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DAMAGES ON TELEFONICA - Moderating winds bring brief respite for fleet

Sail change at the bow onboard Team Telefonica during leg 5 ©Diego Fructuoso/Volvo Ocean Race
Sail change at the bow onboard Team Telefonica during leg 5 ©Diego Fructuoso/Volvo Ocean Race

Moderating conditions are giving the Leg 5 leading group a brief reprieve from the punishing conditions of the last few days as winds ease back to a more manageable 20 knots average.

At 0700 UTC today monday 26th of March Groupama sailing team had a 51 nautical mile (nm) lead over second placed PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG as both teams headed south east at speeds in the early twenties. Third placed Team Telefónica were a further 158 nm back.

On Groupama, Media Crew Member (MCM) Yann Riou said the reduction in wind strength had given the French crew a chance to more fully appreciate their Southern Ocean surroundings for the first time after several days in near survival conditions.

“The landscape is still amazing, plus these calmer conditions give us the opportunity to enjoy it more easily,” Riou wrote in his latest report from the boat. “Now we can keep our eyes open at least, which makes it easier to look.”

“The waves are always monster ones,” Riou added. “Albatrosses, as many as you can ask for. Their harmonious and elegant flight keeps enchanting us.”

Riou said a check over of the boat ahead of more fierce conditions in the next 24 hours had revealed no major problems.

“Brad (Marsh, bowman) climbed up the mast this afternoon for a routine check. Nothing to report there or in the rest of the boat’s systems. Groupama 4 in good shape; only couple of small leaks which require a persistent bailing.”

Team Telefónica MCM Diego Fructuoso said the lighter winds and smaller waves had lessened immediate concerns over damage to the boat and made the constant repair work a little easier.

“At the moment we're sailing at almost 20 knots boat speed without any problem at all, “Fructuoso wrote. “Pepe (Ribes, helmsman) and other crewmembers giving him a hand don't step working to get Telefónica battle ready once again,”

On CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, who are heading for a repair pit stop in Chile, the news was less encouraging with additional structural damage to their bow meaning more hard graft for an already exhausted Rob Salthouse.

“Things certainly aren’t getting any easier onboard,” wrote MCM Hamish Hooper.

“Last night as we were sailing along trying to keep the boat slow and under control we managed to pop the starboard longitudinal -- the fourth big blow we have had in a row.

“With each new blow things become that much harder and fragile.

“Rob Salthouse deserves a knighthood. He has basically been working in the bow completely covered in carbon dust for four days now with the slightest of sleep between fixing things and them breaking again.

“His trusty sidekick Mike Pammenter (boat captain) has been right alongside him doing all he can to help keep things together. Their patience is wearing very thin, but their perseverance is not.”

Meanwhile, fifth placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were still searching for the strong winds they need to start to close down the leaders. At 0700 UTC today Abu Dhabi were over 1,100 nm off the lead.


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