Spain’s Team Telefonica won a game of cat and mouse with chief rivals Camper on Monday, grabbing victory in the first stage of Leg 2 in the Volvo Ocean Race by a margin of less than two minutes.
In a finish described by winning skipper Iker Martinez as “madness,” Telefonica stole in front of Camper with 8 nautical miles (14.8km) to go in a stage that ended at an undisclosed, anti-piracy, safe-haven port in the Indian Ocean.
The margin of victory was remarkable for a race that lasted more than 15 days and 4,000 nautical miles.
“The final miles were madness,” said Telefonica skipper Iker Martinez, a former Olympic gold medalist and current ISAF World Sailor of the Year. “I’ve never navigated at night so close to the rocks and with so many complicated maneuvers.”
“A few miles from the finish, we thought we had little chance of passing Camper and there were three or four times during the night when we were left without wind,” Martinez said. “It was all a bit chaotic, but luck changed sides, although the truth is either one of the teams could have crossed the line first. It was very complicated — real cat and mouse stuff.”
Victory was enough to increase Telefonica’s lead over Camper in the overall standings from three points to seven, with the second stage of the second leg still to come.
That will come in the form of a sprint into Abu Dhabi once the boats have been shipped from the safe haven port through piracy-affected waters to Sharjah.
US team Puma were on course to finish third ahead of Groupama, the first French team in the race in 18 years.
Abu Dhabi were further back in fifth, likely to finish yesterday.
The sixth team in the race, Sanya, are still repairing their boat in Madagascar and look likely to rejoin the race in leg 3 to their home port in China.
The Volvo Ocean Race covers 39,000 nautical miles and takes place over eight months, finishing in Galway, Ireland, on July.