so far, so good

being there

so far, so good

Telefonica watch captain Neal MacDonald shares some insight about their stunning VOR so far…

Although I have to be incredibly pleased with “Telefonica”’s first place I would be lying if I said I had enjoyed this particular leg.

Leg 2.1 was almost half the distance of leg 1 and not much over half the duration but for me it took just about the same amount of energy and was much harder sailing than the previous one. Fickle, changeable winds made of frustrating tricky sailing. The nights were dark – I can’t remember ever seeing the moon or even any more than a few starts for the whole leg. All together unpleasant sailing conditions –the only good thing I can say about it was the first week or so was at least not cold– the rest was too hot.

It was great to win the Cape Town inshore. It seems pretty clear you only need a good start and few good decisions to make that happen. This time it was us, next time who knows. One fact is clear: this new format with the In-Port the day before the start makes the whole leg start even more intense. The risks of boats not making the leg start must be significantly increased. The week before the start has now become even more of a nightmare week that it ever has been before.

Our leg start had much to be desired – DFL round the laps in the Bay was far from the best start to the leg but by mid afternoon the whole fleet was drifting around together. What was much more of a concern was our first night. We got a little stuck under a headland and saw boats around us edge away. Eight hours later these 20 or 30 meters turned into nearly 20 miles! Scary stuff – especially at one point where we were going backwards with a foul current so much we had to anchor.

The next few days so saw us slowly claw our way back into the pack. From there it was a navigators race – fortunately for us we have one of the best – and Capey did us proud with a series of well thought out moves pulling us up to the front of the group. We even managed to catch and overtake what looked like an uncatchable lead of “Groupama”.

Our only real hiccup was our exit from the Doldrums. We did better that most but Camper got the upper hand and slipped away form us. This gave them a jump of some 20 miles on us. With a little luck and some good pace we hunted them down. As darkness fell on the night before we finished we had them in our sights. From then on in it became a 20 hours match race. We sailed all over the ocean in an attempt to break thru. Camper played some excellent blocking moves and held us at bay until some 10 miles of so from the finish they fell into a hole and we simply sailed round them.

They came back at us and we had a real tussle for a few miles in the pitch black right on the edge of a coral reef with the sound of breaking waves breaking in our eats – pretty intense but the outcome for us was just fine, a huge relief and a very pleasing end to the leg.

From a racing point of view the massive plus of this part of the leg was we had more boats to battle with than in leg 1. This certainly allowed us to get a further check in with our speed against the rest of the fleet. Again, I come away feeling pretty pleased that “Telefónica” is on the pace in most conditions and shows some sparkle at certain angles and wind speeds –more good news for the future.

We also had another leg with no gear failure, no sail damage or crew injuries – more positives for sure. So far so good, BUT it’s a long way to go and we know we have a real battle on our hands for the next six months. Everyone is going to have a bad leg (it’s not been our turn yet but it will happen). When it does we just have to make sure it does not rock our confidence or ruin our momentum.

Neal McDonald.
“Telefónica” Watch Captain.