Telefónica attempted an 11th hour comeback on Monday, closing to around 250 nautical miles of leading pair PUMA and Groupama, while Abu Dhabi were still assessing their options as they made progress towards the Chilean coast.
While PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG and Groupama sailing team duelled it out around less than 250 nautical miles ahead, Iker Martínez’s third placed Team Telefónica made the most of better breeze and higher boat speeds to claw back miles.
“We’ve been surfing for almost 24 hours,” Telefónica’s Media Crew Member (MCM) Diego Fructuoso said.
“The two boats ahead have distanced from us a bit, but we shouldn’t loose faith. Anything can happen; we will keep sailing and won’t stop trying,” he added.
Meanwhile, at the head of the fleet just six and a half nautical miles separated leaders PUMA and second placed Groupama after more than 6,000 nautical miles of full-on ocean racing.
Groupama, winners of the previous leg from Sanya to Auckland, were pushing for their second consecutive win, while the prospect of their first victory of the 2011-2012 edition was spurring on PUMA.
“The fact that we’re so close with Groupama right now after everything the two boats have been through is beyond imagination,” PUMA skipper Ken Read said.
“It’s great for the sport, great for the race. Here we are, nip and tuck. I think the lead has changed about a dozen times.”
After slowing down in a high pressure system the leading pair were back up to speed in stronger winds at 1300 UTC, each competing to up keep the most sail area.
“Now the front is coming through, we’ve got 28 knots of breeze and we’re hanging on to the big gear so let’s see who flinches,” said Read.
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are sailing towards Puerto Montt in Chile after both sustaining serious structural damage earlier in the leg.
CAMPER, under 300 miles away and expected to arrive at the port on Tuesday, are aiming to complete Leg 5 after making repairs, while Abu Dhabi are yet to finalise their plans.
“We’re hitting 18, 19, 20 knots of boat speed at times so the miles are ticking down quite quickly,” said CAMPER helmsman and boat builder Rob Salthouse.
“Once we get in it will be a pretty busy three or so days. The shore team will be chomping at the bit to get this work done and we will help where we can.”
After completing the repairs CAMPER plan to round Cape Horn and finish the leg under sail.
Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker said the Emirati team were today less than 600 nm off the Chilean coast having made good progress over the last 48 hours, despite having to sail cautiously because of the repair.
“So far so good,” Walker said. “The repair seems excellent and appears to be holding, but we are also very conscious that the outside skin of the boat is only one and a half millimetres thick. You never know which wave is going to cause more damage.
“We are trying to sail with heel to keep that area out of the water and we are constantly monitoring it and trying to balance getting closer to land quickly against causing further damage,” he said.
“We are hoping to be able to confirm our longer term plan soon,” Walker added.
“We are just keeping our options open until a few more things drop into place.”