MAPFRE approaches the Strait of Malacca in second place - 16 Jan 2015: Navigator Jean Luc Nélias (FRA), having lunch at the bow due the light winds
After 14 days of racing in leg 3 the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal didn’t give the fleet a break. "MAPFRE" fights in the top group. Ahead of them, less than 2,000 miles until the arrival in Sanya (China)
Indian Ocean, January 17th, 2015
On January 3rd, "MAPFRE" began the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race and the truth is that the conditions in Abu Dhabi were not easy: the intense fog and little wind already revealed the difficulty of this leg.
The Strait of Hormuz became the first turning point. The fleet sailed next to each other and "the crew prepared very well for a night that was hard in strategic terms," said OBR Francisco Vignale.
They sailed right beside the coast of Oman where constant jibes marked the first days and the entrance into the Arabian Sea put in check the whole fleet. "The first two days, during the two hours off Carlos [Hernández] and I had, we did around 16 jibes. Today, we're tacking every 15-20 minutes, so there is not much time to rest", mentioned Rafa Trujillo.
In reverse to "free" the keel
After the Iranian exclusion zone and the light winds from the Gulf of Oman, the Pakistan coast left better winds to the fleet. But not everything turned out to be so easy for the Spaniards, who noticed how their boat speed decreased. When they asked why that could happen it appeared the possibility of having something caught in the keel. "We had to go in reverse twice because we caught something on the keel and the boat was slowing down," wrote Fran Vignale.
But on board they were not yet compliant with the speed of the Spanish VO 65, so it was decided that Ńeti Cuervas-Mons, swimmer of the watch, would jump into the water to confirm that everything was in perfect condition.
The manoeuvre, according to Vignale, "entailed much risk at that time as we were going to have a man in the water. There were some waves and over 17 knots of wind. From the moment he entered the water until he came out it felt like an eternity. He said ‘OK’, we were clean. He got onboard the boat safely and we continued sailing."
An exhausting pace in the North Indian Ocean
With "MAPFRE" back at one hundred percent, the Arabian Sea became a minefield. The unstable and light wind meant "many jibes, every five minutes we had to make a manoeuvre," said Brazilian André Fonseca "Bochecha". Jean-Luc Nélias, navigator, also didn’t have either a moment to breathe since "he didn’t close his eyes for a second and he was only keeping his eyes on the wind direction and all the factors that can affect it," explained Vignale.
The passage of Sri Lanka became a new turning point since passing the island too close to land could mean wind shadows. If the decision was to get further away, it meant sailing more miles.
"MAPFRE" focused into winning South and gradually began to recover positions. After a week of sailing the Spaniards were fourth.
The wind began to rise and "MAPFRE" took advantage of this situation to get closer to the leader "Dongfeng". Jean-Luc Nélias predicted, "There will be a compression due to a low wind area close to the coast of India. It’s a good time to catch up."
Between Sri Lanka and the South of India "MAPFRE" reached winds of 17-20 knots and with them the sail changes arrived. The wish: that this wind stays longer than forecasted because "in about eight hours it will begin to drop and we will begin to sail upwind until the Strait of Malacca. It will be about four days upwind,” explained Carlos Hernández.
But before getting to Malacca "MAPFRE" focused on the passage of Sri Lanka, where an area without any wind was waiting for the fleet. Once passed this area, "MAPFRE" now heads towards the feared strait, 250 nm ahead of them, and they do it in second place.
Photo : © Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race