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Volvo Ocean Race Leg 4 Day 4

Photo Galleryby Volvo Ocean Race media
22 February 2012

© Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race
Skipper Iker Martinez at the deck with Xabi Fernandez and Joao Signorini onboard Team Telefonica during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race
© Amory Ross / PUMA Ocean Racing / Volvo Ocean Race
Sun makes its first appearance of the leg so far, just in time to watch it disappear over the horizon on PUMA during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race

Telefónica is new leader as fleet leaves Luzon Strait

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) led the fleet through the Luzon Strait, passing within a mile of the lighthouse marking the southern tip of Taiwan at 1830 UTC tonight. Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas/FRA) and Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) followed. But, at 2200 UTC tonight a new leader had emerged and Telefónica was in back their customary position as leader of the pack.

The shake up on the leaderboard is due to decisions taken immediately after clearing the Luzon Strait. CAMPER chose the high road north, while Telefónica is 45 nautical miles to their south. Between the two is Groupama 4. PUMA's Mar Mostro (Ken Read/USA) rounded the point in fourth place with Ian Walker and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing less than a mile behind. At the last position report Team Sanya still had four miles to go.

Progress through the Luzon Strait was slow but at least possible and not the total glass off that the crews feared and speeds have been building out in the Philippine Sea. For the past three hours, CAMPER has averaged 19.3 knots, while those further south have been sailing progressively slower.

“The next part of the leg is about how far east you can get before you dive south towards the Equator,” explained Team Sanya's skipper Mike Sanderson/NZL. “How much distance to the finish are you prepared to pay to sail east and how far does that take you?”

Like the other five teams, Sanderson and his men had hoped the sail east would be relatively cheap enabling them to then sail with much nicer angles down to the trade winds, but this is not going to be easy. “At the moment, it's looking like it's going to be too hard to get east and it's going to give the fleet a very tight angle to the trades, which means quite a few more days upwind or tight reaching,” he said.

On board PUMA's Mar Mostro, the mood has brightened as they climb two places tonight. Read is upbeat: “A lot can happen yet. We're staying positive. There's nobody on board who is down right now. We don't get points for being 500 miles into a leg, we get them at the finish last time I checked. We'll be fine,” he said.

Position Report at 22:02:01 UTC:

PosTeamDTLBoat SpeedDTF


Blog from the Seas (by Amory Ross, MCM, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG)

The realities of the coming complications are setting in. Our predicted 18-day leg has turned into a 20-day one, maybe even 21 or 22; it is hard to know as the models keep changing. We've started setting food aside and are mindful of our valuable resources like propane and toilet paper. Yesterday's lunch was recycled, and with a little hot water became yesterday's dinner, too. It's only Day 3, so that was a bit of a shock!

A lengthy detour around the top of Taiwan is very much an option to consider at the moment, with forecasts for the strait between its southern tip and the Philippines looking light and doldrumsie. It's not a question of whether we continue north or not – both routes take us that direction – but when and where we choose to sail it, and choosing the option that gets us east the fastest.

If we go north now and leave Taiwan to starboard, we'll likely have an easier time getting east once up there. But we would risk strong adverse currents and of course the high level of commitment it requires; there's no “bailing out” if we change our mind… If we choose the straits and aim for the Philippines, our options remain open. Though the light forecast is uncertain, it is probably the less risky option and we could well have a chance at reconnecting with the fleet in a compression scenario. Conversely, we could get stuck – again – and have a difficult time getting out of there while the rest of the guys sail away in a different breeze.

This is a crucial moment in the leg and there's obviously a lot at stake. It has already been a busy day of decision-making, but I'd be surprised to see us be anything but conservative. It appears like all of the other boats have chosen the Philippines route, but anything can happen in the next day and a half. At least we don't have to worry about losing the lead!

- Amory

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