Telefónica heads for Ushuaia
- Wed, 28 Mar 2012
Team Telefónica has decided to stop off for repairs at the Argentine port of Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego), to repair bow damage sustained a few days ago. In doing so, the crew are aiming to maintain their grip on the podium in this fifth leg of the regatta which finishes at the Brazilian port of Iatjaí, whilst also holding onto the lead in the overall regatta standings.
A few days ago news came in from on board "Telefónica" that the crew were slowing down the pace 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 the first position. Despite the fact that the damage was sustained when a huge wave crashed down onto the boat at a great speed (the Spanish boat has logged boat speed peaks of 38.5 knots), the excellent quality of the build of "Telefónica" meant that the damage was minimal and was able to be controlled, with the choice to slow down taken to avoid any further complications: "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 the Volvo Ocean Race's youngest skipper.
"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", added the Basque skipper.
As watch leader Neal McDonald explained in a telephone call with the boat yesterday, 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, skipper Iker Martínez has announced that he and his crew 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".
The two frontrunners - "Groupama", in first place and "Puma" in second, haven't let their guards down for a second and the yachts are currently 313 and 276 miles ahead of the overall leaders in the Volvo Ocean Race. Iker Martínez is aware that the forecasts indicate that these boats could push even further away over the coming days, although he stands firm in the decision taken by himself and his crew, also well aware that the Volvo Ocean Race is 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", he said.
The Spanish team mustn't forget that behind them there are two boats to keep an eye on. With one eye on the rear-view mirror, the Basque skipper was reminded that they've got "'Abu Dhabi' and 'Camper' behind 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 with Emirates Team New Zealand" 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.
The crew headed up by Britain's Ian Walker is now 1,100 miles from "Telefónica" and as one of the "Telefónica" watch leaders, highly-experienced sailor Neal McDonald reminds us: "anything can happen. They have had a rotten time sitting around in no wind but very shortly they will be on their train and charging along. We have to be very careful about where they end up. 1,000 miles sounds like a long way but it could all change quite quickly".
This is like going into boxes in Formula 1 racing: a quick spoiler and tyre change and it's off again... it has to be fast and efficient and that's why the shore crew, in yet another great logistical move, have already got all of the necessary material ready, from a generator to diving equipment to vacuum pumps and carbon patches. It will all be transported to the world's southernmost city: Ushuaia.
Keeping up the current pace, "Telefónica" is expected to round Cape Horn between the afternoon of Friday 30th of March and the morning of Saturday 31st of March.
Watch the video of Telefonic being hit by huge waves here.
Read Matthew Sheahan's latest blog on the Volvo here.
Photo: Team Telefonica, skippered by Iker Martinez from Spain, changing sails in rough weather, at the start of leg 5 from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Credit: PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race)