Team Telefonica in foul weather gear as they head further south into colder, rougher conditions, during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil.
Overall Volvo Ocean race leader, Telefonica is tipped to also be about to suspend racing and have repairs undertaken in South America, before heading for the race finish in Itajai, Brazil.
In a media release today from Emirates Team NZ, who are also headed for an unscheduled stopover in Punta Montt, Chile, skipper Chris Nicholson said 'In the last week alone Sanya has had to pull out, Abu Dhabi had to return to Auckland for repairs, and now we understand that Telefonica has similar structural issues to us and is heading to Ushuaia for repairs.'
According to the tracking, Telefonica has broken away from the normal track to round Cape Horn, and is on a higher course which would take her to Ushuaia, a fishing port in Tierra del Fuego.
Her course represents a similar pattern of deviation with the rest of the fleet, as was done by Camper, prior to their announcement they would be suspending racing.
The move, if it is made by Telefonica, would probably not cost her places, as the damage to Telefonica is not believed to be as great, and she should get away ahead of Camper, but would drop places on Abu Dhabi who was the first of possibly four of the racers to have to suspend racing on Leg 5.
Telefonica earlier reported that they had crew working in their bow - which again is a further pointer to some more permanent repairs being required before completing the leg. They have also been forced to throttle back from race pace.
The racers are too far away from Cape Horn to really be able to forecast conditions for the leg from Cape Horn to Itajai, however traditionally this has been a period of very hard sailing with frequent squalls, albeit without the heavy seas which frequent the Southern Ocean.
Meanwhile, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand report that they are making good progress towards Puerto Montt with the weather conditions moderating and the temporary repairs to the bow section remaining stable.
In Auckland, Cookson’s Boats are well advanced on the construction of a replacement bulkhead and longitudinals and these are due to be air freighted out to Chile along with other materials on Friday.
Telefonica deviating from the fastest track for Cape Horn and is believed to be heading for Ushuaia, Terra del Fuego
With points remaining on the line in Leg Five the team will resume racing as soon as possible and is using the 2000 nautical mile plus trip to Chile to get the boat in as good as shape possible in order that it can be turned around and re-start the race to Itajai with minimum delay.
Skipper Chris Nicolson says that the team is philosophical about having to make the pit stop and is now focused on getting on with the job at hand.
'This is the Southern Ocean and the reality is that this sort of damage can and does happen.
'The important thing is to get our head down, get on with the repair job and get back into it.
'We appear to have the right combination to keep the longitudinals intact but it has taken some time as it’s not an exact science as the boat is not 100% operational. We are now looking to the future and getting to Chile and getting the boat back in racing order to resume our leg to Itajai.
'Yes, we’re in remote location but each day we’re knocking out 250 odd miles towards Puerto Montt and getting closer to the repairs we need and getting back racing, so in reality the furthest point is behind us.
'We just need to ensure over the next few days that the boat doesn’t do any high speed slamming, so we’ve reduced sail dramatically and are keeping a very close eye on the weather to ensure that we get the boat in safely.
'The guys have been absolute troopers, but we’re still racing so it’s important that we maintain the routine on board with watch systems and so forth. There’s still plenty to do.'
At the head of the fleet, Groupama (Franck Cammas) and Puma (Ken Read) seem to be adopting a steady as she goes approach - adopting a safety first approach, knowing that the four boats behind are not a real threat, and that points for second or third place, plus a good break in Itajai will be more than welcome for the Puma crew, who stopped over on the South Atlantic Island of Tristan da Cuhna after breaking her mast while lying in second place on Leg 1. She arrived in South Africa just a couple of days before the star of Leg 2, and the crew have been in catch up mode until they finished second in Auckland.
Telefonica at the entrance to the Waitemata- Volvo Ocean Race Auckland - Start March 18,2012