Spains Telefónica became the first team since Steinlager 2 in 1989-90 to win the first three legs of the Volvo Ocean Race when they held off the challenge of Groupama sailing team to arrive first into the Chinese port of Sanya on Saturday.
Team Telefónica, skippered by co-World Sailor of the Year Iker Martínez, finished at 03:58:22 UTC to complete the stage from the Maldives in 12 days and take 24 points. Groupama came in at 05:45:25 UTC to clinch second place.
With three points in the bag from their performance in Stage 1 of the leg – a one-day sprint from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah – Telefónica sealed overall victory in Leg 3. The result also sees them strengthen their position at the top of the overall standings. Groupama have a total of 24 points from the leg.
“You always dream to start a race like this and I just hope everything is going to keep going smooth,” said Martínez, whose team have a total of 95 points.
“I think it was by far the most dangerous leg I’ve ever done in a boat. The Malacca Strait put us in a lot of difficult situations so that’s why we are so happy. Now we start feeling more relaxed. We have a very nice boat in very good shape with only little jobs.”
Navigator Andrew Cape, who masterminded Telefónica’s route from the Maldives to Sanya, added: “I never thought we were going to win this leg to be honest. I just felt that something was going to go wrong because there are too many stages where I couldn’t see the outcome, so I’m really relieved to get in without anything going bad.
“Mentally it was very difficult, tactically very difficult, physically it wasn’t as tough as a long southern ocean leg but mentally it was really hard. It’s one of the toughest legs I’ve done.”
Crossing the line second, Groupama skipper Franck Cammas said the result had once again boosted confidence on the French boat.
“I think we did good work on the first two legs without seeing a result but now we’re seeing results. For sure the confidence is high on Groupama 4 now.”
Chasing home in third place was the second Spanish entry crewed mainly by a bolstered Team New Zealand. In fourth place were the America-flagged Puma, followed by Abu Dhabi’s Azzam with, heading for its home port, Sanya in sixth place.