Volvo Ocean Race: Another InPort clanger costs Telefonica dearly

Team Telefonica rounds a mark, during the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.

Overall race leaders Team Telefónica are lamenting their second successive in-port race loss at the hands of a simple error that racing veteran Neal McDonald described as heartbreaking.

The error has cost the overall points leader dearly on the overall points table. Their once comfortable lead has now been cut to just seven points ahead of Groupama, and they are only 14pts ahead of fourth place, but form boat, Puma Ocean Racing.

In fact a repeat of Leg 6, where Puma won a Telefonica finished fourth, could drop the current overall race leader back to fourth on the points table.

Telefónica hit a mark mid-race, losing two positions after performing a penalty turn before eventually dropping to last place. It follows the team’s last place finish in Itajaí, where they went from the front to the back when they sailed the wrong course.

The in-port failures have left the team’s overall lead hanging precariously by just seven points, as they struggle to fend off attacks from Groupama sailing team, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand and Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg.

McDonald said it was a devastating loss that weighed heavily on the team’s shoulders.

'It didn’t go according to plan, well the first bit did, but then it went downhill,’’ McDonald said.

'It’s so easy to lose places with all these good guys behind you. You only have to make one slip up and one boat goes by, then another boat goes by and then you’re in last place. It’s tough. Heartbreaking.'

The 48-year-old watch captain said the team were feeling the heat as Puma closed in from behind, and then it all went horribly wrong.

'We were in a rush to get around ahead of Puma,’’ he said. 'They would have had right of way, so we tacked, then the wind died, the current washed us into the mark, we just tipped it by the littlest bit, but when you do that you have to do your turns and when you do your turns you lose positions. But that’s yacht racing.'

Skipper Iker Martínez said he did not believe that the team’s loss of form was a result of the pressure of being the overall race leader. He reckons it’s the result of a lack of training.

'The only pressure we had was the pressure that we put on ourselves,’’ he said. 'Everyone wants to do well and they know how to do their jobs well, but I think we’re seeing what we trained for.

'We trained lots for the offshores and not much for the in-ports, not as much as we needed. We have to try to improve this a little bit so we don’t keep losing points in the inshores, and also just keep doing what we’ve been doing in the offshores up until now.

However, Martínez said he and his team would now put the loss behind them and focus on tomorrow when the Leg 7 race from Miami to Lisbon, Portugal gets underway.

'I’m not feeling good at all today, but tomorrow starts something new, and we’re feeling happy that tomorrow is the leg start and we can go sailing again,' he said.