Volvo Ocean Race - The adrenaline-filled comeback of Telefonica

In the Volvo Ocean Race, it was an adrenaline-filled afternoon in the North Atlantic for Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) who overcame damage to their starboard rudder and regained first place, while Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) overhauled Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg (Ken Read/USA), snatched third place and logged a distance of 565.82 nm in the previous 24 hours. The top four protagonists are all within 20 minutes of each other and not giving an inch.

It doesn’t seem possible that the final 350 nautical miles to the finish line in Lorient can be any more action-packed, however this afternoon as the wind increased, Telefónica were forced to back off in spite of previously notching up a 24-hour run of 564 nm, in order to replace their starboard rudder. With the wind rising to 40 knots and huge seas, the crew of Telefónica replaced their broken rudder with a spare carried as part of the mandatory inventory. Although their speed was temporarily reduced by 90 per cent, they were quickly back in the running and at 1900 GMT this evening they were back in their customary first place.

Telefónica navigator Andrew Cape described the current situation as ‘hairy’, with gale force winds predicted to continue until at least midnight. 'It’s on the edge,' he said, adding that the team will be sailing with high boat speed until late evening when they gybe on to port tack for the approach to the Lorient finish.

Franck Cammas and his crew on board Groupama are still struggling with the mainsail headboard car, which jammed at the top of the mast yesterday. Bowman Brad Marsh managed to install another car so that the crew could shorten sail to two reefs. 'We will see how things go on Friday morning when we try to shake a reef because right now, the profile of the mainsail doesn’t look great,' said skipper Franck Cammas.

Meanwhile, a serious arm wrestle is in progress as Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand race side by side with their three closest competitors. The team’s earlier run of 565.82 nm may yet be good enough to claim the IWC Schaffhausen 24-hour Speed Record Challenge, and the thought of winning the prized IWC Schaffhausen timepiece is keeping every sailor on board fully motivated. Tonight, the team were deliberating when to gybe and which sail to use to survive the night and maintain their podium position.

The crew of Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg in fourth place had hoped to gybe during daylight hours, but at 1900 GMT the fleet was still powering downwind at breakneck speeds on starboard tack into fading light.

'The worst is still to come. We just have to try to keep it all together,' said Puma navigator Tom Addis said. 'If you’re too conservative, your chances of winning are pretty slim because you’ve got very little time to make up the extra distance. We will see how we go,' he added.

At 1900 GMT, the first four boats were separated by 9.9 nm, so close that the margin for error was zero. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) were still very much in touch, 18.4 nm astern of the front-runners, while Sanya (Mike Sanderson/NZL) were 69.2 nm adrift.

The first boat is expected to finish in Lorient on Friday at around 1000 GMT.

Volvo Ocean Race website