Team Telefónica clinched their third victory from three legs in the Volvo Ocean Race on Saturday, as less than nine hours separated the top five teams at the finish of the 3,051 nautical mile (nm) second stage of Leg 3 from the Maldives to Sanya in China.
, the overall race leaders, crossed the line at 03:58:22 UTC, finishing the second stage in 12 days 19 hours 58 minutes 21 seconds to take 24 points and become the first boat since Peter Blake's Steinlager 2
in 1989-90 to sweep the first three legs.
sailing team came in second, giving them 20 points, while CAMPER
with Emirates Team New Zealand took the third podium place and 16 points.
PUMA Ocean Racing
picked up 12 points for fourth, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
coming in fifth and taking eight points.
navigator Andrew Cape said the second stage of Leg 3 had been full of challenges and one of the most difficult he had ever experienced.
"It's one of the toughest legs I've done,"
he said. "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."
"I'm feeling really exhausted and I just want to have a beer."
third consecutive leg win extended their overall lead to 15 points over Chris Nicholson's CAMPER
Franck Cammas' Groupama
, who crossed the line at 05:45:25 UTC after 12 days 21 hours 45 minutes 24 seconds at sea, remain third overall but are now within nine points of CAMPER.
Cammas said the final part of the second stage of the leg had been punishing for the French crew.
"We had many manoeuvres all the time. In the last 48 hours we did 24 tacks and each tack on a Volvo Open 70 is very hard. All the crew have to be awake.
"The fight was very good with the others. I think Telefónica is very fast in these conditions, so all the time they gain a little bit in distance because of their speed.
"It was a good opportunity to test our boat with Telefónica and the leading boats. We improved a lot in the tuning of Groupama so it was very good for us."
finished at 07:28:24 UTC with an elapsed time of 12 days 23 hours 28 minutes 23 seconds.
Skipper Chris Nicholson confessed to being disappointed with third place after a tactical call in the Malacca Strait saw them lose touch with the leaders.
"We thought and expected to do better than third to be honest but it's a difficult race we're entered into with the best professional teams in the world,"
"We got on the wrong side of a thunderstorm in the Malacca Strait. The other guys went to the Indonesian shore line and we couldn't get there.
"That was pretty much the ball game there and then.
"We left the Singapore Strait in fifth so we're happy to have got back to third. We thought we were a lot better than fifth. To finish third is good, it's a good positive for us to finish on.
Nicholson said his team were looking forward to some rest but would continue to work on improving their performance for the remainder of the race.
"There's still a lot of thought required about how we can start winning legs,"
he said. "We're able to match the leaders at certain periods of the race and then we kind of let ourselves down occasionally.
"We just have to keep working on that, go back to the designer, see if there's anything more in regards to how we're sailing the boat.
"We hope to rest up a bit now. It's been a big exercise in sailing and logistics so a big rest up here is in order so we can come out with good training and attitude for the in-port race."
Ken Read's PUMA Ocean racing
powered by BERG crossed the Sanya finish line at 08:29:13 UTC having taken 13 days 29 minutes 13 seconds.
They remain in fourth overall with 48 points.
Skipper Ken Read said the key moment of the second stage of the leg had been their breakaway move out to the east in the final few days.
"I think, the whole world knows our most defining moment was choosing an easterly course on the last bit from the Malacca Strait to Sanya,"
"It didn't work and I put my hand up for that. At the end of the day that's my call. I have to look at myself in the mirror over these decisions.
"We have to sit down and figure out better ways to handle these situations. I'm not in anyway going to turn my back on these decisions, but at the same time we take calculated risks.
"But instead of just saying screw it and quitting, we bowed back into it got back ahead of Abu Dhabi and shouting distance of CAMPER.
"Net loss one boat in that whole debacle, so we have to take that for what it is and live to fight another day."
Ian Walker's Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
closed out the top five, finishing at 11:05:06 UTC after 13 days three hours nine minutes and 59 seconds of racing.
Walker said that other than in the Malacca Strait there had been few tactical options during the second stage of Leg 3.
"Certainly in the first week and in the last few days there has been a lot of straight line and boat speed sailing," he said.
"A lot of light wind and up wind. We just crossed the miles off and we are glad to be here.
"The Malacca Strait is always busy although this time it was nowhere near as bad as it could have been. We had one hard night along the Vietnamese coast with a succession of tacks, but other than that I would say it was relatively easy on the bodies.
"The margins are very small. The difference between us and Telefónica is one or two per cent.
"We sailed pretty well, we just didn't have the legs to keep up with the leaders."
Despite having had to deal with a problem with their winches earlier today, Mike Sanderson's Team Sanya
remained on track to finish the second stage of Leg 3 on February 5.
Volvo Ocean Race website - www.volvooceanrace.com