Ian Roman Photography / Volvo Ocean Race

Photo finish into Itajal

Puma just manages to fend of Telefonica, after Spanish VO70 closes to within a mile

Friday April 6th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Brazil

Ken Read and the crew of Puma, just managed to fend off the overall Volvo Ocean Race leader Telefónica today as the two boats made a neck and neck dash for the Itajal, Brazil finish line to leg five. In one of the most dramatic come-back tails in the history of the event, from being more than 400 miles off the lead following her 17 hour pitstop at Cape Horn, so in the final 50 miles into Itajai, Telefonica had closed to within a mile of the Puma.

The Puma managed to hold firm crossing the finish line at 19:09:51 UTC just 12 minutes 38 seconds ahead of the Spanish VO70, after 7500 miles and 20 days of racing from Auckland. 

Both boats were greeted by dozens of spectator boats and thousands of fans lining every possible viewing position on the way into the Brazilian port.

“Unbelievable!” said skipper Ken Read. “Nobody quit and the atmosphere on the boat today was really cool – laid back and everybody was ready to tackle the task at hand. I’m very proud of this team. It’s a great feeling. The shore team – along with the boat builders and design team – they’re the unsung heroes here. They deserve equal billing, especially in a leg like this. Before the leg started, we had a goal and a strategy as to how we were going to approach it and what our priorities were. We stayed true to that, and I’m very proud of that fact. I've never done such a tough offshore leg in my life. It's been pretty intense. And, my heart goes out to all of the teams with problems this leg – we know exactly how they feel.”

Of their reception in Itajai, an overwhelmed looking Read said: "We've never seen such an amazing welcome."

“The leg went on and on,” described navigator Tom Addis. “It was an all-around leg. There was the Southern Ocean, which of course is full-on preservation mode. Then, once you round the corner there was a lot of tactical racing, a lot of light air. We’ve got great experience on this boat – guys like Brad [Jackson] and Tony [Mutter] just knowing when to push and when not to push. Sometimes you’re not racing at anywhere near 100 percent, but that’s fine because you’re not very fast when you’re broken. It was a good leg to win.”

Telefonica skipper Iker Martínez commented on how they nearly overtook the American leader shortlly before reaching the finish line. “It's been amazing. We'd never have imagined that we could catch up with the guys in front, but we did. I really feel for Groupama and they didn't deserve that to happen. In the end we caught up with Puma and almost got past them, but they were faster and took the win. It was a well-deserved win and I think they sailed a fantastic leg."

As to their reception in Itajai, Martinez continued: “It's incredible. There are so many people... A pleasant surprise and a real honour! It's really wonderful to finish here like this."

The arrival in Itajai was particularly poignant for their Brazilian crewmanJoca Signorini. From early in the morning echoes of his name could be heard throughout the Race Village. He's finished a Volvo Ocean Race leg three times in his native Brazil, with different results. Although victory will have to wait, that was no dampener for the Brazilian's celebrations: “The reception they've given us has been fantastic. The people of Itjaí and the organisers have obviously put a lot of work into this and it shows. It's been really special for us, as was the fact that we got here fighting for the lead in a very. Very tough leg," he said.

Puma score 30 points for their win, taking their total to 113 points, now 34 points behind overall leaders Team Telefónica. Groupama will reduce Telefónica's lead to 20 points if they complete the leg in third place under jury rig, as planned. They have already departed Punta del Este under jury rig.

Ken Read writes: 

I don't remember when I wrote my last blog. I don't really remember when I slept last. We started rationing food days ago and had our last meal this am. And I am really, really happy.

This has been an epic leg. Like nothing any of us in the sailing world has ever seen. It seems like every leg we come in and say, "This was the toughest leg ever." But, this time we mean it. This was the toughest leg ever.

Going around Cape Horn was amazing. Our duel with the incredibly unlucky Groupama. The remarkable fortune of Telefónica to get the weather window they did in order to eat up a 450 mile gap in the last 2,000 miles. And to be able to hold them of not once, but twice drifting to the finish when they closed the gap to within 100 yards. Just unreal.

I am very proud of the boat building team, the shore team and all the engineers and designers that put this boat together. Your boat made it folks. It is in great shape and lord only knows we put her through the ringer. The sailing team salutes you all.

And to the sailing team who hung in there through thick and thin, amazing work. As safe as we can be. All in great spirits. And we get to do it all over again in two weeks.

This is a leg and a trip that I will remember forever. Probably my last foray into the Southern Ocean. An adventure within an adventure you might call it. Glad this one is behind us and the "friendly" confines of the Atlantic Ocean await.

- Kenny

Photos by Ian Roman and Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Race




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