Telefonica Black passes South Rock Light approximately half-an-hour ahead of Puma

Skipper Fernando Echavarri led Telefonica Black past the South Rock Light at approximately 03:00 GMT this morning – half an hour ahead of Ken Read’s Puma Ocean Racing. The black boat is in sixth position overall.

Mikel Pasabant, MCM on board Telefonica Black, commented: “We have been dealing with continuous wind changes in direction and speed, so the work on deck has been relentless…the final approach to the waypoint promises to be really tight for the leading pack. Right now we are involved in another of the countless tacks in this upwind leg. Fighting hard and with spirits high.”

Telefonica Black approached the mark on port tack, on a north-easterly heading, Echaavarri and his men have continued in that direction, crossing ahead of Puma and Telefonica Blue, who approached the mark from the south. Puma is 5 miles behind Black, with Telefonica Blue, which passed the light at 04:20 GMT, a further 5 miles behind.

Behind that top group of three, there’s potentially more breathing room. Delta Lloyd is in fourth place, 27 miles back of the leader. Then it closes up again. Green Dragon, Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4 are all within two miles of each other on distance to finish, charging up to the South Rock Light. While that might be the short-term goal, longer term, all seven teams are focused on the weather forecast.

True wind speed is up near 20 knots now but the forecast is for nearly double that. The predicted gale force winds will come roaring down in opposition to the prevailing current, whipping the sea up into a frenzy. There is certainly potential for boat breaking conditions.

Green Dragon is currently handicapped by its broken forestay ( read previous story here ). That’s restricting the team to using a smaller headsail, one that skipper Ian Walker says is too small for the current conditions. That won’t be a problem 24 hours from now.

“The good news is that the wind will soon be building to over 20 knots and then the code 4 will come into its range and we should be more competitive,” he wrote this morning. “The result of this leg could still depend on how everybody fares in the strong winds forecast. As always these do not look as bad as previously thought but still I fully expect up to 40 knots on the nose and 4-5 metre seas. That will be enough to test each and every boat out here.

“For now we are trying to eat as much as we can, preparing all our equipment and ‘battening down the hatches’ for a bruising 2 days. Just existing on a Volvo 70 upwind in gale or even storm force winds will be hard enough.”