The past 24 hours of the Volvo Ocean Race have done nothing but confirm the validity of “Telefónica”'s decision to reinforce their northern option. Along with the other boats in the fleet, the Spanish yacht is facing the final approach to the Strait of Malacca, now just 300 miles in front of her bow. Over the past 24 hours the boats will reach the obligatory waypoint at Pulua We (at the North of Sumatra, Indonesia) the island marking the beginning of the Strait.
All the boats placed their bets last night with the entire fleet tacking North at around 22:00, although “Telefónica” was the first boat to decide to do so without any variation in her course.
Early this morning, at about 08:00 the boats all tacked East to face the final stretch to Pulua We. The new fleet leaders, the New Zealanders on “Camper”, were the first to do so, followed by “Groupama” and “Sanya”. “Puma”, “Abu Dhabi” and finally “Telefónica”, held on heading North, leaving no doubt what option ESP-1 is backing.
Forecasts for the approach to the Strait indicate that the breeze could shift somewhat to the East, which could at first favour the boats further South. However, in the North “Telefónica” may have the chance to reach with some good conditions for it at good speeds.
However, good speeds are what “Telefónica” are already displaying, with the fastest averages in the fleet at the most recent position report, published at 16:00 UTC. Iker Martínez and his guys are notching up 14.1 knot averages, two knots faster than the leader, “Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand”.
“We're just a bit lower than the lay line in a position which could prove favourable. It really depends on the breeze. If the breeze moves as we think it should we could cross it in a very strong position. We'll have to see what happens in the end”, said one of the boat's Watch Captains from on board “Telefónica” today: Joca Signorini.
Malacca, the most tricky point on the leg
If there's been anything that has been made clear before, has been made clear during and will probably be crystal clear after this third leg, it's that all of the sailors out there racing agree that the Strait of Malacca will be key.
“The Strait of Malacca is really very complicated and it will be for everyone, I'm sure, with very shifty breeze, lots of current, intense shipping traffic, especially as we get to Singapore... so I'm in no doubt that it's going to be a critical point”, warned Joca Signorini, a Volvo Ocean Race 2008-2009 champion.
The opinion across the board is that there may be some compression in the fleet formation. Not only that, but the position of each of the yachts as they leave the Strait will be very important in terms of the remaining more than 1,000 miles to China, as Joca points out: “All of the boats are going to bunch together and in the Strait it's going to be important to try to get through the exit of Singapore in good shape to be in a good position for more steady breeze further ahead. In the last edition with Ericsson 4 we had a pretty good advantage in the Strait but we finished the leg in fourth place. It's tricky and you can expect almost anything there.”
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS STAGE 2 - LEG 3
Day 5– 16:00 UTC – 26th January 2012
1 Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), 1,905.5 miles from finish
2 Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +4.1 miles
3 Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), +4.3 miles
4 Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), +6.8 miles
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +32.4 miles
6 Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), +62.6 miles