Sanya leads the charge out of the Maldives
Team Sanya celebrated Chinese New Year’s Eve by leading a full strength fleet off the start line on the Volvo Ocean Race's 3,051 mile Leg 3 second stage from Male in the Maldives to their home port in China.
In hot and humid tropical conditions and 8-10 knots of wind, the six VO70s got away cleanly on schedule at 0800 UTC (1300 local time in the Maldives) with the Mike Sanderson-skippered Team Sanya making the early running immediately after the start of their homecoming leg.
Sanya continued to scrap for the lead in the first few hours of sailing with less than half a nautical mile separating the six-boat fleet.
“Another strange start!” reported Amory Ross, Media Crew Member on Puma, in his first report from onboard. “The line was between one flag on one shore and a radio tower on another; there were virtually no spectators, tons of ferries, fishing boats, and more obstacles to dodge leading up to the gun. But we're now back to ‘ocean racing,’ something we haven't been able to say in almost a month.”
By 1100 UTC the six VO70s continued to track south easterly sailing line abreast on port tack separated by less than three nautical miles from north to south with all six boats working flat out for the lead.
At that time Ken Read’s Puma Ocean Racing powered by BERG had taken up the most northerly position shadowed by overall race leader Team Telefónica skippered by Iker Martínez.
In the middle of the fleet Chris Nicholson’s Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand, Team Sanya and Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing had formed a close knit bunch, while Franck Cammas’ Groupama were pursuing the most southerly route.
The Leg 3 second stage course will see the fleet cross the Bay of Bengal to the north west tip of Sumatra where they will enter the congested waters of the Malacca Strait before eventually turning north east to negotiate strong winds and steep waves in the South China sea on their way to the finish on the island of Sanya.
Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said he expected the fleet to face some extreme conditions after passing Singapore. “It looks like we are in for a lot of breeze on the way up to China. The first 1000 miles isn’t too bad, there's just the lighter trade winds, they get up to 15 knots at one stage, then we do the Malacca Strait. At the moment I think it looks quite light and quite tricky down there.
“Round the corner to Singapore it looks like we’re in a for quite a rough time all the way to China. It’s the sort of thing that if you can lead out of the Malacca Strait and you keep the pressure on I’d say it would be good. But will be quite boat breaking conditions.”
By 1200 UTC Camper had eked out a narrow 0.3 nm lead over Puma, with Telefónica holding on to third despite being significantly slowed by a breakage their headsail.
"It was a real shame because we were going very well,” commented Media Crew Member Diego Fructuoso. “We're now working on repairing everything that broke -- Jordi (Calafat) and Zane (Gills) on the sail and Ñeti (Antonio Cuervas-Mons) and Pepe (Ribes) on the ropes. Now we have to get everything right and start our comeback."
The boats will take around two weeks to complete Leg 2 with an estimated arrival in Sanya on or around 6 February.
80% of the points for Leg 3 remain up for grabs, after the Stage 1 sprint from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah delivered the other 20% to all the teams except for Sanya, who will score full points for this stage. (As Sanya were unable to race the first stage of Leg 3, they will score full points for this leg – 30 points for 1st place, 25 for 2nd, 20 for 3rd, 15 for 4th, 10 for 5th, 5 for 6th. The other teams will score points on the following scale – 24 points for 1st, 20 for 2nd, 16 for 3rd, 12 for 4th, 8 for 5th, 4 for 6th.)