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November 23, 2011 - 1630 UTC Leg One Day 19   - The Volvo Ocean Race fleet are set for some high adrenaline action over the next two days with the three remaining boats hoping to ride a fast moving South Atlantic cold front all the way to the first leg finish in Cape Town.

On board leader Team Telefónica, skippered by Spain’s Iker Martínez, the crew have battened down the hatches ahead of the storm system, the first effects of which have already pushed their peak boat speed up to almost 30 knots.

Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/ - Team Telefonica during leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa.

Despite travelling at breakneck speed navigator Andrew Cape says the crew and the boat are under completely under control and ready to go even faster.

“We’re at the beginning of a front so we’re getting ready for the big speeds. We are already seeing 25 – 30 knots of breeze and the next day or so is going to be quite exciting for us.

“We’re already averaging 24 knots so it’s already getting a bit spooky. We’re preparing ourselves for a lot more than that -- and a full 36 hours of it.

“It’ll be a good ride.”

Historically the final section of this leg is where 24-hour distance records are set. Mike Sanderson on ABN AMRO 1 (563 nm) and Torben Grael on Ericsson 4 (696.8 nm) respectively turned in record setting performances here in the last two races. Sanderson’s chances of another record attempt in this race ended when bow damage to Team Sanya sidelined him for the first leg.

According to race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante, however, the speed that the cold front is travelling at means that the window for a record attempt this time is very small.

“The front itself is moving at around 40 knots so the boats will not be able to ride it all the way to Cape Town. To break the record they will have to average faster than 24.85 nautical miles over a 24 hour period and the record attempt weather window could shut as early 1200 UTC tomorrow.”

Infante believes the timing of the cold front will benefit Telefónica the most, with Chris Nicholson’s second placed CAMPER arriving a little too late for the full effect.

Third placed Franck Cammas’ Groupama sailing team could have to dig much deeper south to avoid being caught by a secondary windless high pressure system which could keep them at sea for days.

With a 130 nautical mile distance to finish lead over CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, Cape says Telefónica will have to strike a balance between speed and caution on the run in to Cape Town.

“Clearly we don’t want to break anything but we do still have to push the boat to get in on time. If we delay it just gets worse and worse. We’ve definitely got the racing sails up and going full speed.”

Cape says he is very happy with Telefónica’s positioning in relation to the chasing CAMPER, but also strikes a note of caution.

“We’re 50 miles due south which is very important. We get a better angle on the breeze and we ride the front for longer. They will get the lighter airs earlier so we will still need to keep an eye on them and make sure we don’t leave ourselves exposed.”

As for record attempts, Cape agrees that breaking the monohull world record is unlikely, but believes the IWC Schaffhausen speed distance challenge prize for the fastest 24 hour run on Leg 1 could be set.

“We’ve got at least 30 hours of sailing in good strong breeze and we’ve seen 29 knots of boat speed in the last couple of hours but the potential speed is easily in excess of 30 knots. We could average 26 knots if we choose to do so.

“I think everyone is pretty happy with where they are right now so the most important thing is not to break anything.”

Cape also confessed that after nearly three weeks of non-stop ocean racing the Telefónica crew were ready to get ashore.

“Everyone just wants to get in now. We’ve had enough. We’ve been out here 18 days, got three more days to go and they are going to be wet, scary days.

“I think everyone’s anxious to get in, have a beer, see their families.”

Latest routing predictions suggest that Team Telefónica could finish the first leg in Cape Town on the evening of Sunday November 27.

Having retired from the leg, Ken Read's dismasted PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG completed a tricky transfer of fuel from a container ship last night to allow them to continue to motor sail with a jury rig to the island of Tristan de Cunha to rendezvous with their shore crew.