04/03/2012 19:01

TELEFÓNICA BACK IN THE GAME AS LEADERS SLOW

Category: International

Overnight, Leg 5 leaders Groupama (Franck Cammas/FRA) and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (Ken Read/USA) who are match racing each other for a leg win, have been hindered by a high-pressure system, which has allowed third-placed Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) to make some spectacular inroads into their lead.

Off the coast of Chile, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) suspended racing at 0130 GMT and are making their way under escort from the Chilean Navy towards Puerto Montt for repair work. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) continue to nurse their patched up boat along carefully while evaluating their next course of action.

At 2200 GMT on Monday, Groupama led PUMA towards a high-pressure system, which slowed both teams to a little over six knots. Meanwhile, 187 nautical miles (nm) astern, Telefónica continued in good pressure at an average speed of 14 knots, clicking off miles to the finish at a rapid rate.

Throughout the night, the Spanish team continued to reduce their deficit and, by 0700 GMT today, had closed to within 112 nm of Groupama, who was now leading PUMA by just 0.2 nm. By 1000 GMT, Groupama led PUMA by 0.10 nm, however Telefónica had closed even further to lie just 100.5 nm behind Groupama.

“It’s just been blind luck really,” said Telefónica’s navigator Andrew Cape this morning. “But we are back in it, we’re here and we are not going to give up.“

Telefónica could continue to make gains today if they are able to maintain their current average speed of 15.3 knots, while the leaders expected to average a around 12 knots.

PUMA and Groupama both took a dive inshore to avoid the centre of the high-pressure and are now about 60 nm off the coast of Argentina sailing upwind in a building north-easterly breeze. In a style much more akin to match racing than ocean racing, they are watching each other intently and with both crews closely checking the other’s bearings and sail configurations.

“It feels like a race,” said PUMA’s navigator Tom Addis. “It’s hard in these long legs to remind yourself it is still a race when you are in the middle of the ocean on your own. But when there’s another boat, it makes it much easier.”

Commenting on the strategy of the two leaders, Telefónica’s Andrew Cape said the close match race could play nicely into the hands of the Spanish team.

“It gives us an opportunity to sail differently. It’s certainly easier, the pressure is not there. It doesn’t matter if we lose 100 nm now, whereas if you lose that amount when you are in front it is really bad and very depressing,” Cape said.

According to PUMA’s Tom Addis, Telefónica have been ‘in phase’ with the high-pressure systems forming off the coast, while PUMA has not. Addis said although the leading duo were keeping a careful eye on Telefónica’s progress, he believed that it is one thing to catch boats, but another to pass them.

PUMA and Groupama are now 879nm to the Leg 5 finish with a predicted finish time in Itajaí of April 7.