The Volvo Ocean Race fleet are maintaining the pace and pressure at 2200 UTC this evening as Iker Martinez and the crew of Telefonica lead the fleet towards the South Cape of Vietnam, some 261 nautical miles (nm) ahead.
Team Telefonica picking up speed after exiting the Strait of Malacca, during leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Abu Dhabi, UAE to Sanya, China.
Even though the team had to back up to free some plastic stuck in the daggerboard, since 1600 UTC today they have been making small gains on the entire fleet and tonight at 2200 UTC, all five boats had loss valuable miles to the leader.
Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas/FRA), now four nm to windward is 5.6 nm behind, meanwhile, Ken Read has broken free from the clutches of Groupama 4 and Telefónica and has tacked, clearly considering the easterly route rather than the coastal option. As a result, Puma’s Mar Mostro is showing a loss tonight of 25 nm and is now 38nm behind Martínez and his unstoppable team.
Further back in the field, the gap between Mar Mostro in third and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam in fourth has extended to 126 nm. Fifth placed Camper is 21 nm east of Azzam and 15 nm behind.
Bringing up the rear is Team Sanya who are now out in the South China Sea although still heading east and trailing by nearly 200 nm.
Gales are forecast for up to 125 nm off the Vietnam coast and the leaders are heading directly towards the area where, according to weather experts, conditions will become rough to extreme, with short period waves of around two – four metres in height.
The sea state is probably going to the deciding factor in how fast the teams will push, rather than the wind strength. 'When the wind starts building, we will adjust our sails accordingly and start slowing the boat down as we need to,' Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Rob Greenhalgh said.
On board, checks are being made in readiness for the bad weather ahead and the crews are trying to be as rested as they possibly can, given the closeness of the competition. When to put the pedal down and when to back off will be critical and it could just be that the team that survives it might well win.
Volvo Ocean Race website