Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez) at 2200 UTC tonight, were 43 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam, having made small gains on the Volvo Ocean Race fleet throughout the day in worsening conditions.
The weather has continued to close in on the four boats, which are racing towards the shore. Groupama sailing team are now just over nine nm behind In third and 42 nm further back Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand has successfully fought of advances from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing who is now 82 nm off the lead. Wind speeds continue to hover around 22 knots, with occasional gusts reaching just short of 30. The boats are slamming and the sailing is wet, unpleasant and extremely exhausting.
Although it is windy, it is the sea state rather than the wind strength that usually gives rise for concern among racing crews. Off the coast, there is an adverse current, and the leading pack of four will try to sail on a ledge of between 10 – 50 metres in depth to try to avoid the worst of it. There is very little information available on conditions in this region and the sea state here in the shallower waters is likely to be something of an unknown quantity.
In a make or break move, Read and his men on board Puma’s Mar Mostro are now 127 nm to the east of fourth placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. By staying east, they are hoping to avoid the worst of the weather, as well as the numerous tacks the opposition faces in the race up the coast of Vietnam towards the finish. Instead, Read plans to sail wide and fast and approach the finish in Sanya on a better angle with cracked sheets and a favourable current. While the leading four engage in a tack-fest for the next 130 nautical miles or so, it will not be until the final hours of the race to Sanya that the outcome of Puma’s tactic will be known.
Although 75 nm to the east of the track taken by Telefónica earlier, it is not yet clear which option sixth-placed Team Sanya will take. Sanya is the team’s homeport and a big welcome will be waiting for them on arrival. While they will push as hard as they can, they are now 266 nm behind and with 820 nm still to sail, they will not want to take any unnecessary chances at this stage.