Volvo Ocean Race qualifier – Telefónica first over finish line

Team Telefonica skippered by Iker Martinez from Spain finish first in the Alicante qualifying race - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 - Team Telefónica crossed the line first in the final qualifier today, celebrating their arrival back in Alicante with a breakfast of sparkling wine and chocolate croissants.

Telefónica, skippered by Olympic gold medallist Iker Martínez, arrived at 05:45:24 UTC/GMT (07:45:24 local time) after completing a 360-nautical mile race that started at 1300 UTC on Friday and took the fleet out to Palma de Mallorca and back, in fickle winds which varied from 25 knots to almost nothing.

Puma Ocean Racing powered by BERG Propulsion, Team Sanya, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand and Groupama sailing team also completed the qualifier on Sunday.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing arrived back but officially retired from the race after skipper Ian Walker, satisfied the crew had completed all the required drills checks, turned on the boat’s engine while they were becalmed. Race management was considering whether to take any action on Sunday.

Martínez played down the importance of finishing first, as no points were awarded in a race introduced to test safety procedures including the man overboard drill, emergency steering and storm sails.

'It was not a real race,’’ Martínez said while dripping with champagne following the team’s onshore celebrations. 'We spent a lot of time doing those manoeuvres for the safety procedures, and we could have won or lost on any one of those.'

The race turned into a north-south gamble when the fleet split on Saturday, with Telefónica, Puma and Sanya taking the southerly route around Ibiza and hooking into much stronger winds.

Camper, Groupama 4 and Ian Walker’s Azzam took a more direct northerly route but were becalmed for longer.

Puma finished behind Telefónica, with Team Sanya following soon afterwards.

Skipper Ken Read judged the race a great chance to compare Puma’s Mar Mostro with the five other Volvo Open 70s for the first time.

'We learned some valuable lessons about ourselves and the other teams,' he said. 'We’ve always known that all the boats are going to be really fast and this race confirmed that. There are no dogs out there.'

Team Sanya’s watch leader Cameron Dunn, who skippered the boat in the absence of Mike Sanderson, said the performance was a confidence boost for the only team racing in an older generation boat.

'We have proved that if we sail smart and don't make mistakes then we can beat some of the newer boats,' he said.

Camper made the best start and enjoyed a warm welcome at Palma de Mallorca, their Spanish base, before being hit by the lack of wind. They finished just behind Groupama in the early afternoon in Spain.

Racing will officially begin when the six teams go head to head in the first in-port race in Alicante on October 29. Leg 1 will start on November 5 when the teams race out in to the Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa.

Volvo Ocean Race website