Photo: Maria Muina/Telefonica

Telefonica heads for Ushuaia

Telefonica due to round Cape Horn on Friday night

Tuesday March 27th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Team Telefónica has decided to stop off for repairs at the Argentine port of Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, to tend to bow damage suffered some days ago in the Southern Ocean. In doing so, the crew are aiming to maintain their grip on the podium in this fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race which finishes at the Brazilian port of Itajaí, allowing them to hold onto the lead in the round the world race's overall standings.

A few days ago the crew reported that they were slowing down and that certain on board repairs were keeping some crewmembers, namely boat captain Pepe Ribes, very busy indeed.

Skipper Iker Martínez today chose to go into further detail on the subject, explaining that the Spanish yacht had suffered some delamination to the bow about seven days ago or so, when she was sailing at full speed fighting for first place. Despite the fact that the damage was sustained when a huge wave crashed down onto the boat at a great speed (Telefónica has logged boat speed peaks of 38.5 knots), the excellent quality of the build of the Juan K-designed VO70 meant that the damage was minimal and was able to be controlle. The choice to slow down was taken to avoid the problems worsening: “As you can see, we've got no problems in terms of continuing to sail, but if we continue to violently crash against the waves like this the damage could worsen and we want to rule out the possibility of that happening”, said Martinez.

“What we've done so far is to fix some battens to the deck at the bow to reinforce the section where the delamination has occurred, which is therefore weaker. The issue we've got is that nothing dries and so we've had to repeat the exercise a few times. It'll be child's play on shore, but out here at sea in this cold everything's a lot more tricky."

As watch leader Neal McDonald explained in a telephone call with the boat yesterday that two crewmembers have been working at the bow for a week now, with boat captain Ribes leading the effort: “Pepe’s been in there for a week just trying to patch it up. We are going to keep going as it is and see how it all looks. Time will tell. It looks stable at the moment and at the pace we are going we are in good shape. We will just have to see how it fares as the next few days unfold."

However, since then Iker Martínez has announced that they have decided to stop off at Ushuaia “to make comprehensive repairs to the damaged section of the bow so that we can forget this issue for what's left of the fifth leg”.

With the two frontrunners Groupama and Puma currently 313 and 276 miles ahead of Telefónica, Iker Martínez is only too aware that the forecasts indicate these boats pulling even further ahead over the coming days, although he stands firm in the decision taken by himself and his crew, well aware that the Volvo Ocean Race is also a test of endurance: "Right now the guys in front are going to get more breeze and they'll push away bit by bit, but it doesn't matter, we took our decision to ease off the gas when we did and we're happy with it. This is a race of endurance and you have to keep that in mind, although it is hard when you have to reduce your speed."

The Spanish team is also not forgetting that behind them there are two boats to keep an eye on. With one eye on the rear-view mirror, Martinez was reminded that they've got both Abu Dhabi and Camper behind then and if they stop a couple of days for repairs “they might be able to get past us and we'd lose a couple of positions.

Camper will stop off in Chile for repairs, so it'll be a case of waiting to see when they get back in the race, however Abu Dhabi continues to be a podium rival, despite having been forced to return to Auckland for repairs shortly after the leg start, starting the race again once repairs were complete."

At her current pace, Telefónica is expected to round Cape Horn sometime between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

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