Volvo Ocean Race: Puma into the lead!

As Telefonica resumes racing, but with her crew one light

Sunday April 1st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Volvo Ocean Race charts courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and GRIB (European model) from PredictWind

Positions at 0655 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Puma Ken Read 48 02.100s 061 21.850w 6.8 352 1398.5  
2 Groupama Franck Cammas 47 59.420s 061 56.230w 4.3 325 1407.8 9.3
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 54 08.550s 064 34.530w 16.2 22 1776.6 378.1
4 Camper Chris Nicholson 44 22.650s 086 33.400w 13.2 90 2929.4 1530.9
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 45 09.150s 096 54.720w 17.5 89 3207.6 1809.1

With an area of high pressure extending east from the South American continent, so both the race leaders have been all but becalmed, but...shock, the latest sched, Ken Read and the crew of Puma has sneaked ahead of Groupama to claim first place on the leg north to Itajal Brazil, still 1400 miles away.

In retrospect it may have been a mistake for the French VO70 to pass outside of Isla de los Estados, although there may have been tidal implications that affected their decision. At present Groupama has set up to the west of Puma as the bubble of high pressure to their north is forecast to move east over the course of today meaning that after a slow day the French VO70 should be first to the new breeze. This afternoon (UTC) the breeze is expected to back into the west and build, before continuing into the southwest tonight, as another area of high pressure makes it across the Andes from the Pacific. So our betting would be that Groupama regains the lead overnight tonight. This new high is forecast to head offshore over the course of tomorrow, so throughout tomorrow the leaders will have a fast day but the question is where to go after this? The high is heading offshore taking the favourable wind with so, so this will leave the leaders having to endure more upwind conditions in its wake on Tuesday.

Meanwhile Telefonica resumed racing at 2133 UTC last night after her pitstop at Marshall Creek on Herschel Island in the lee of Cape Horn itself, after she began her pitstop at 04:37 UTC yesterday morning.

“The reinforcements are going well and now we just need to wait for everything to dry and we'll be ready to go," reported skipper Iker Martinez yesterday before setting sail once again. "Once we're happy with the job we'll begin sailing again, first making our exit through the islands to get back to the point where we suspended racing yesterday night, some four miles northeast of Cape Horn. From there we'll be sailing up to Itajaí."

However for the rest of the leg, the Telefonica crew will be sailing one light. Antonio Cuervas-Mons, known as Ñeti, has had get off the boat. Ñeti explained: “Yesterday I was lucky enough to round legendary Cape Horn for the first time, but unfortunately it was bittersweet as a few days ago when a wave crashed down onto the deck it dragged me along with it causing a lower back injury affecting my sciatic nerve, which has made for some very uncomfortable sailing ever since. I even had to spend a couple of days in a bunk resting. Thankfully, as always, I was wearing my safety harness, so the blow was a lot less serious than it could have been... However, since we're making this stop to repair the bow, together with Iker and our team doctor, Pablo Díaz Munio, we've decided that it would be best for me to disembark here at the cape in order to speed up the recovery process, which would definitely be a lot slower on board and I might even risk not being at 100% for the next leg."

Of Ñeti's departure Iker Martínez said: “As always, it takes much longer to get over these things on the boat, and even though he's fairly okay now, we can't risk him getting injured again because he wasn't back up to 100%. Stopping off for these repairs has meant the possibility of him not finishing the leg with us, which is a real shame for us and for him, but looking at where we are on the leg it's best for him to make a complete recovery and be back in shape for the training ahead of the in-port in Itajaí. The doctors say there's no reason he can't be back to full strength in ten days or two weeks, which is how long it'll take us to sail up to Brazil, so we've taken the safest option."

Ñeti will fly directly to Itajaí with the rest of the shore crew to begin treatment as soon as possible, allowing him to get back into the crew routine as swiftly as he can.

Telefonica set off last night and took the same route as Puma, through Le Maire Strait and at the latest sched was 35 miles north of Isla de los Estados. While the leaders are becalmed to the north, so she's making 16 knots. At the last sched before she suspended racing yesterday morning, the Spanish VO70 was 191 miles astern of the leaders. This had increased to 412 miles by the time she resumed racing, but eight hours on her deficit is already down to 378 with more certainly to come over the course of today.

On the opposite side of South America, Camper continues to close on Puerto Montt, still around 680 miles away at the latest sched. Astern of her Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is on a similar course, but Ian Walker's team still hasn't announced whether they will be following in the same direction as Camper or if they are making other arrangements.

Ken Read reports from Puma

As any sailing fan with a pulse probably knows by now, we rounded Cape Horn yesterday. The unofficial end to an epic Southern Ocean leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. It is unreal that only two of the six that started this leg will get to the Horn at close to 100% speed. I guess that when all start an Iron Man race not all expect to finish or even get there at near full capacity, so it shouldn't be a shock. This has been our ultimate Iron Man.

It would be too easy to glow poetically about what it means to go around Cape Horn – for me the second time. Instead, I will describe the scene on board as it happened. Kind of like a first timers’ equator crossing, there is a ritual and for very good reason. It is a time to be proud and happy and relieved. The feeling of "we have escaped" is prominent. The hardened and the rookies share this feeling. It is a feeling that sticks with you forever. It is a time to take an hour break from the race and just appreciate the accomplishment that few others share. A wonderful time.

First things first. There has to be a team photo and there has to be a sign commemorating the date and place that the photo is taken. This was a huge topic of debate for days leading to the horn. "Do we have a sign yet?" "Where is the sign?" "Who is doing the sign?"

I got the sign. Written on the paper chart of Cape Horn. I kind of like the meaning, and the awesome nature of the area. The Drake Passage between Antarctica and the southern most tip of the world. The sign…done. Stop bugging me. We have a sign already!

Next are the necessities. "Who brought the libations?" "Did anyone bring alcohol for the Horn?" "Oh no, we forgot liquor for the Horn?!?"

Boys, boys, we have libations for the Horn. Do you think I was born yesterday? Now if the bottle didn't break, we are in business.

Finally the cigars. I still have a photo in my house of Jerry Kirby and me rounding the Horn last race, sitting in the hatch with big dumb smiles on our faces both smoking cigars. It means a lot to me, that photo. Cigars were going to be back, and I told my wife Kathy to search Auckland for some good cigars and she did just that. Don't want to know what a box of 11 Cubans cost these days but it sure was worth it. Even if it was tough to keep them lit in the freezing rain as we passed.

And finally, the photo. The one that you will have in your office or living room forever. Make sure Rosco is in it, and of course our media man came equipped for exactly this situation with a flexible tripod that he could wrap around the grinder pedestal. No photo would be right without all 11 guys.

So, just with the rock about 3 miles abeam, which is very rare – passing so close – the rum was passed, the cigars were lit and the photo was taken. Eleven amazingly close human beings exchanging hand shakes and silent smiles. Amazing what a silent smile can really say. The photo that will last forever. Something to be proud of, something that is part of each of our own little life history.

"Remember the day we rounded Cape Horn?"

That phrase will live in infamy for the 11 guys on board this yacht.

- Kenny

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