTC)
Prize giving Ceremony for Leg 8 17:00 local time (15:00 UTC)
Friday, 29th June
Pro-Am Race 12:00 local time (10:00 UTC)
Skippers Press Conference 16:00 local time (14:00 UTC)
Saturday, 30th June
In-Port Race 13:02 local time (11:02 UTC)
Prize giving In-Port Race 16:30 local time (14:30 UTC)
Sunday, 1st July
Leg 9 Start: Lorient – Galway 13:02 local time (11:02 UTC)
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