Sailing-Telefonica back on top after major boat scare

Reuters

Sat, 18 Feb 09:49:00 2012

Iker Martinez's Telefonica spent two days in sailing's version of the emergency care ward before the Sanya in-port race but still left their rivals trailing as the Volvo Ocean Race resumed on Saturday.

The shore crew of Martinez's apparently indestructible boat replaced the entire rigging after finding a mystery fault and the gamble paid off in style as the Spanish team beat U.S. outfit Puma to extend their overall lead by three points.

The still unexplained problem discovered by Telefonica forced them to miss all the practice races on Thursday and Friday.

The decision to replace the entire system at the last minute was understandable given that faulty rigging can cause a mast to break and the boats are heading out into 10 metre waves when they start Leg 4 on Sunday.

If their rivals thought the Spanish crew, which has won the first three of the nine-month race's nine legs, would suffer in Saturday's 10.8-nautical mile race they were in for a rude shock as Martinez cruised home to a 41-second win over U.S.-led Puma.

"Today the tactics were what made the difference. We were really in the right place for the upwind legs and the first downwind too," Martinez told reporters.

"Even if we weren't great at manoeuvres, we were in the right place and that's what mattered."

A bungled sail change from Telefonica saw Puma briefly close to within three seconds at the second turning mark but a wind shift in the Spanish team's favour saw them restore their advantage.

Abu Dhabi finished third, four minutes and twenty seconds adrift of the winners, with Camper/ETNZ (Spain/New Zealand), Groupama (France) and Team Sanya (China) even further adrift.

The result leaves Telefonica comfortably placed with an 18-point advantage over Camper/Team New Zealand.

The 39,000-nautical mile race, the toughest off-shore race in sailing, finishes in Galway, Ireland in July.

The boats are scheduled to set sail for Auckland on Sunday in weather forecast to test the vessels and the crews to the limit.

Overall standings:

Team Telefonica (Spain) 101

Camper (Spain/New Zealand) 83

Groupama (France) 73

Puma (U.S.) 53

Abu Dhabi (UAE) 43

Team Sanya (China) 17

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