Volvo Ocean Race - Telefonica closes in on Puma

Team Telefonica, skippered by Iker Martinez from Spain, stacking up to the rail, at the start of leg 8 from Lisbon, Portugal to Lorient, France, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.
Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race is now underway with Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg leading the fleet out of Lisbon at noon GMT today. The Puma crew comfortably led the fleet away from the coast of Portugal and at 1900GMT tonight are still in the lead though they are being pressed hard by Telefonica who are just 0.4 nautical miles behind.

Now seven hours into this 1,940-nm leg, the crews are settling into their watch systems and preparing for their first night at sea as they race 101 nautical miles north west of Cabo de São Vicente on the Portuguese coast. With a north-south lateral separation of eight miles, the fleet is jib-top reaching towards the Azores Island of São Miguel, 700 nm or so ahead, in 13-14 knots of north-northwesterly breeze, at boat speeds of around 17 knots.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR), fresh from their Leg 7 win, have maintained third place. A late spinnaker hoist at the start and a misunderstanding on board meant the crew unfurled the spinnaker on the wrong tack and, as the team gybed, it all went inside the headstay.

'To compound matters, the spinnaker wasn’t on the lock correctly and it fell out of the sky and nearly hit the race committee boat,' said skipper Ian Walker, who had former World Footballer of the Year Luis Figo on board for the first hour as a guest. 'We are normally much better than this,' Walker explained to Figo, who nevertheless was impressed with the teamwork on board. 'I want to help but I don't know how,' said the Portuguese. The team quickly regained control and their plan to stay out in the middle of the Tagus River paid off.

Just 4.2 nm split the fleet at 1900 from Puma in the lead to Sanya (Mike Sanderson/NZL) in sixth place. The fleet is expected to compress in the approach to São Miguel, however once round the island, they will feel the effect of a low pressure system which, as it moves east, could throw up westerly breeze of up to 40 knots and a huge sea state. The finish could be as early as late on Friday night.

Volvo Ocean Race website