Three in a row for Telefonica
Telefónica this morning (UTC) crossed the finish line in Sanya, China to secure her third consecutive leg win in the Volvo Ocean Race. In doing so the Spanish boat became the first since Peter Blake's all-conquering Steinlager 2 in 1989-90 to win the first three legs of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Telefónica, skippered by Iker Martínez, finished at 03:58:22 UTC (15:58 local) to complete the second stage ofleg 3 from the Male in the Maldives in a time of 12 days 19 hours and 58 miniutes to claim 24 points. Groupama arrived at 05:45:25 UTC to clinch second place.
With three points in the bag from their performance in stage 1 of the leg – a one-day sprint from Abu Dhabi along the UAE coast to Sharjah – Telefónica sealed overall victory in Leg 3 with 27 points, the result strengthening their position at the top of the overall standings. Groupama scored a total of 24 points from the leg.
“You always dream to start a race like this and I just hope everything is going to keep going smooth,” said Martínez. “I think it was by far the most dangerous leg I’ve ever done in a boat. The Malacca Strait put us in a lot of difficult situations so that’s why we are so happy. Now we start feeling more relaxed. We have a very nice boat in very good shape with only little jobs.
“It's very hard to stay at one hundred per cent for two whole weeks and the guys have done a splendid job, keeping the boat at a very high level of performance for many many days on end and I think that when it comes down to it, that was the key. When the boats are together you have to race fast and to do that everything must be in the right place, Doing that hour after hour is very hard and the entire crew are doing a great job."
Navigator Andrew Cape added: "I never thought we were going to win this leg to be honest. I just felt that something was going to go wrong because there are too many stages where I couldn’t see the outcome, so I’m really relieved to get in without anything going bad.
"Mentally it was very difficult, tactically very difficult, physically it wasn’t as tough as a long southern ocean leg but mentally it was really hard. It’s one of the toughest legs I’ve done.
"It’s a good win, we’re very happy. Right from the top of Sumatra it’s been really difficult. There were so many hazards and you can’t take your eye off the ball for one second because that’s when bad things happen. It was a very taxing leg, a lot harder than I expected. Everyone is ecstatic – we’re all happy to be here and very relieved."
Crossing the line, Groupama skipper Franck Cammas said the result had once again boosted confidence on the French boat. “I think we did good work on the first two legs without seeing a result but now we’re seeing results. For sure the confidence is high on Groupama 4 now.
“The last few days were very hard for the crew. There were lots of manoeuvres, we tacked about 25 times in the last 24 hours in rough seas which was very tough on the crew. It wasn’t easy but the result was we got second place.”
Watch leader Damian Foxall added: "It feels like we are going places now. We are slowly starting to get back up the leaderboard. Of course Telefonica has proved again that they are fast and are going to be very hard to beat and again have taken a few extra points out in front of everyone. But as for ourselves, we are now eating into Camper and it looks like it is going to be a very very tight race. We are very happy. I think we have sailed the boat very very well. Of course we have made mistakes but I think we have made a few less mistakes than everyone else and that’s what it is all about."
Foxall believes Telefonica are catchable. "They made one nice move as we were heading up to Vietnam and in one cloud they managed to hitch up. They always seem able to go fast and when they are not necessarily fast they are going in the right direction A lot of the time we were matching their speed. On leg 2 we got dealt a bad hand when we were leading into the Doldrums and we could have beaten them. So they are not untouchable, but they sail very very well. Well done to them."
Telefónica's latest victory was all the more remarkable following the damage they suffered to their Code 0 just hours after the start that left them in last place until clever tactics, staying to the north of the fleet, saw them four days into the leg, coming in on the final approach to the Malacca Strait on a faster angle.
Into Malacca Strait, Telefónica defied the conventional wisdom of keeping to the sides of the Strait out of the worst current, pressing on instead down the middle, but having to dodge commercial shipping, fishing nets and flotsam, as Camper was becalmed off the Malay coast. On the final reaches of the Strait, approaching Singapore Groupama had closed to within 0.4nm of the Spanish leader, with Puma another 1.1 miles back, but the Spanish team proved resilient and hung on to lead the fleet as they exited into the South China Sea.
Telefonica survived the punishing sea state crossing to and then sailing up the coast of Vietnam and a day out from the finish had extended her lead over Groupama to 30 miles.
Hundreds of fans flooded to the Sanya Race Village prior to Telefónica’s victorious arrival to help celebrate the official opening ceremony. A colourful array of fireworks exploded overhead as several local dignitaries addressed the crowd.