Volvo Ocean Race: Telefonica right back in it

Leaders awaiting the arrival of strong following winds

Wednesday April 4th 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 Groupama Franck Cammas 36 59.800s 055 18.770w 11.8 62 691.5 0
2 Puma Ken Read 36 53.880s 055 38.320w 12.5 63 694.8 3.3
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 38 45.680s 053 26.450w 12.5 47 748.6 57.1
4 Camper Chris Nicholson Suspended racing        
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 42 17.680s 073 00.970w 12.5 15 2769.7 2078.2

Groupama and Puma are continuing their match race up the coast of South America, now crossing the mouth of River Plate separating Argentina from Uruguay, with the French team back into the lead.

However all eyes are fixed on Telefonica which is continuing to steam up from astern. Unbelievably from being 412 miles astern when she resumed racing after her Cape Horn pitstop on Saturday night (UTC), the Spanish VO70 has closed to just 57.1 miles off the lead at the latest sched.

After Telefonica first closed in on Puma and Groupama through being in the stronger winds to the north of a Southern Ocean depression as the leaders were making slow progress avoiding an area of high pressure, so over the last 24 hours, as the trio have exited the Roaring Forties, they are now all into the same weather system. But while the two leaders have been forced to tack, with much time spent heading northwest on unfavourable starboard (taking Puma to within 20 miles of the Argentine coast in the early hours of this morning (UTC)), so by arriving later on the scene Telefonica has spent this entire period on port. This has left the Spanish VO70 some 130 miles further offshore than the leaders.

Navigator Andrew Cape commented: “We’ve got to be brutally honest really, it’s just been blind luck really. But we’re back in it, we’re here, and we’re not going to give up. There’s still a long way to go and things are never perfect around here so, there’s plenty of opportunities for something to happen, don’t ask me which way, good or bad, but they’re there. The next 24 hours is not fantastic, it’s just upwind for quite a long way. But once we’re settled in, we’ll just plug away at it. When it lines us, the variability that might come with that means you take one side or the other, getting lucky again or getting the right side could determine who is the winner."

Of the leaders Capey added: “I’m sure they’re sailing at 110%, but they are sailing each other because they don’t want to give the other boat a chance, so it does give us an opportunity to sail differently. Being in a different place, with forecasts that aren’t quite perfect means we’re in a pretty good place."

With less than 700 miles to go now until the boats reach the finish at Itajai in southern Brazil - on 7-8 April according to skipper Iker Martinez - so on Telefonica they have been reviewing the job list. Martinez expanded: “The main issue we'll have is how to remove these incredible reinforcements from the bow and we'll be getting the boat ready, back to the same shape it was in on day 1... but that's another story. The shore crew are now in Brazil making another mould for the boat, but this time it's an exterior mould in order to perform the best quality repair job in a short period of time. We want to be sailing by the 16th to test out the boat and the new rigging that we want to fit, as well as the in-port training... It's crazy... but it's all easier on shore as we've got more resources available."

Weather-wise, at present the high has moved offshore with the wind in the north for the lead trio. However all of the crews are twiddling their thumbs awaiting the arrival of a front (associated with a depression deep in the Southern Ocean) that is due to cross them in the early hours of tomorrow morning. On the opposite side of this is a band of strong SSWerly winds and with another zone of high pressure forming over the South American continent, so this looks set to make for a fast downwind finish. It seems unlikely that Telefonica's luck is going to continue as one reason why the leaders have headed inshore is to be first to key into the favourable new breeze. 

Meanwhile on the opposite side of South America, Camper has now reached Porto Montt where her shore team, led by Neil Cox, are leaping into action. Yesterday Cox said they had a team of six shore crew on stand-by plus an ultrasound technician who would work on the damaged hull. This could take from three to seven days.

Skipper Chris Nicholson said he was hopeful the team could complete the repairs and sail the remainder of the leg in time to compete in the Itajaí In-Port Race. “The sooner we get our repairs done, the sooner we get underway again. We’re looking forward to as much time as we can have in Itajaí before in-port racing, so we’re looking at two weeks down the track from now. We’ve still got 3,000 miles to go, it’s a long way, and we’ve already come a long way, so this is quite a marathon leg for us.”

Behind them Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing still are allegedly 'looking at their options', although judging from the fact that they are now also heading up Gulf of Corcovado in the direction Porto Montt one suspects they are lining up for a pitstop too. Oddly they haven't suspended racing...

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