Skipper Iker Martinez makes history in Sanya, wins 3 legs in a row
Telefonica’s skipper Iker Martinez makes history in Sanya
Spain’s Iker Martinez tightened his grip on the Volvo Ocean Race after becoming the first skipper since New Zealand legend Peter Blake 22 years ago to win the first three legs in a row.
Telefonica’s comfortable victory for the leg between Abu Dhabi and the southern Chinese port of Sanya left them 15 points clear of the fleet with seven stages still to negotiate in the nine-month, 39,000 nautical mile offshore race.
Their success looked unlikely two weeks ago after a major sail ripped just after the boat left the Maldivian capital Male.
Telefonica were forced to slow down while they made the onboard repairs but the Spanish boat’s superior speed and tactics through the treacherous Malacca Strait, which separates the Indian and Pacific Oceans, again proved too good for the opposition.
Martinez, who was voted sailor of the year with crew mate Xabi Fernandez for 2011, said he had not realised he had matched the achievement of Blake, who went on to win the 1989-90 edition with Steinlager 2.
"I didn’t know that but for sure we’re feeling great. We’re very happy, it’s a dream, you always dream to start a race like this. I just hope everything is going to keep going smooth," he said.
Martinez, 34, an Olympic gold medallist in Athens in 2004 and a silver medal winner four years later in Beijing, said sailing in the Malacca Strait had been the toughest of his long career.
"I think it was by far the most dangerous leg I’ve ever done in a boat," Martinez added. "Malacca Strait in a sailing boat and racing is not the right way to do it, that was putting ourselves in a lot of difficult situations that’s why we are so happy. And now we start feeling more relaxed."
Team New Zealand boat Camper finished third in the leg for 80 points overall in second with Groupama, runner-up for the leg, on 75. The race is scheduled to finish in Galway, Ireland, on July 8.
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