It's now a question of hours before "Telefónica" reaches Auckland (New Zealand), the final destination port on this fourth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Only 110 miles are separating the Spanish team from dry land, but there's a lot still to be decided before they get there, with the second place still to fight for. Having covered, 5,000 miles and with 20 days of extreme racing under their belts everything is going to be decided on the finishing line.
The New Zealand coast is proving a real challenge for the fleet with tough winds and big swell pushing the crews to the limit on board as they fight to climb onto the podium at Auckland.
The final straight to the city of sails is proving hellish. For Iker Martínez the situation last night was "difficult with big seas and the boat crashing around a lot. We had to tack quite a few times and we have the boat in front three miles ahead and the one behind 14 miles away. We've got to push for every mile. Let's see if we get a bit of good luck and and find we're further East than the rest".
With French entry "Groupama" now in port - the boat headed up by Franck Cammas finished at 10:33 UTC - second place in the final rankings is still up for grabs and three boats are serious contenders for the prized spot: Spain's "Telefónica", the USA's "Puma" and New Zealand's "Camper" which finally tacked late yesterday afternoon. For now and according to the 13:00 UTC report Iker Martínez was 9.2 miles behind the Americans and the boat is 5.6 miles ahead of the team from New Zealand, and as Diego Fructuoso says: "The fight for second place is proving really tough: 'Puma', 'Camper' and ourselves are fairly close. We can see each other, which really is incredible after such a long time. We've done about ten tacks in six hours, so you can imagine how we're feeling. These aren't bad conditions for our boat, but anything could happen and it's true that after so long and such a fight I hope it's good for us".
New Zealand in sight
Sailing at the height of New Zealand is a relief on "Telefónica" because it means that the end of the leg is nearer. On board, the crew has begun to draw comparisons between the landscape of New Zealand to that of their native Spain, and apparently, they're not so different. "We've finally seen New Zealand! We've passed the North and it's very beautiful, although it looked like it wasn't very densely populated. Ñeti and Patán say it reminds them of the North of Santander" explained Fructuoso
If the calculations are right it looks like "Telefónica" will finish during the night today, Saturday the 10th of March and more specifically the latest forecasts confirm that the finish will be at around 21:00 UTC but before that they must get through another area of weather instability. "Once we've got through the northern zone we'll have to see hat happens until we get to Auckland. Cape thinks that the breeze will drop which would complicate the finish" confirmed the Spaniard.
PROVISIONAL RANKINGS LEG 4
SANYA (CHINA) - AUCKLAND (NEW ZEALAND): 5,220 miles
Day 20 - 13:00 UTC - 10th March 2012
1 Groupama Sailing Team (Franck Cammas), 19 days 15 hours 35 minutes
2 Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read), 97.1 miles from finish
3 Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez), +9.2 miles
4 Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson), +14.8 miles
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker), +32 miles
6 Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson), +43.6 miles