A breezy in port race sees the Spanish team extend their lead. Matthew Sheahan reports
Last in Alicante but first in Cape Town, if today’s (Sat 10 Nov) performance was an indication of form Iker Martinez’ Telefonica team has clearly got to grips with the in port racing as they sailed a commanding race in breezy conditions.
Having won Leg 1 from Spain to South Africa, the Spanish flagged team made it clear that they had both boat speed and strategy in spades as they drove the message home around the short race course.
For others in the fleet, just getting to the start line was a success in itself, particularly for Kenny Read’s Puma team. After their nerve wracking race against time to make the start of leg 2 after losing their mast and being temporarily exiled in Tristan da Cahuna, Read and his team only arrived in Cape Town on Wednesday. Since then the boat had to be craned off the ship, a new mast and rigging stepped and tuned as the team prepared for both the in port race and the next 5,430 nautical mile leg.
With just the points from the Alicante in port race to count, Read’s team is playing a serious game of catch up in order to keep their dream of winning the current Volvo Ocean Race alive. Yet, push too hard at this stage and their campaign could come to an abrupt end. Read and his crew had a tricky balance to strike. Shortly before the start of today’s race Read had said that for the sake of the bigger goal it was important not to take any risks and sail conservatively.
“In getting back into this race we have used a lot of our spares,” he said before the start. “We cannot afford to break anything.”
But as the team blasted down the first reaching leg to take the lead in the early stage of today’s race it was clear that professional sailors may say one thing, but find it impossible not to be fired by the heat of competition. They only have one gear and that’s flat out.
Puma stretched their lead by the weather mark, leading Telefonica who in turn rounded in front of Camper. The following two reaching legs were a procession but on the following downwind leg the pack was shuffled and Telefonica pounced.
As Puma and Telefonica split gybes it was the Spanish team that benefited out on the left had side of the course in stronger breeze with the kite they wanted to fly intact. The same could not be said for Puma who had damaged their best kite on the first leg and were unable to fly it.
With Puma sailing well under par, Camper also passed Puma on this leg.
From there on the fleet concertinaed occasionally, but Telefonica’s lead was never challenged and they won the race by almost a minute over Camper.
Puma finished third, Abu Dhabi fourth followed by Groupama and Team Sanya.
“Second spot is good, but Telefonica won and the one boat we didn’t want to lose points to got another notch on us,” said Nicholson after the finish. “We’re close, very close, but that’s all that separates the good from the bad at this level.”
Just 24 hours earlier, Read would no doubt gladly have taken a third place as their participation in the race still hung in the balance. But having sniffed victory, his datum had clearly shifted during today’s impressive performance.
“We blew our kite at the leeward mark and couldn’t use it on second run,” he said looking slightly deflated. “It’s good to be racing again though. The boat did its part today, we just let her down I guess.
“Although I said we would be sailing conservatively and backing off, that didn’t really happen!”
Leg 2 to Abu Dhabi, including the mystery shipping tour, starts tomorrow, Sun 11 Dec.
In Port Race Results/points
1 – Telefonica/6
2 – Camper/5
3 – Puma/4
4 – Abu Dhabi/3
5 – Groupama/2
6 – Team Sanya/1
OVERALL POSITION & POINTS – 2 x in ports + Leg1
1 – Telefonica – 37
2 – Camper – 34
3 – Groupama – 24
4 – Puma – 9
5 – Abu Dhabi – 9
6 – Team Sanya – 4