Thursday, February 2, 2012

No Slipping Up For Spanish Telefonica - Volvo Ocean Race Update

After two weeks and over 2500 nautical miles (nm) of sailing on the second stage of Leg 3 from the Maldives to Sanya in China, today the top five boats are separated by just four hours as they take on a gruelling 500 nm beat to the finish.
Photo: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race
Overall race leaders Team Telefónica were the first to reach the coast of Vietnam overnight and this morning began an arduous zigzag along the shore, tacking on average once an hour to avoid the worst of a strong south westerly flowing current.
Photo: Yann Roui/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
Nine nautical miles behind Telefónica, second placed Groupama sailing team continued to put pressure on the leader, while keeping a wary eye on third placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, who have been making steady gains.

A gutsy attempt to sail around the fleet by PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG came to nothing this morning, after they encountered an unexpected light wind zone and an anticipated right hand wind shift failed to materialise.
Photo: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
This turn of events now leaves PUMA in a battle with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing for fourth place.

Sixth placed Team Sanya continue to make steady progress toward their home port but with over 600 nm to sail they trailed the fleet by some 22 hours.

Overnight all the teams were pummelled by 25-knot head winds and steep waves as they dodged floating debris in the South China Sea on the approach to the Vietnam coast.
Photo: Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
On Abu Dhabi, skipper Ian Walker confessed he would be glad when the upwind sailing was over and told of a collision with an unidentified floating object in the night.

“OK I admit it - I have had enough of sailing upwind,” he said. “Sadly we still have another 250 upwind miles or so to go before we can ease sheets and head directly for Sanya. “Something hit our daggerboard and rudder hard in the night and I was pretty glad when Junior (helmsman Andrew Lewis) reported that both were still intact.

“Given the amount of tree trunks, crates and other debris we see in the day I consider we got off lightly,” he added.

Walker said the Abu Dhabi crew had been monitoring PUMA closely to see how the breakaway move to the east made several days ago would pan out.

“It will be interesting over the next 10 hours to see how Puma come out of their far eastern strategy,” he said. “It looks relatively evenly poised between them and perhaps Camper from where I am sitting right now.”

On PUMA skipper Ken Read was taking a more pessimistic view of his team’s situation.

“The mood on board is very sombre right now I can tell you,” he said. “It was all looking very promising until we got a big header which sent us pointing back towards Vietnam.

“Without that we were right in the hunt but with this header it is sending us right to the back of that pack. Hopefully it’s just a blip and it will come back, but every minute is costing us miles right now.”

Read said the wind had been less fearsome than expected but the sea state was proving energy sapping for the already weary crew and stronger breeze was expected for the night time.

“It hasn’t been brutal from a breeze standpoint but the waves have been awful,” he said. “Short, steep, lousy waves. In these boats it’s never the wind that gets you, it’s the waves. That wears you out a little bit.

“We were expecting a little more breeze than we’ve had so far but we’re expecting more to come.”

Telefónica Navigator Andrew Cape said the race and leg leaders were feeling the effects of almost two weeks of non-stop racing but were otherwise positive about their situation.
Photo: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race,
“We have got plenty of food but not a lot of rest,” he said. “It’s been quite tough with a lot of tacking and it's not over yet. It’s been hard but everyone sees the light at the end of the tunnel and you know there’s plenty of time to recover then.”

Cape said the Spanish team were now sailing their own race but keeping a loose cover on the fleet.
Photo: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race,

“You have got to pick the right place to tack – the right angle’” he said. “If you tack too early you could end up with the wrong current.

“At the end of the day you have to go where you think is best and temper that a bit with where the opposition are and modify it a bit. Just to make sure you hang on to what you have got.”

CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson confessed that since closing on the Vietnam shoreline it had been difficult to pick an obvious way to go.

“It’s been one of the most bizarre tactical situations I think I’ve ever seen. Normally you have boats that are on certain wind shifts but these have been progressive shifts based on the geography of Vietnam, mixed in with some current and fishing nets.

“It’s been a minefield trying to work out which way to go. I think we’ve done a reasonable job of it but some people are perhaps struggling with it.”

Nicholson said he expected a busy time ahead when CAMPER left the coast and headed out into higher winds and the strongest current.

“There´s going to be a fair bit going on tonight,” he said. “When we exit the coast we will be exiting the most south east part of Vietnam and it will be like rounding a cape – windy and potential for confused seas.

“We’ll have our wits about us for that bit,” he said.

According to Nicholson, catching second placed Groupama would now require a mistake from the French team.

“That’s a big ask, they’re pretty quick’” he said. “We’re probably quite similar speeds, maybe we’re a touch quicker in this stuff, I’m not sure.

“I think there are chances – it could be windy tonight and if you put the wrong sail up you can get caught out and that’s going to cost you miles.

“Hopefully we’ll be breathing down their necks, but we’ve also got to keep a close eye on Abu Dhabi and PUMA as well.”

Groupama helmsman Erwan Israel said the constant tacking was taking it out of the French crew who were looking forward to some straight line sailing when they head offshore.

“We are tacking along the coast waiting for a left (wind) shift,” he said. “It’s exhausting.

“We’ve got less current close to the coast, which is why we sailed west of CAMPER. We are hoping to go offshore in a couple of hours.”

Israel said despite not being able to see their competitors there was still plenty to look at on their coastal passage.

“We have 150 boats in sight. But these are Vietnam fishermen boats. No sign of Telefónica and CAMPER.”

At the 1300 UTC position report Telefónica had 438 nm to go to the finish and held a 9.1 nautical mile lead over Groupama. Third placed CAMPER were just under three nautical miles behind with Abu Dhabi 22 nm back in fourth.

Team Sanya remained in sixth, 229 nm off the lead.

Latest estimations suggest the leading boats will reach the finish in Sanya on February 4.
Leg 3
Report: 02/02/2012 13:03:54 UTC
Volvo Ocean Race Media

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