2200hrs: All boats seem to have successfully completed the gybe to Lorient in about the place and time nominated by Predictwind to optimise their finish time.
As at the 2200hrs GMT sked, Telefonica is just 1 minute ahead of Groupama to finish in Lorient, with Camper 19 minutes behind Telefonica and Puma 40 minutes behind the Leg leader. There is 12 hours left to sail in the leg with a finish time of about 2330hrs predicted for the Leg on June 15,2012.
As predicted by Predictwind the winds increased to and average of 40kts at the time of the highly risky manoeuvre, and instant wind speeds in excess of 50kts were reported some boats in the fleet.
According to the Dashboard on the Volvo Ocean Race website, Telefonica would seem to be having problems sailing at half the speed of the other boats and in a NE direction, while the others are sailing a course just south of East or 50degrees lower than Telefonica.
In an earlier report, Volvo Ocean Race reported that the conditions of Leg 8 were taking such a toll on the sailors that they are foregoing food in favour of sleep as they push their bodies to the brink of exhaustion and their boats to record breaking speeds in the face of a North Atlantic storm.
Team Telefónica navigator Andrew Cape said he had noticed increasing signs of exhaustion on the faces of the weather-beaten sailors when they returned below deck after being 'fire-hosed' by smashing waves for hours.
'Some people are that worn out they come down and go straight to bed,’’ he said. 'I have noticed a lot of people are just going straight to bed, being out in the elements they’re just getting hosed and the first thing they want is to get dry and hit the bunk. They’re exhausted.'
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Media Crew Member Nick Dana said the 40-plus knot winds and huge waves were making life very uncomfortable.
'It was a pretty punishing night on the crew,’’ he said. 'Tough conditions down below made it difficult to keep food in a bowl, so many missed dinners.
'A few good waves over the deck cleaned up the cockpit nicely, sweeping everyone but the driver off their feet and tight onto their tethers.
Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker said the situation was without question draining on his crew, but the thought of a dry bed and French food awaiting them tomorrow was proving a driving force.
PredictWind optimised route, showing gybe at 2100hrs in 40kts of wind, based on positions of Volvo Ocean Race leaders at 1900hrs UTC June 14, 2012 - PredictWind.com
1900hrs: Telefonica overcomes rudder issues
In an adrenaline-filled afternoon in the North Atlantic Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) overcame damage to their starboard rudder and regained first place on Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race.
While Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) overhauled Puma Ocean Racing (Ken Read/USA), snatched third place and logged a distance of 565.82 nm in the previous 24 hours. The top four protagonists are all within 20 minutes of each other and not giving an inch.
It doesn’t seem possible that the final 350 nautical miles to the finish line in Lorient can be any more action-packed, however this afternoon as the wind increased, Telefónica were forced to back off in spite of previously notching up a 24-hour run of 564 nm, in order to replace their starboard rudder. With the wind reported at 25 knots and huge seas, the crew of Telefónica replaced their broken rudder with a spare carried as part of the mandatory inventory. Although their speed was temporarily reduced by 90 per cent, they were quickly back in the running and at 1900 GMT this evening they were back in their customary first place.
Telefónica navigator Andrew Cape described the current situation as ‘hairy’, with gale force winds predicted to continue until at least midnight. 'It’s on the edge,' he said, adding that the team will be sailing with high boat speed until late evening when they gybe on to port tack for the approach to the Lorient finish.
Franck Cammas and his crew on board Groupama are still struggling with the mainsail headboard car, which jammed at the top of the mast yesterday. Bowman Brad Marsh managed to install another car so that the crew could shorten sail to two reefs. 'We will see how things go on Friday morning when we try to shake a reef because right now, the profile of the mainsail doesn’t look great,' said skipper Franck Cammas.
Meanwhile, a serious arm wrestle is in progress as Camper race side by side with their three closest competitors. The team’s earlier run of 565.82 nm may yet be good enough to claim the IWC Schaffhausen 24-hour Speed Record Challenge, and the thought of winning the prized IWC Schaffhausen timepiece is keeping every sailor on board fully motivated. Tonight, the team were deliberating when to gybe and which sail to use to survive the night and maintain their podium position.
The crew of Puma in fourth place had hoped to gybe during daylight hours, but at 1900 GMT the fleet was still powering downwind at breakneck speeds on starboard tack into fading light.
'The worst is still to come. We just have to try to keep it all together,' said Puma navigator Tom Addis said. 'If you’re too conservative, your chances of winning are pretty slim because you’ve got very little time to make up the extra distance. We will see how we go,' he added.
At 1900 GMT, the first four boats were separated by 9.9 nm, so close that the margin for error was zero. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) were still very much in touch, 18.4 nm astern of the front-runners, while Sanya (Mike Sanderson/NZL) were 69.2 nm adrift.
The first boat is expected to finish in Lorient on Friday at around 1000 GMT.
1500hrs: Earlier report on Telefonica's broken rudder
Telefónica were back challenging for the lead in the closing stages of Leg 8 after replacing a broken rudder in strong winds within 500 miles of the finish.
At the latest report (1900UTC) using the Volvo Ocean Race system of calculating who has the shortest distance to sail to the finish, Telefonica was back in front, with Groupama second and Camper third
Iker Martínez’s team had a slim lead over their rivals when one of their rudders broke, forcing them to slow the boat to less than five knots for around an hour.
Despite slipping to third place behind Groupama sailing team and Puma Ocean Racing, Telefónica were back up to speed this afternoon and in the hunt for a fourth leg win.
Earlier in the day Telefónica set a new 24-hour distance record for their run of 564 nautical miles, only for Camper to go back ahead of them with a distance just fractionally greater later in the day.
An official statement from Telefónica read: 'Despite beating the speed record for this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race for the fourth time this afternoon, notching up a 24-hour run of 564 nautical miles, Telefónica was forced to slow down considerably during approximately an hour due to a broken rudder.
'Working mid-storm with wind speeds topping 25 knots, the Spanish boat's crew worked to fix the situation by using the spare rudder.
'Although the boat's power took a 90 per cent dive, from aboard Telefónica there have been assurances that they will be aiming for the maximum possible speeds as they head for Lorient, aiming not to drop back on the way to the finish.'
Team Sanya is almost submerged as waves crash over the deck, during leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Lisbon, Portugal to Lorient, France. - Andrés Soriano/Team Sanya/Volvo Click Here to view large photo
1000hrs UTC: 2011/12 Speed record is broken
The six Volvo Open 70s are going at full pace in the North Atlantic with plenty of runway ahead of them and Camper's leading mark in the IWC Schaffhausen Speed Record Challenge under threat.
Telefónica have claimed the lead in the IWC Schaffhausen Speed Record Challenge with a 24-hour run of 557 nautical miles, though the record could yet fall again with plenty of runway left for the teams.
Weather system as at Friday June 15, 2012 at 0700hrs - the leg winner is expected to finish two hours later - leg 8, Volvo Ocean Race - PredictWind.com
Team Telefónica have been posting faster and faster speeds all day and at the 1000 position report their best of 557 nm beat the previous record of 553 nm set by Camper during the Leg 1 race from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa.
Camper's record had looked safe after the teams crossed the Atlantic from Miami to Lisbon with no further moves but Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient, via a waypoint in the Azores, presented a late opportunity thanks to a massive low pressure system that is sending the teams to France at screaming speeds.
By Thursday at 1000 UTC, the boats had posted the following best distances on Leg 8:
Dave Swete and Bert Schandevyl working the pit, onboard Team Sanya during leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Lisbon, Portugal to Lorient, France. - Andrés Soriano/Team Sanya/Volvo Click Here to view large photo
0700hrs: Preparing for the Big Gybe
At 0700 GMT today, Telefónica led Groupama by 6.20 nm, followed by Puma on their port hip and Camper further to the west. With just 13.3 nm separating the first four boats, the pressure is intense.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Sanya have not been able to achieve the relentless pace of the leading four and have slipped back to 35.7 nm and 60.7 nm respectively.
The big gybe onto starboard towards the finish is likely to be in about ten hours’ time. Daylight will make this difficult manoeuvre easier, allowing the crews to judge the sea state and see the surfing waves. With 580 nm to go to the finish, it is likely that the fleet will arrive in Lorient in France on Friday during daylight.
The first boat is expected to finish in 24 hours time at 0900hrs on June 15, 2012
The optimum time to gybe will be at 2100hrs - trouble is that the breeze is predicted to be 42kts (average) possibly 50kts. leg 8 Volvo Ocean Race - PredictWind.com
Earlier at 0700 Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand were currently in line to take the overall prize in the IWC Schaffhausen Speed Record Challenge after racing 553 nautical miles on Leg 1 of the 20011-12 edition from Alicante to Cape Town.
Progress as at 0700 on June 14, 2012 UTC Leg 8 Volvo Ocean Race - PredictWind.com
That looked reasonably safe after the teams crossed the Atlantic from Miami to Lisbon with the record still intact but Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient, via a waypoint in the Azores, has presented a late opportunity for their rivals.
Overnight, the boats posted the following best distances:
Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand: 514.2, 21.4 kts
Telefónica: 513.3 nautical miles, 21.3 knots average speed
Groupama: 512.4 nm, 21.3 kts
Puma Ocean Racing 512.2 nm, 21.3 kts
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing: 486.9 nm, 20.2 kts
Team Sanya: 464.1 nm, 19.3 kts
There are around 600 nm still to go and with the leaders averaging in the mid-20s in terms of knots there is every chance of a new record for the current edition.
IWC Schaffhausen are the race's official timekeepers and present a trophy to the team which sails the furthest distance in any 24-hour period during each leg.
The overall greatest 24-hour distance over the entire eight months of the race will land all 11 members of the winning crew with an IWC Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph Edition ‘Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12’.
The world record for a monohull over 24 hours is the 596.6 nm sailed by Ericsson 4 in the last edition of the race.
0400hrs: Four boats crack the 500nm in 24 hours barrier The North-Atlantic storm has ramped up the fleet to near record breaking speeds overnight with the top four teams each notching more than 500 nautical miles in the past 24 hours, but it is Team Telefónica who continue to have an edge.
The massive low pressure system hasn’t disappointed, delivering winds in excess of 40 knots that have tested the boats and crews as they slipped into survival mode overnight.
While while fighting to survive the top four of Telefónica, Puma, Groupama and Camper have been pushing themselves to the brink in a bid to earn vital points that could ultimately decide the entire race, with just 23 points separating them on the overall leaderboard.
'Without a doubt this leg will be won by they boat who can find the right balance between pushing and boat conservation, and with the top four boats so close, we really could see anything happen,' Sanya skipper Mike Sanderson said.
Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand, current holders of the IWC Schaffhausen 24-hour record for the race, continued to stamp their authority as the fastest boat on the track racking up the top 24-hour distance with 514.2 nautical miles and an average of 21.4 knots.
Telefónica followed closely behind with 513.3, followed by Groupama, 512.4 and Puma with 512.2, while Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Sanya are yet to crack the 500 mark, with plenty of runway still to go.
At 0400 UTC just eight nautical miles separated the leading four boats, with just over 600 nm remaining until the finish at Lorient, France.
Telefónica held a narrow six nautical mile lead over Puma, but Groupama are looking threatening in third place having clawed back some of the miles they lost yesterday when their mainsail jammed and the team dropped to fourth place.
Camper are in fourth place followed by Abu Dhabi and Team Sanya.
0000hrs: Brad Marsh scales Groupama's mast three times to free mainsail
Groupama bowman Brad Marsh pulled off a daring mid-sea fix to keep overall leaders Groupama in with a shot at a podium finish in Leg 8 after their mainsail jammed in the path of a storm.
Kiwi sailor Marsh climbed Groupama’s 31-metre mast three times in more than 20 knots of breeze and rough seas to try to free the mainsail, which got stuck when the crew tried to make the sail smaller in light of rising winds, forecast to reach gale-force strength in the coming hours.
Media crew member Yann Riou said the problems arose after skipper Franck Cammas made the call to ‘reef’ the mainsail, whereby the sail is lowered partially to reduce its size.
'It’s when we had to take this reef that we noticed the main sail was stuck at the top of the mast,' he said.
'After several attempts, we had to admit we needed to find other solutions.'
The solution came in the form of Marsh, who braved the swinging of the mast three times to solve the problem and keep Groupama in the running.
'To give you an idea, it’s already tough to stand up on deck in these conditions,' Riou added.
'So, up in the air with a 30-metre lever… I don’t understand how he did it! If you’re looking for the hero of the day, he is here!'