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Exhausted Telefónica Pulls into Sanya First

Team Telefónica dominates the leaderboard after pulling into Sanya, China first despite a rough start.

© Todd, Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012

Despite a rocky start in the first stage of Leg 3 when they finished fourth in the sprint from Abu Dhabi to the Stealth Zone, and a damaged sail on the first night of the second stage, skipper Iker Martinez and crew dominated the race once again, arriving in port at the Chinese island of Sanya ahead of the rest of the fleet on February 4.

The 3,051 nautical mile leg took a toll on all the sailors, even the victors, as Telefónica navigator Andrew Cape admitted.

“It’s one of the toughest legs I’ve done,” he said. “Mentally it was very difficult, tactically very difficult. Physically it wasn’t as tough as a long southern ocean leg but mentally it was really hard."

“I’m feeling really exhausted and I just want to have a beer.”

Damage suffered all around

Similarly looking forward to real food and a beer were the crew of second place Groupama. Their eleventh-hour attempt to challenge Telefónica for the lead had been foiled by a collision with floating debris and a snapped mainsheet on the final night of sailing.

CAMPER came in third place, followed by PUMA who had also suffered damage from floating debris. In fifth place came Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and finally, Team Sanya crossed the finish line on Sunday, February 5.

The fleet had been fairly compact when they entered the Malacca Strait, the passage connecting the Indian Ocean with the Pacific, via a 500-mile stretch of narrow, shallow and congested water. But Sanya went through a series of adverse weather that left them hundreds of miles to the rear, while Telefónica emerged first into the South China Sea and turned north for the final 1,100 nautical miles.

Sailing into dangerous waters

The crews were unused to sailing through such busy waters and were frequently dodging tankers and fishing boats by night.

“With poor quality charting, multitudes of unlit fishing vessels and miles of nets, not to mention shallow wrecks from the war, the potential for disaster was high,” CAMPER’s navigator Will Oxley said.

Unsurprisingly, Team Telefónica is dominating the scoreboard with a commanding lead at 95 points. In overall second place is CAMPER with 80, followed by Groupama at 71, PUMA is in fourth at 48, Abu Dhabi has netted 39 points and Sanya is bringing up the rear with 16.

Shore crews for the various teams are busy getting all the boats back in fighting shape after the rough passage to Sanya in time for Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race, which launches February 19 on a 5,220 nautical mile odyssey to the New Zealand port of Auckland.

© Todd, Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012