Telefónica's Leg 8 victory hopes were wrecked in the early hours of Friday morning, as a second broken rudder forced them to slow the boat drastically, leaving Groupama on course for a triumphant homecoming to Lorient.
"What a mess! Now I'll be happy if we all get to shore without any further problems" - Iker Martínez
The team skippered by Olympic gold medallist Iker Martínez had to perform heroics to fit a replacement for their broken starboard rudder in 25 knots of wind on Thursday afternoon, losing 11 nautical miles in the process but then surging back to reclaim the lead.
The leg was always destined to be decided by the high-risk gybe all the teams were preparing to make, however, and just after Telefónica became the first team to turn calamity struck in seething sea conditions, as the replacement starboard rudder broke and the one on port was damaged.
It was a heartbreaking moment for Martínez, whose team quickly ceded the lead to Groupama and by 0800 UTC were in fifth place, 100 nm off the pace and thinking only of getting home safely.
"The situation on board is normal but we have to be very careful as we only have one rudder and it's damaged," said Martínez.
Groupama, eight points ahead in the overall standings going into the leg, now have the chance to build a significantly bigger advantage with two in-port races and just one final offshore leg to Galway.
At 0800, Groupama were 73.4 nm from the finish, with a lead of 23.1 nm over closest challengers PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, who are third in the overall standings. CAMPER, fourth overall, were in third place on the leg 1.1 nm behind PUMA, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing another 5.5 nm back.
"We're all fine," assured Martínez, whose team won the first three offshore legs in the race but now could find themselves 28 points behind with three points-scoring opportunities to go.
"The mood on board is as good as it can be in circumstances like these, as we have just seen any chance of us winning this round the world regatta slip away. It's like two years' work just disappearing into thin air in a matter of minutes. What a mess! Now I'll be happy if we all get to shore without any further problems."
Martínez added: "I would like to say sorry from the bottom of my heart to our sponsors and more specifically to (team CEO) Pedro Campos who has risked so much to provide us with the necessary resources and time to be able to race in this regatta. I think that the only thing right now that that makes me feel any better is knowing that I've given one hundred per cent to this for the past two years.
- 1 Jul 2012Resurgent Telefónica lead fleet out on final leg
- 16 Jun 2012Short, fast and brutal
- 15 Jun 2012Groupama seal dream victory on home waters
- 13 Jun 2012Telefónica three minutes ahead at São Miguel
- 10 Jun 2012Telefónica put heat on early leaders PUMA
- 10 Jun 2012Groupama prepared for fight to take lead home