Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing launched an 11th hour comeback in the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race to take their tally of in-shore successes to three, while Groupama scored a strong second to pile the pressure on overall race leaders Telefónica.
Ian Walker’s crew were rewarded for sailing a near-perfect race on Saturday when they snatched the lead from Groupama on the penultimate leg and went on to seal a dramatic victory.
Although they were pipped at the post, Groupama’s result moves them to within just seven points of Telefónica, who had yet more in-port disappointment when a penalty for touching one of the turning marks relegated them to last place.
In a thrilling finale, PUMA came from behind to rocket past CAMPER into third just metres from the finish line.
It was a fourth successive podium finish in the in-shore series for Ken Read’s PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew, and it brought them to within a point of third-placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand on the overall scoreboard.
Team Sanya, the only team not racing in a new generation boat, were unlucky not to finish higher up the leaderboard, having to settle for fifth after a brave battle with their rivals.
“It feels great,” said a jubilant Abu Dhabi skipper Walker moments after crossing the finish line.
“We’ve had a tough time of it. We had no time at all to prepare for the last in-port race and we made a special point of having two full days’ training here. We wanted to show the world that Abu Dhabi hasn’t given up. We’re a good team, we’re determined, and it feels great to win a race.”
With the Volvo Ocean Race entering a critical stage with just three offshore legs and three in-port races left, just 14 points split the top four boats.
Telefónica still lead with 165 points but snapping at their heels are Groupama on 158, while CAMPER and PUMA are dangerously close on 152 and 151 respectively, bolstered by the results of the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race.
In a nail-biting contest peppered with position changes, Abu Dhabi capitalised on a strong start along with Sanya but it was Telefónica who led round the first mark, showing off their blistering speed on Leg 1.
The action couldn’t have been any more intense with Abu Dhabi and Groupama overhauling Telefónica on Leg 2. Meanwhile, after paying the price for heading offshore, CAMPER and PUMA were left desperately chasing the frontrunners.
While the front two stretched their lead, a fierce battle for third developed, climaxing on Leg 6 with Telefónica hitting the mark and the rest of the fleet piling in behind.
Telefónica were penalised by the on-the-water umpires, adding to their in-port misery and ending their hopes of consolidating their overall lead.
Sniffing a chance to pick up crucial points, PUMA, CAMPER and Sanya put pedal to metal and launched an extraordinary comeback that brought them back in touch with then leaders Groupama and second-placed Abu Dhabi with just a few legs left.
Abu Dhabi’s defining moment came when they hoisted a bigger sail than their French rivals, making the most of the smallest of speed advantages to pass Groupama despite having to dodge a spectator boat.
With the breeze fading, race officials chose to shorten the course and Abu Dhabi hung on to claim the win, all the more sweet due to the fact that just a few weeks ago their stricken boat Azzam was on a container ship en route to Brazil.
The sailors and shore crews are now turning their sights on the final preparations for 3,580 nautical mile Leg 7 from Miami to Lisbon, Portugal, starting on Sunday at 1700 UTC (1300 local time).
PORTMIAMI In-Port Race results:
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, 74:09
2. Groupama sailing team, +00:33
3. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, +02:02
4. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, +02:11
5. Team Sanya, +2:35
6. Team Telefónica, +6:28
Ken Read and The PUMA Ocean Racing Powered By BERG team win Leg 6,American skipper Ken Read led his PUMA team to a second consecutive leg win on Wednesday, arriving on home soil in Miami triumphant following an epic 17-day match race with closest rivals CAMPER to confirm they are back in contention for overall victory.
Since the heartbreak of the first leg, in which their yacht Mar Mostro dismasted, PUMA have been on the up – and after scoring their first offshore success in Leg 5 from Auckland to Itajaí, Brazil, they made it two in two with glory in Leg 6.
After coming off best in an intense battle for first place with CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, who at one point closed the gap to less than a mile, Read said his team were back in the fight for the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 trophy.
“That was about as stressful as it can get, believe me,” Read said. “It was touch and go, and the guys on CAMPER sailed very well, but I couldn’t be more proud of our team — they did an unbelievably great job.”
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crossed the finish line at 18:14:00 UTC, 17 days after leaving from Itajaí, Brazil, with CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand around an hour behind PUMA and on course to take second.
PUMA dominated the 4,800 nautical mile leg from the start, only surrendering the lead on two occasion to CAMPER and for no more than 48 hours.
A fast start to the leg in fresh conditions saw PUMA lead out of Itajaí and into several days of fast sailing up the Brazilian coast.
As winds eased the fleet split into three groups, with CAMPER and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing closest to the shore enjoying two days at the head of the pack, while Team Telefónica and Groupama sailing team opted to head east in search of better breeze. PUMA split the difference and it paid as they got a jump on their rivals that would lay the foundations for their eventual win.
With the south-east trade winds providing near-perfect conditions for the Volvo Open 70s, a drag race began up to the Equator and through the Doldrums, which presented little problem for the fleet. But 10 days into racing, PUMA were nearly undone by storm clouds which stalled the leaders, allowing CAMPER and Telefónica to reel them in to just six miles.
Into the Caribbean Sea they enjoyed fast sailing once more until they hit tricky weather systems that once again saw the leading boats compress. Despite coming under fire from CAMPER right up until the very last minute, faultless sailing saw PUMA defend their lead to claim the win.
It’s the fourth time in six legs that PUMA have finished on the podium, and they pick up an invaluable 30 points for the leg win to take their overall tally to 147.
CAMPER will be awarded 25 points for second place, their best result in the offshore series since Leg 2 from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi when they finished second behind Team Telefónica.
“It’s been a long leg and PUMA have sailed very nicely, they have defended very well, but I think we have attacked well too,” CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson said as his team closed in on the finish line. “I’m pretty happy with how it’s gone. We’re in better shape now for the next leg.”
Both teams will close the gap on overall leaders Telefónica, who were still scrapping it out for the final podium position with Groupama sailing team.
The current ETA for the arrival of Groupama and Telefónica is 0300 UTC, with fifth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing expected to arrive at 0800 UTC.
A trough of low pressure blocking the fleet’s path brought light winds on Friday and a tactical split in the trio at the front. Leaders PUMA have stuck doggedly to their north easterly course, while CAMPER and Telefónica gybed to the west in search of stronger winds closer to the Caribbean Islands.
By 1200 UTC today Team Telefónica had resumed a northerly track, putting pressure on CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, who must decide to follow suit or press on with a higher risk westerly strategy.
With up to 30 hours of slow sailing likely before the leaders break through into steadier winds, the pressure is well and truly on for the skippers and navigators on the top three boats.
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG navigator Tom Addis said leading into such a scenario was always tricky as it raised the threat of being caught by the boats behind, but was nevertheless confident in the short term strategy.
“A front has come through to the north and disturbed the trade winds so we’ve all compressed again,” Addis said. “It is unfortunate for us but it’s just how it goes.
“It’s hard to say when the breeze will pick up again. We’ve still got about 10 knots of breeze but it’s going to be a good day and a half before we’re into decent breeze again.
“When the wind goes light and you compress, especially for a good solid day, anything can happen. If someone gets a squall and picks up some wind for a few hours that could easily turn the fleet inside out.
“That makes things more tense on board, no question.”
Addis said PUMA’s current plan was to skirt around the eastern side of the Caribbean to avoid the additional threat of wind shadows in the lee of the island chain.
“The next 1,000 miles is going to be pretty light and tricky and it’s going to be ‘heart in the mouth’ stuff for the majority of the rest of the leg,” he said.
“We think we’ve got a solid plan and most likely we’ll go round the outside of the Caribbean islands,” he said. “Through the Caribbean there’s plenty of water but it’s fraught with lees.
“Those islands are very tall and they create big wind shadows so you’ve got to be very careful going through them.”
On second placed CAMPER, Media Crew Member Hamish Hooper said the mood was equally tense with skipper Chris Nicholson and navigator Will Oxley spending long hours together at the navigation station, deliberating on the best plan.
“It is certain to be a nerve-wracking few days for sure,” Hooper said.
“It has been said from the start that this last 1,000 miles will be where the leg is won and lost, and it’s looking about as tricky as tricky can be, with light fickle breezes throughout.
“It’s a maze. One boat will come out looking famous and it could be one of any of the five boats in the fleet.
“Abu Dhabi and Groupama who are still 100 miles behind are still right in this leg and in fact they are in the sometimes enviable position of having nothing to lose, so able to throw caution to the wind and take a gamble.”
Telefónica navigator Andrew Cape described the final push to the finish as “a bit touch and go”.
“There’s going to be a lot of changes, put it that way,” Cape added. “It’s going to be a tricky one. There’s going to be opportunities both ways but certainly the team that gets it right will be the winner.”
Cape said he was happy with the Spanish team’s positioning at this point but said there would be plenty of other key decisions to agonise over before the finish.
“We’re where we wanted to be, but this is the very first stage of about 25 that we need to get right,” he said.
At 1300 UTC PUMA still led the fleet, from CAMPER in second, Team Telefónica in third, Groupama sailing team in fourth and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in fifth.
Latest estimates show the leading boats arriving in Miami on or around midday on May 9.
Leg 6 leaders PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG have today bought themselves some valuable miles against their closest challengers, Team Telefónica and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, after the chasing duo closed to within two miles yesterday.
PUMA made the best of a move by the top three boats towards the Brazilian coast over the last 24 hours, picking up assistance from northerly currents and a zone of wind acceleration closer to the shore to pull out a lead of 30 nautical miles (nm) at 1000 UTC today over second placed Telefónica.
After spending most of Sunday with their hearts in their mouths watching both CAMPER and Telefónica close them down, the PUMA crew — headed by American skipper Ken Read — saw their speed rocket close to 20 knots after passing the latitude of Fortaleza to the north east of Brazil.
PUMA crossed the Equator at 0840 UTC — their fourth and final crossing of this edition of the race — and must now protect their lead through the Doldrums, a band of fickle breezes located around 100 nm north.
Telefónica and CAMPER both crossed the Equator at 0910 UTC in second and third respectively.
Back in fourth, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crossed the Equator at 1155 UTC having closed to within just over 40 nm of CAMPER despite sailing in different breezes for most of the last few days.
Skipper Ian Walker said that with around 100 nm to run to the Doldrums the Emirati team were preparing themselves “for a bit of action later today.”
“It’s been a difficult day or two,” Walker said. “We just generally seem to be sailing in less wind than everyone else.
“We made quite a nice gain towards the end of yesterday on CAMPER and Telefónica so we’re just trying to hang on to them as best we can and hope something opens up.”
Walker said he hoped to be able to make further gains to get within striking distance of the leaders later in the leg when the fleet will engage in a 1,000 nm trade wind drag race to the Caribbean.
“Generally we’re losing a couple of miles per sked but then we’re always in a lot less wind. Hopefully we’ll have made up that distance in the next few days,” he said.
With any Doldrums crossing generally throwing up opportunities for the boats playing catch up, Walker said he was hopeful of making gains on the leaders soon after the Equator.
“All we have to go on is models and satellite pictures which might not necessarily tell the right story,” Walker said. “It’s still the Doldrums, there could still be a period of the boats slowing down and a lot of storm activity depending on what time of the day you get there.
“I’m sure something’s going to happen but relative to the Doldrums we’ve seen in the race so far it looks reasonably inactive. Maybe we’ll just sail straight through and hook into the north east trades and be off.
“We’ve got to prepare for anything,” Walker said.
At 1300 UTC today PUMA’s lead was 31 nm over second placed Team Telefónica who were 9 nm ahead of CAMPER in third.
Abu Dhabi remained in fourth 48 nm behind CAMPER with Franck Cammas’ Groupama sailing team in fifth, 142 nm off the lead.
The leading boats are expected to complete Leg 6 from Itajaí to Miami on or around May 9.
DTL DTLC BS DTF
1 PUMA 0.00 0 19.2 2612.1
2 TELE 30.70 1 19.6 2642.8
3 CMPR 39.70 4 18.1 2651.8
4 ADOR 86.50 10 15.8 2698.6
5 GPMA 141.70 14 14.6 2753.7
- SNYA Did Not Start
Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
Sunrise onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA.
Diego Fructuoso/Team Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race
Bowman Zane Gills adjusting the sail, onboard Team Telefonica during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA.
Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race
Full crew weight aft in a tight battle with Team Telefonica, onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA.
A confused start and a mistake by the Spanish leader marked this sixth In-Port race in Brazil! And despite pressure from the New Zealanders, Franck Cammas and his men controlled the course with flawless assurance… An extremely encouraging result just days after the installation of a new mast and above all a few extra steps closer to first place in the overall standing for Groupama 4.
The weather was stormy and unstable as the Volvo Ocean Race fired up again with the In-Port race off the port of Itajai (Brazil). In rain of varying degrees of intensity, the kick-off was given just a few minutes later than scheduled so as to enable a moderate southerly breeze to move in. The scenario involved around ten knots of breeze and little visibility beneath the squalls, but a very pleasant temperature for racing.
A penalty for the Americans
The start was very untidy: the Americans barged their way through at the Committee boat end, failing to respond to Abu Dhabi’s luff, they in turn having to leave room for Groupama 4, which was powered up in this phase of the course. As such Puma were dealt a 360 degree penalty. However, the damage was done as Franck Cammas and his men found themselves to leeward of Puma and Abu Dhabi, whilst the New Zealanders made the most of this bottleneck to get past everyone to windward. Indeed the start was carried out under spinnaker and getting the upper hand in the initial metres was essential.
Meantime, everyone had forgotten about the Spanish, who got a clear ride to leeward of the start line and when they came in to gybe onto the first course mark, Telefonica on top of Camper and was able to get past by taking their wind. This resulting stalling by the New Zealanders also enabled the Emirati boat and the French boat to take up root on their stern at the first mark, as the breeze was tending to ease. The whole fleet remained bunched, because even the Americans were still in the match thanks to the weakening breeze.
The short beat towards the following mark favoured a position to windward of any rivals and once again the Spanish made the best of the edge they had and were first to hunt down mark 2. Groupama 4 made the most of this manoeuvre to cover the New Zealanders thanks to a perfect change of tack on their bow! Franck Cammas thus snatched second place behind Telefonica as they were about to begin a long reaching leg, still in around ten knots of breeze.
A fatal error!
The surprise came when the Spanish leaders began to make for the wrong mark under spinnaker, whilst the rest of the fleet continued along on a reach! Groupama 4 moved up into the lead at that point and made a dive towards the next mark under spinnaker. The hierarchy appeared favourable with Camper conceding a few metres, Puma and Abu Dhabi around a hundred metres further back… and Telefonica a leg down. As they rounded the leeward mark, the breeze fell away to less than six knots and the beat was shaping up to be extremely tense. Groupama 4 benefited from a good wind shift whilst Camper, forced to get clear of the dirty air left by the French boat’s sails, headed off to the wrong side of the racecourse.
Remaining focused in this fluky breeze wasn’t easy, but Groupama 4′s tactician, Laurent Pagès, perfectly controlled the New Zealanders, preventing them from taking the initiative as the Kiwi boat was at ease in these light upwind conditions. The battle behind them was just as fierce between Abu Dhabi and Puma, though the Emirati boat didn’t manage to overtake the American boat which, in turn, was putting pressure on Camper! By that stage, all Franck Cammas and his men had to do was to put in one last gybe before the finish line. Groupama 4 went on to win her first In-Port race with a 48-second lead over Camper and 1’05 ahead of Puma. Most importantly the French team secured some very important points for the final standing since the Spanish leaders finished last…
Quotes from the boat
Laurent Pagès, tactician on Groupama 4:
“It was an intense race! Added to that, we got a surprise at the start because the south-easterly wind kicked back in very quickly: we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare ourselves and visualise the right place on the start line correctly. However, we weren’t far off performing a very good start in contact with the other boats. After that you had to remain lucid as regards what the wind was doing, as it was oscillating a fair bit, and we had to make sure we didn’t fluff the manoeuvre. We were lucky to be in a position to benefit from the mistake made by Telefonica as they were leading the race at that point. Obviously the direction they were taking threw our crew into doubt but the answer came very simply thanks to Charles Caudrelier. We noted that we were making fast headway upwind and we were always striving to stick to the inside track to round the marks. We ended up by securing a win, but above all gained four points on the Spanish leader in the overall standing! It’s important for the results in Galway… However, it’s also a psychological bonus: we’ve kept up this dynamic since Abu Dhabi so we just have to continue in the same vein.”
Franck Cammas, skipper of Groupama 4:
“It’s a great surprise: we weren’t expecting to be in front in this type of race. We were lucky, but we’ve also made a lot of progress in this format. Added to that, luck smiles on the daring: we were in the thick of the action from the first course mark. We were at ease in all the phases of the game, with a new genoa which gave us good speed upwind. We’ve also got a better handle on these close-contact races now, which is enabling us to build up our game without having to worry too much about our rivals. Even under spinnaker we found some deeper angles without having to follow the other boats. Winning an In-Port race after a dismasting is obviously a point in our favour, even though there’s nothing like the final offshore exercise to really test our reliability. And it’s good for morale too…”
Standing in the In-Port race in Itajai:
1-Groupama 4 in 46’27 = 6 points
2-Camper 48” astern = 5 points
3-Puma 1’05 astern = 4 points
4-Abu Dhabi 1’33 astern = 3 points
5-Telefonica 5’40 astern = 2 points
DNS-Sanya = 0 point
Overall standing after five offshore legs and six In-Port races:
1-Telefonica (Iker Martinez) : 1+30+6+29+2+27+6+20+1+25+2 = 149 points
2-Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas) : 2+20+2+18+5+24+2+30+4+20+6 = 133 points
3-Camper (Chris Nicholson) : 4+25+5+24+4+18+3+15+6+15+5 = 124 points
4-Puma (Ken Read) : 5+0+4+19+3+17+5+25+5+30+4 = 117 points
5-Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker) : 6+0+3+10+6+14+4+10+2+0+3 = 58 points
6-Sanya (Mike Sanderson) : 3+0+1+5+2+5+1+5+3+0+0 = 25 points
PUMA held firm in the face of a relentless attack from Telefónica to clinch an epic Leg 5 victory on Friday, crossing the finish line in Itajaí, Brazil with a winning margin of just 12 minutes after the Spanish team had threatened to complete one of the great sporting comebacks.
After more then 7,500 nautical miles of racing from Auckland, starting with a first-night battering as bad as any in the race’s history and on through brutal conditions in the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn, PUMA’s Mar Mostro finished in brilliant sunshine at 19:09:51 UTC.
Telefónica, who had been a constant threat to them, followed her in at 19:22:29 UTC for a second place that strengthens their position as overall leaders with five of nine offshore legs now complete.
Both boats were roared home by dozens of spectator boats and thousands of fans lining every possible viewing position on the way in.
It was an extraordinary finish to the battle for first place in a leg that saw five of the six boats forced to stop for repairs.
Telefónica were 400 nm behind the leaders when they resumed racing following a pit stop to work on structural damage to their boat. They quickly began to reduce that gap and when Groupama sailing team were forced out following a dismasting they were suddenly in a two-way battle for first.
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG score 30 points for their win, taking their total to 113 points. It means they are just 34 points behind overall leaders Team Telefónica, despite having been forced to retire from Leg 1 because of a broken mast.
Groupama will reduce the Telefónica lead to 20 points if they complete the leg in third place under jury rig, as planned.
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, currently carrying out repairs in Puerto Montt in Chile, can get back to within 28 points if they complete the leg in fourth.
As it became clear that PUMA were doing enough to hold off Telefónica, the team’s Media Crew Member Amory Ross handed out chocolate treats to the crew, before skipper Ken Read took back the helm to take his team over the finish line.
“We’ve never seen such an amazing welcome,” said an overwhelmed looking Read, who took time to sympathise with his five rivals and their problems over the course of the leg.
“I’ve never done such a tough offshore leg in my life. It’s been pretty intense. Our hearts go out to the crews who have suffered damage. We know what that’s like and it’s even worse when it’s in a place like the Southern Ocean.”
Telefónica had been written off after suspending racing for 17 hours for structural repairs inside the Cabo de Hornos National Park on March 31. The team resumed racing at 2133 that same day, more than 400 nm behind the leaders.
Nevertheless, a powerful South Atlantic front that rose from the south propelled Telefónica to within striking range of PUMA within days. Anxiety levels were rising on board PUMA, even after Groupama’s dismasting on April 4, but Read’s men were able to steel their nerves in a long match-race to the finish line for their first leg victory in this edition.
PUMA have had a steady rise since the devastating blow of their broken mast on Leg 1. In the past four scoring events PUMA have finished second three times and now first, with real momentum with the American-based team as they head towards Leg 6 to Miami in the United States.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will ship their boat to Itajaí for Leg 6, while Sanya will rejoin the race in Miami after losing a rudder while leading earlier on Leg 5.
06/04/2012 19:48:37 UTC
DTL DTLC BS DTF
1 PUMA FIN 019d 18h 09m 50s
2 TELE FIN 019d 18h 22m 29s
- CAMP Suspended Racing
- GPMA Suspended Racing
- ADOR Did Not Finish
- SNYA Did Not Finish
It was at around 1500 UTC today that Franck Cammas announced to his shore crew that Groupama 4 had dismasted 60 miles offshore of the coast of Uruguay, whilst leading the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.
When the incident happened, Groupama 4 was sailing upwind on port tack in a northerly wind of around twenty knots.
The mast broke level with the first spreader (around ten metres above the deck).
When the spar fell, bowman Brad Marsh suffered a slight injury to his forearm.
Franck Cammas indicated that he wasn’t requesting assistance and that he’d temporarily suspended racing.
Two options are being studied:
1/ To continue the race under jury rig towards Itajai, the finish venue, some 650 nautical miles ahead.
2/ To make for Punta del Este, wait for the new mast (stored in Rotterdam), rig it and then head back into the race from the point where they suspended racing (at 1500 UTC) to make for Itajai.
Further information will be communicated as soon as possible.
CEO of Volvo Ocean Race Expresses Concern Over Breakages.
Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad issued a statement on Wednesday expressing his concern at the continuing instances of boats suffering serious damage in the 2011-12 edition.
Frostad, who competed in the race four times himself, said it was not acceptable to have so many incidents of boats failing in a Volvo Ocean Race. Frostad said race organisers would continue to do everything possible to get the boats not currently sailing back in the race as soon as possible.
Text of statement, which was released after Groupama sailing team announced they had suffered a broken mast, leaving only two boats currently racing in Leg 5 from Auckland in New Zealand to Itajaí in Brazil:
“It’s too early to conclude exactly why this has happened but we are obviously concerned about seeing so many incidents of damage to our boats both in this leg and in the race as a whole.
“It is not acceptable that in a race like this we have so many failures. It is not unusual for boats to suffer problems, and sailors and shore teams are used to having to deal with some issues with their boats, but this has been on a bigger scale than in the past.
“It’s important that we don’t leap to any conclusions about why these breakages have happened. Some of them are clearly not related. However, we will take the current issues into account as we make decisions on rules and technology we will be using in the future.
“We have already put in a lot of work, discussing with teams, designers and all other stakeholders about the boats and the rules we will use in the future, and we expect to be in a position to announce a decision on that before the end of the current race.
“For the time being, our focus continues to be on the safety of the sailors. We are doing everything we can to help Groupama, and the rest of the teams not currently sailing, get back in the race as soon as possible.”
Franck Cammas and his men rounded Cape Horn this Friday at 1255 UTC and are leading this fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. They still have 1,700 miles to go before they reach Brazil and the Americans are putting increasing pressure on them as Puma is just an hour astern of Groupama 4.
“Puma is now our most dangerous rival so we’re sailing according to what she does. For the overall ranking it would be good to keep the Americans astern of us into Itajai, but I think Telefonica will be able to hang onto third place in this leg. Ken Read and his crew aren’t making many mistakes and they’ve negotiated the South Pacific very well. It’s certainly going to be a fine race to Brazil! We’ll have to make sure we don’t fall asleep on the job…” stated Franck Cammas before Cape Horn.
Indeed the Americans made up a vast amount of their deficit last night due to the series of gybes Groupama 4 had to link together to adapt to the north-westerly wind shift. Puma was able to benefit from a more gradual shift to gain nearly forty miles in one night and the two boats were close to each other as they rounded Cape Horn, early this Friday afternoon: Franck Cammas and his men caught a brief glimpse of the legendary rock at 1400 hours, followed an hour later by Ken Read and his crew. This island to the extreme South marks a radical change, not just in terms of the sea state and the cold, which has reigned over recent days, but also the degree of intensity of this leg, which has transformed into a Franco-American duel. However, the weather situation after Drake’s Passage isn’t the easiest to understand…
In fact the solid twenty knots or so of north-westerly wind, which was blowing as they rounded the legendary rock, will ease considerably offshore of Isla de Los Estados. Added to that, the warm front which generated the mist at daybreak this Friday, will give way to less cloudy skies. It would seem that two major options are possible for the climb up to Brazil: a route along the Argentinean coast in a moderate westerly air flow with the emergence of a mini depression to the North of the Falklands, or a more easterly trajectory, leaving the Falklands to port so as to distance themselves from the influence of the Andes cordillera and skirt around the outside of this barometric minimum. However, what’s vital in all this is their positioning around Rio de la Plata in three days’ time, as a zone of high pressure is blocking the way to Brazil. For the French, the decision about which way to go will also depend on how the Americans react to the situation…
The Cape of Good Deliverance
“For over ten days, it’s been very full-on physically, with some very big waves pushed along by a big southerly swell, with some strong winds and speeds which reached thirty knots at times in the troughs… The proximity of Puma would seem to suggest that the coming week isn’t going to be exactly restful! We can feel our rival breathing down our necks and clearly they don’t want to get left behind after Cape Horn… We’ll respond to them by showing that we’re capable of taking up a challenge and going faster than them. There’s some psychological game playing here and it’s revived with each new position report every three hours. Up till now, we’ve been dealing with the Southern Ocean at our own pace, but now, as we make Cape Horn, we’re getting back into race mode with all the fatigue that we’ve accumulated. This is the point I call “the Cape of good deliverance”: this is where the race really begins! It’s an imposing rock and it always gives me a special emotion” commented Thomas Coville, before rounding Cape Horn for the ninth time.
In this way, the first of the next 36 hours will see them make fairly quick headway towards the North-East and the crew of Groupama 4 will very quickly latch onto some less extreme weather conditions: the seas are likely to be smoother and the cold decreasingly harsh, but the wind may well be more fickle. The ETA in Itajai currently stands between the evening of Wednesday 4 April (local time) and noon on Thursday…
Standing for the 5th leg from Auckland – Itajai 30 March 2012, 1300 UTC
1. Groupama 1,920.3 miles from the finish
2. Puma 16.3 miles astern of the leader
3. Telefonica 303.3 miles astern of the leader
4. Camper 1,347.6 miles astern of the leader
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 1,696.8 miles astern of the leader
6. Sanya DNF.