Pressure mount on Volvo Ocean Race leaders
The pressure on front pair Groupama and PUMA to defend their lead was continuing to mount on Wednesday as Team Telefónica closed in to less than 50 nautical miles.
“Today, our main concern is not our preoccupation of PUMA, but the return of a third competitor, which has begun to be quite worrying,” – Groupama media crew member Yann Riou said Wednesday. Iker Martinez’s crew started their fourth day of comeback more than a knot quicker than their rivals as they rode at the head of a weather front around 150 nautical miles south east of the frontrunners.
Telefónica suspended racing at 0405 UTC on 1 April to fix structural problems, rejoining the race just 17 hours later . Since then they have gone from being resigned to third place with a deficit of more than 400 nautical miles to serious challengers for the Leg 5 win with less than 700 nautical miles of racetrack remaining.
At 1300 UTC the Spanish team were trailing the leading pair by just 46.45 nautical miles, and were averaging speeds of 12 knots over the past 24-hours, compared to Groupama and PUMA’s nine knots. Their rapid advance has caused worry among the two front boats as they are forced to factor Telefónica’s challenge into their tactics.
“Indeed, Telefonica are coming back to the front of the race with a weather system tailored to their measure. To catch up over 350 miles including a technical stop, is saying that this is hand-sewn!
“We do not know yet how far they can go, but one thing for sure is that Franck (Cammas, skipper) and Jean-Luc (Nelias, navigator) are now forced to integrate it into their tactical choices. This session of match racing is finished, ”Riou said.