Monday, 26 March 2012

Telefónica takes a battering far from home

Team Telefonica heading colder and rougher conditions.
Credit: Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race
Draw a line on Google Earth from Auckland to Cape Horn and you get a straight line distance of 4,515.80 nautical miles. The front runners in the fleet are now past the central ice waypoint set by race management to keep them away from icebergs. That means the fleet is now over half way across the South Pacific Ocean.

And the freezing cold conditions, gale force winds and mountainous waves continue to take their toll. Telefónica is the latest victim, forced to come off the pace after a taking a real beating.

Groupama and Puma are left battling for first place, with Abu Dhabi an unexpected third almost 1,000nm behind the two survivors.

Full punishment
It is a chilling thought that the battered crews sailing their little 70-foot racing yachts are now closer to the astronauts orbiting the Earth on the International Space Station than any other body of human beings - a thought that can make even the toughest men feel isolated, vulnerable, lonely and exposed.

I read on the official Nasa website that the space station orbits at a height of 350kms or 220 miles up. So spare a thought for the sailors out there next time you look up to the sky or out to sea.

To understand fully the punishment being meted out to the Volvo crews just take a look at the scary footage beamed back by Team Telefónica.  You can see them being slammed by two monster waves in over 40 knots of wind.

Out of control
Both incidents were captured by Telefónica’s media crew member (MCM) Diego Fructuoso on one of the boat’s four fixed video cameras.

The amazing footage shot from the stern camera shows the entire on-deck crew, including the helmsman, twice knocked off their feet by the force of the almost 10-metre (30-foot) waves.

Seconds before the first wave hits, helmsman Jordi Calafat can be seen urgently trying to steer the boat away from the impact before a wall of water slams into the boat engulfing the cockpit and leaving Calafat swinging in mid-air as the boat lurches out of control.

The idea that you could be taken out by monster waves, thousands of miles out to sea and there be no one to rescue you but your competitors on the other race boats clearly demonstrates very what makes this leg by far the most dangerous.

See the amazing footage here.

Mark Covell

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