Sunday, January 25, 2009

Volvo Ocean Race: Telefonica Black retires from leg to Qingdao

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] With sistership Telefonica Blue at the head of the fleet, this morning the bad news from the limping Telefonica Black became worse when the team informed the Race Office it would be retiring from the leg to Qingdao.

At around 07:00 GMT yesterday, Telefonica Black turned back from the Luzon Strait after taking a hammering in the enraged sea state, whipped up by fierce winds and an opposing current. The team was concerned about a crack that had developed in the hull-deck joint. The initial plan was to find shelter in the lee of the Philippines, and examine the damage.

"The most important thing for this team is the safety of the crew," said team CEO Pedro Campos at the time. "I'm really proud of the work that both of our teams have done, facing a storm after leaving the coast of the Philippines."

But this morning, the team has decided there is no chance it can race the boat to Qingdao and retired from the leg. We're expecting more information from Telefonica Black over the course of the day regarding its plans over the short and medium term.

On the race course, Telefonica Blue continues to lead, showing great skill and daring in tackling the Luzon Strait. At 04:00 GMT, Telefonica Blue was less than 50 miles south of Taiwan and the team appears to have chosen to head to the east of the island. Skipper Bouwe Bekking reported from on board that conditions had moderated somewhat, but that it was still 'nasty'.

"We survived the worst part of the storm, but still have a stiff breeze and nasty seas," he wrote. The skipper has been confined to his bunk with a bad back, but he says the rest of the team has done an incredible job. "They all worked as a great team in the last 36 hours. Since I was still stuck to my bunk, with a back muscle injury, the only thing I could do was stay awake and give my input and advice - above all 'BOYS, KEEP IT ONE PIECE!!!'"

They've done that and more, building a 64 mile lead over second-placed Ericsson 3. Under skipper Magnus Olsson, the Nordic crew has shown full confidence in its equipment and sailed agressively into the strong conditions.

Ericsson 4 is in third place, 100 miles back of the leader.

PUMA has left the shelter of the anchorage it tucked into yesterday after breaking its boom. The team returned to the race track near 22:30 GMT last night, and has been making steady progress since then, just under 200 miles behind Telefonica Blue.

Delta Lloyd and Green Dragon remain anchored off Salomague Bay in the Phillipines. Delta Lloyd is assessing damage to its mainsail and steering wheel, while Green Dragon tackles serious structural repairs.

Both teams suspended racing, but the minimum 12 hour pit-stop time has now expired, so both are free to resume racing whenever they deem themselves ready.

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