In Volvo Ocean Race, Team Telefonica have earned and will enjoy a head start on their rivals in the race to Auckland after taking the win in the first stage of Leg 4.
Iker Martínez’s team continued their winning streak in Sanya with victory in a race full of surprises which saw both Groupama and Abu Dhabi claw their way back from last place to the podium, while long-term leg leaders Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg were relegated to the back of the pack after getting stuck in a wind hole.
'We saw that Puma got stuck in light winds and tried to steer clear of that, and luckily we made the transition well,' said Spanish skipper Martínez, who led his team to victory in Saturday’s Sanya Haitang Bay In-Port Race.
'I feel sorry for Puma because they sailed a great race and just got unlucky.'
Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya celebrated a fourth-place finish, their first position off the bottom of the rankings since the Iberdrola In-Port Race in Alicante in November.
Despite their strong inshore performance, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand failed to recover from a setback early in the offshore section of the 43.2-nautical mile race and were forced to settle for fifth.
The biggest upset was on board Ken Read’s Puma when their lead of more than a mile disappeared completely after sailing into a windless area shortly after starting the home run back to Sanya.
Read’s men on Mar Mostro could only watch as all five rival teams passed them in better breeze while they floundered with windless sails flapping. They eventually finished 39 minutes behind Telefónica.
Camper’s run of bad luck also continued as they fell foul of technical problems not long after beginning the 18 nautical mile stretch from Sanya Bay to the Guanyin Buddha of South China Sea statue.
Their fifth place finish means Chris Nicholson’s men will start the 5,220nm race to Auckland, New Zealand, more than nine minutes after Telefónica.
'We had a couple of bits of trouble at the start but if you look at what happened to Puma it could have been a lot worse,' said Nicholson.
'We would have preferred to start tomorrow with a nine-minute jump on everyone else. We actually fought back well after the first transition but we got cleaned up by the second one.'
Race management took the decision to split the leg into two sections yesterday in light of dangerous weather conditions raging in the South China Sea.
The teams will restart racing from Sanya at the following times:
Team Telefónica: 2300 UTC, Sunday February 19 Groupama sailing team: 23:02:34 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing: 23:03:36 Team Sanya: 23:07:32 Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand: 23:09:13 Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg: 23:39:17
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