Overall race leaders Team Telefónica have confirmed they will make a stop at the Argentine port of Ushuaia to repair bow damage and give themselves the best chance of holding on to a podium position in Leg 5.
The story was first broken in Sail-World 12 hours earlier, following a comment from Emirates Team NZ who are stopping at the Chilean port of Puerto Montt, and after the Spanish entry and overall race leader had started deviating from the optimum course for Cape Horn. Course deviations are often indicative of issues with a racer, before they are officially announced by Race and Team sources, who seem to need substantial time to get their PR ducks in line, ahead of an official statement.
Ushuaia was visited by Movistar (Boewe Bekking) to repair keel joint issues in the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race, and is one of the southern most ports in the world. The city has a population of about 58,000, its main economic activities are fishing, natural gas and oil extraction, sheep farming and ecotourism. Entry to the port is via the Beagle Channel, from the west or south.
Volvo Ocean race have report on their website: Telefónica announced several days ago that they were slowing down to prevent further damage and skipper Iker Martínez confirmed on Tuesday that delamination to the bow, sustained when a huge wave crashed down on them last week, would make a stop necessary before the finish line in Itajaí in Brazil.
'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 Martínez, who is determined to go on and complete the leg.
'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.'
Groupama sailing team and Puma Ocean Racing are going strong in first and second place but Camper are also heading for a pit stop in Chile and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are well over 1,000 nautical miles behind third-placed Telefónica.
The effect of the stopover is expected to tighten the overall points standings with a race developing between Camper and Telefonica, and if Groupama is able to stay ahead of Puma Ocean Racing, currently in second place 45nm behind Franck Cammas and his crew. Currently Telefónica, are winners of three of the four ocean legs completed, and hold a 15-point lead over Groupama at the top of the standings.
The effect will be that Groupama, will move to the top, or close to it, of the overall points standings. The key point of interest will be Abu Dhabi, whose return to Auckland has proved to be a very costly move in terms of time. She is now over 1400nm behind Groupama, dropping back after having caught up to be just over 300nm a few days out of New Zealand. Abu Dhabi got out of phase with the weather systems at the front of the fleet and sailed rather sedately in light air, while the others were sailing at high speed in the lower latitudes.
If Abu Dhabi can get ahead of Telefonica (closing a deficit of about 1000nm, or three days sailing), then she will finish third, with the Telefonica and Camper shore crews duking it out to get their charges repaired and away for fourth place. The net effect is that the point differential will tighten at the top of the table, with Telefonica to also face the International Jury in Itajai, Brazil over a report that she carried two storm jibs on Leg 4 to Auckland. The measurers report was not filed until after the fleet had left Auckland after a shortened stopover.
Telefonica is expected to Ushuaia between the afternoon of March 31 and April 1, with Camper arriving in Puerto Montt on April 2. Camper will have to sail another 800nm to reach Cape Horn after she restarts, and is expected to take three to five days to effect repairs. Ironically Camper is 2000nm from Puerto Montt, while Telefonica is 2,700 nm from Ushuaia - the time for both boats being based on a slower boat than the Volvo 70 - allowing for both boats having to be nursed to their respective destination ports.
Tracks (bold for Telefonica, and light for Camper) as they head for Ushuaia and Puerto Montt respectively. Leg 5 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race. - PredictWind.com
Telefonica will also have to make a decision as to where she suspends racing, as that will be the point to where she has to return to restart. That will be the point at which she engages her propellor - and will have to decide whether to enter from the west and motor the length of the Beagle Channel or sail; or she could enter from the southern end of the channel which is closer to Cape Horn for restart purposes, but more time consuming from an entry perspective.
Now in its fifth leg, the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race has seen five of the six entries suspend racing, with Groupama being the only one to go the distance non-stop.
Meanwhile Team Sanya has arrived in Tauranga, New Zealand after breaking a rudder stock while leading Leg 5. She will be shipped directly to Miami, and will rejoin the fleet for Leg 6.