Volvo Ocean Race: Telefonica eases away

Near disasters in the Volvo Ocean Race as they continue their slog upwind in 25 knots

Friday February 3rd 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Chart above courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and high res GRIB from PredictWind

Positions at 0702 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Telefonica Iker Martinez 13 09.430n 110 42.970e 12.8 57 311.77 0
2 Groupama Franck Cammas 12 49.570n 110 40.250e 12 41 330.59 18.82
3 Camper Chris Nicholson 12 28.920n 110 34.530e 11.6 21 349.78 38.01
4 Puma Ken Read 12 19.080n 110 38.130e 12.2 47 360.1 48.32
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 12 11.500n 110 33.270e 12.2 53 366.73 54.95
6 Sanya Mike Sanderson 10 35.720n 108 09.220e 11 47 463.6 151.83

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet has had another punishing 24 hours as they have continued to bash upwind into 25 knots along the Vietnamese coast, tacking regularly to make the best of the shifts. Yesterday evening the frontrunners split from the south coast of Vietnam but have continued to attempt to get enough weather gauge so they can lay the finish line at Sanya, still 311 miles away for Telefonica at the latest sched.

Over this period Telefonica, the race leader and overall race leader, has extended from second placed Groupama but this has mainly been down to incidents that occurred on the French VO70. As Yann Riou, Groupama’s MCM described it: “One or two panics, first with an impact with an non-identified floating object last night, which touched the keel first and then the windward rudder… No apparent damage.And then, more importantly, the main sail sheet broke. It was fully loaded at that time – ie. three tonnes. Thankfully we managed to repair it in 10 minutes. We lost some miles but above all it was a big scare.”

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing also narrowly avoided disaster, just managing to duck an unlit steel buoy. “We missed it by a metre and for sure it would have made a big mess of our bow,” skipper Ian Walker recounted. “It doesn’t bare thinking about the damage either of the incidents could have made to our boat. I guess a miss is as big as a mile but these incidents serve to remind us of some of the unknown risks that lie out there.”

Yesterday afternoon Puma reconvened with the fleet, tacking just short of the Vietnamese coast just over a mile ahead of Abu Dhabi and 9 miles astern of Camper and then took up the challenge of slogging their way past the southeast corner of Vietnam.

“Conditions on board are still rough though, and we continue to slam into each successive wave with a shudder like that of you car through a big winter’s pothole; there is absolutely no give,” Puma MCM Amory Ross said. “We’re still in urgent need of sleep, too, but everyone’s resigned to the fact that it’ll have to wait until the hotel. Even in the low visibility, Camper occasionally pops into sight off the bow, and we know Abu Dhabi is lurking somewhere close behind our stern, so the strategy from here seems simple: don’t give up too much leverage and play each shift like it’s the last. The racecourse has become small enough that any gain is an important one—regardless of its size—and it promises to be a busy 36 hours of hard work fighting for every length of distance on the competition. Anything can happen.”

By far the biggest gains over the last 24 hours have been made by Sanya, bringing up the rear. As the leaders have concentrated on making headway east over this period, so Sanya was charging north across the South China Sea and has closed from 250 miles behind Telefonica to 151 at the latest sched. However this will revert the other way for Mike Sanderson's crew today as they now embark on the challenge of getting along the Vietnamese coast.

Conditions ahead show that the wind is set to veer into the ESE or SE tomorrow as the leaders cover the last miles to Sanya, allowing the teams to crack sheets. Unfortunately the wind is also set to drop.


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