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.”
Sign, cigars and a bottle of rum are a must when rounding Cape Horn.
As any sailing fan with a pulse probably knows by now, we rounded Cape Horn yesterday. The unofficial end to an epic Southern Ocean leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. It is unreal that only two of the six that started this leg will get to the Horn at close to 100% speed. I guess that when all start an Iron Man race not all expect to finish or even get there at near full capacity, so it shouldn’t be a shock. This has been our ultimate Iron Man.
It would be too easy to glow poetically about what it means to go around Cape Horn – for me the second time. Instead, I will describe the scene on board as it happened. Kind of like a first timers’ equator crossing, there is a ritual and for very good reason. It is a time to be proud and happy and relieved. The feeling of “we have escaped” is prominent. The hardened and the rookies share this feeling. It is a feeling that sticks with you forever. It is a time to take an hour break from the race and just appreciate the accomplishment that few others share. A wonderful time.
First things first. There has to be a team photo and there has to be a sign commemorating the date and place that the photo is taken. This was a huge topic of debate for days leading to the horn. “Do we have a sign yet?” “Where is the sign?” “Who is doing the sign?”
I got the sign. Written on the paper chart of Cape Horn. I kind of like the meaning, and the awesome nature of the area. The Drake Passage between Antarctica and the southern most tip of the world. The sign…done. Stop bugging me. We have a sign already!
Next are the necessities. “Who brought the libations?” “Did anyone bring alcohol for the Horn?” “Oh no, we forgot liquor for the Horn?!?”
Boys, boys, we have libations for the Horn. Do you think I was born yesterday? Now if the bottle didn’t break, we are in business.
Finally the cigars. I still have a photo in my house of Jerry Kirby and me rounding the Horn last race, sitting in the hatch with big dumb smiles on our faces both smoking cigars. It means a lot to me, that photo. Cigars were going to be back, and I told my wife Kathy to search Auckland for some good cigars and she did just that. Don’t want to know what a box of 11 Cubans cost these days but it sure was worth it. Even if it was tough to keep them lit in the freezing rain as we passed.
And finally, the photo. The one that you will have in your office or living room forever. Make sure Rosco (Amory Ross) is in it, and of course our media man came equipped for exactly this situation with a flexible tripod that he could wrap around the grinder pedestal. No photo would be right without all 11 guys.
So, just with the rock about 3 miles abeam, which is very rare – passing so close – the rum was passed, the cigars were lit and the photo was taken. Eleven amazingly close human beings exchanging hand shakes and silent smiles. Amazing what a silent smile can really say. The photo that will last forever. Something to be proud of, something that is part of each of our own little life history.
“Remember the day we rounded Cape Horn?”
That phrase will live in infamy for the 11 guys on board this yacht.
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG
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.
Leg 5 leaders Groupama throttled back to preserve man and boat as the fleet saw a return to the classic Southern Ocean conditions of huge, confused seas and gale-force winds on Tuesday.
Despite a lead of just 37 nautical miles (nm) Franck Cammas’ crew chose safety over speed to avoid breakages to their Volvo Open 70 as winds hit more than 35 knots and waves grew to around six metres following a brief respite from the thrashing yesterday.
Four of the six-strong fleet have suffered damage so far in the 6,700nm leg from Auckland to Itajaí and Groupama skipper Cammas said in the Southern Ocean, survival must come before speed.
“We had to slow down during the night to nurse the boat and the men,” he said. “We are waiting for the day to come to put some more sails up again.
“It’s more about surviving than racing. For sure it’s been the toughest week since the start of the race.”
Groupama helmsman Laurent Pagès added: “We have been sailing this way since we got to this part of the ocean where the sea state is really bad.
“When we returned to boat breaking conditions we took our foot off the pedal. We gave some miles to PUMA but it’s all fine because we don’t have any problems on board.”
Despite slowing the boat down, Groupama were hurtling along at an average of 21 knots in the three hours prior to the 1300 UTC position report.
Hot on their heels were Ken Read’s PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG as both teams passed the eastern ice limit, allowing them to dive south and take the shortest possible route to Cape Horn, around 1,200nm away.
Telefónica slipped to 314 nm off the lead after being forced to hold back to prevent damage to their bow getting worse.
Still in fourth but heading to southern Chile to carry out repairs to their damaged bow, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand celebrated getting to within 2,000 miles of their destination, Puerto Montt.
“It’s a milestone for us,” said helmsman Tony Rae. “Another step towards getting to land and making the repairs.
“Once we get to Puerto Montt and have a look at the damage we’ll know when we can leave again.”
1415 nm behind the leaders, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were revelling in much less dangerous conditions than the rest of the fleet and looking forward to opportunities further along the course.
“We haven’t seen too much harsh weather since leaving New Zealand so we’re just chipping away and enjoying the downwind Southern Ocean downwind yachting,” said Abu Dhabi’s newest recruit, Australian Olympic sailor Anthony ‘Nocka’ Nossiter.
“We’re happy to be stuck in lighter airs at the back of the fleet if the front guys are going to break their boats in hard core weather. We’ll see how it all plays out.”
Nocka, who last competed in the Volvo Ocean Race on current CEO Knut Frostad’s Djuice Dragons in 2001-02, added: “We’re quite a long way off the pace with our delayed start time but you never know what could happen.
“The last time I did this race we passed three boats between Cape Horn and the finish.
“It’s like a totally new race after the Horn, it could be a restart.”
Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya reached Tauranga in New Zealand on Tuesday, five days after a broken rudder forced them to turn back.
Sanya will ship their boat to Savannah in the United States for repairs before sailing it to Miami to rejoin the race for Leg 7.
27/03/2012 13:06:25 UTC
DTL DTLC BS DTF
1 GPMA 0.00 0 21.3 3112.3
2 PUMA 37.00 7 19.8 3149.3
3 TELE 313.90 13 15.8 3426.1
4 CMPR 856.60 45 5.9 3968.9
5 ADOR 1415.40 35 17.8 4527.7
- SNYA Did Not Finish
Team Sanya led the fleet out of Auckland and into a likely battering from the weather en route to the Southern Ocean, as Leg 5 to Itajaí got underway with the second half of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 completely open.
Auckland skipper Mike Sanderson enjoyed a dream start to the leg as his underdog Sanya outfit led the fleet around the inshore course on his home waters.
Sanya smoked their five rivals off the start line, enjoying better breeze in a commanding position to round the first mark ahead of Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG followed them around the televised section, followed by Team Telefónica, CAMPER with Emirates Team Zealand and Groupama sailing team.
With 6,700 nautical miles of ocean racing ahead of them, no team will be placing any significance on the leaving positions, especially with such a trial by the elements in prospect.
According to race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante a low pressure system to the north east of Auckland is set to intensify as it moves towards the colder waters of the Southern Ocean.
“It’s a heat machine right now,” Infante said. “As it interacts with the cooler air off New Zealand it could generate some big winds — 30 knots up to maybe even 50 or 60 knots.”
PUMA skipper Ken Read said keeping the boat and the crew in one piece was the top priority, with gales likely in the first few days.
Read added: “It’s going to be boat-breaking and person-breaking weather, and I think the smart will prevail.”
As the leg goes on, the fleet will sail through the notorious Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties where the winds consistently blow above 40 knots and conditions are more than capable of breaking boats.
Three new sailors have been added to the crew lists in Auckland. Anthony Nossiter from Australia is joining Abu Dhabi to replace the outgoing Justin Ferris, while just for this leg Finnish Olympic gold medal winner Thomas Johanson takes over from injured Kelvin Harrap on PUMA and Danish Olympic gold medallist Martin Kirketerp steps in on Sanya for Ryan Houston who has a kidney infection.
With the weather forecast to batter the fleet in the opening day of the leg, it will be a baptism of fire for the new crewmembers.
“Right now all our focus is on the weather forecast, which looks absolutely diabolical for the first 36 hours,” said Ian Walker, skipper of fifth-placed Abu Dhabi. “We just have to prepare our boat and our people as best we can.”
Despite having three leg wins and two in-port victories under their belt, Iker Martínez’s Team Telefónica sit just 15 points clear at the top of the overall leaderboard, with less than 40 points separating the top four boats and fifth-placed Abu Dhabi still determined to fight their way back into the reckoning.
And as the 39,000 nautical mile race hits its mid-point with Leg 5 to Itajaí in Brazil, with more than half the points still to be awarded, it is anyone’s to win.
“The door has always been open for any team to win,” Martínez said. “The teams are very close and there will be some more boats winning legs for sure.”
CAMPER, currently ranked third overall behind Telefónica and Groupama, started the leg riding the high of victory on home waters in Saturday’s In-Port Race.
And with just 18 points separating them from the leaders, skipper Chris Nicholson said his team were still very much in the race.
“It’s still well and truly game on,” he said. “I see the future for the overall podium results for this leg as wide open — as wide open now as they were in Alicante.”
“I’ve been watching this race since 1981 and never before got this far and not really known what’s going to happen going forward,” added Sanderson whose sixth-placed Sanya are showing their best form of the race.
After second place finishes in Leg 4 and the Auckland In-Port Race, PUMA are also on a roll – but skipper Ken Read, who skippered PUMA to third place in the Southern Ocean leg of the 2008-09 event, said keeping the boat and the crew in one piece was the top priority.
“Quite frankly this is not a leg to be talking about wins and losses right now,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to talk tough but the reality is this is not the most hospitable part of the world and we have to make sure we’re smart.”
Leg 5 is expected to take around 18 days to complete.
Local heroes CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand stormed to victory in front of tens of thousands of ecstatic home fans in the Auckland In-Port Race on Saturday, giving them a first Volvo Ocean Race victory and ‘flicking a switch’ on their campaign.
Chris Nicholson’s men produced a dominant performance on the waters of Waitemata Harbour, taking the lead on the sprint to the first mark thanks to their decision to tack way out to shore and out of the strongest current, and then refusing to let go.
Fifty-four seconds after they heard the gun – and huge cheers from the crowd — PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crossed the line in second place ahead of Groupama sailing team following a terrific battle for the podium positions.
Behind them, Auckland-born skipper Mike Sanderson was also celebrating as Team Sanya finished the race in fourth, having out-manoeuvred Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in fifth and overall race leaders Team Telefónica in sixth.
Tens of thousands of people lined Auckland’s shoreline and packed hundreds of spectator boats to watch Auckland’s first Volvo Ocean Race action in 10 years – and a win for CAMPER, the Spanish-sponsored team who count Auckland as one of their two home ports, made the day all the more special.
“The one thing we said all week is how do we thank everyone who has supported us and I hope this goes a long way to doing it,” said CAMPER’s Australian skipper Chris Nicholson as his team moved back to within 18 points of the leaders. “It’s been a huge week of support and it’s helped.
“Now we’ve flicked the switch and we want this on the next leg.”
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG got off to a flying start leading the boats over the line in 15-20 knots of easterly breeze but by the first turning mark CAMPER had snuck in front.
Groupama moved up into second but PUMA clawed their way back on the second upwind leg, overtaking Franck Cammas’ men to claim second and bank a vital five points.
“It was a lot of fun,” said PUMA skipper Ken Read. “We had a good start but CAMPER got the first shift and that’s all they needed.”
With Telefónica picking up just one point for sixth place, their stronghold on the overall leaderboard weakened.
“We had a pretty bad race,” said Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez. “We didn’t sail well, so it was a headache for us. It was pretty difficult. We didn’t have much room to play with out there.”
Groupama moved to within 15 points of the overall leaders as they took home four points from the in-port race.
“Third is not so bad,” said Cammas. “We had a problem with the keel which lost us the 20-second advantage which we had over PUMA and PUMA took advantage well to overtake us. But apart from that we are happy with the race.”
Team Sanya scored their best result since the Iberdrola In-Port Race in Alicante, the first competitive racing of the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race.
“That was awesome,” said Sanya’s local boy Sanderson. “We’re just so stoked to be in the race but that was one step better because we had a couple of boats behind us.”
The fleet now faces its biggest challenge yet when they set sail from Auckland at 1400 local time on Sunday – the Southern Ocean.
The 6,705 nautical mile sprint around Cape Horn and on to Itajaí in Brazil will see the teams dodging icebergs and huge storms.
“The Southern Ocean is a fearsome place and deserves a great deal of respect,” said Telefónica watch captain Neal McDonald. “Climbing Everest is not particularly risk free or glamorous but people want to do it for the challenge and it’s the same with the Southern Ocean.”
Waves of 12 metres and winds of up to 60 knots are forecast and teams will use night-vision goggles to try to spot icebergs at night.
Three new sailors join the fleet for Leg 5. Anthony Nossiter from Australia is joining Abu Dhabi to replace the outgoing trimmer/helmsman Justin Ferris, Finnish Olympic gold medal winner Thomas Johanson takes over for the leg from injured Kelvin Harrap on PUMA and Danish Olympic gold medallist Martin Kirketerp steps up for Leg 5 on Sanya for Ryan Houston who picked up a kidney infection.
The Leg 5 start will be broadcast live from 1400 local time (0100 UTC) on Sunday. The leg should take the fleet around 17 days to complete.
Watch the action live at www.volvooceanrace.com or at the race’s Livestream page HERE. Coverage starts 15 minutes prior to the leg start.
Auckland In-Port Race results:
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (60min 38sec) 6pts
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (+0:54) 5pts
Groupama sailing team (+1:26) 4pts
Team Sanya (+2:20) 3pts
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (+2:52) 2 pts
Team Telefónica (+3:27) 1 pts
PUMA CLINCH SECOND PLACE AFTER MIGHTY THREE-WAY TUSSLE
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG won an epic battle for second place on Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Sunday, clinching the runner’s up spot on a rainy morning in Auckland to complete a memorable comeback and secure their first offshore podium place in 2011-12.
Team Telefónica followed them in just under 50 minutes later for third after holding off CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand in a scrap that continued gybe-for-gybe all the way to the finish line.
Just around 93 seconds separated Telefónica, winners of the first three legs, and CAMPER — a tiny margin after a leg that took the teams over 5,220 nautical miles from Sanya in China to the sailing-mad city of Auckland in New Zealand.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing came in just under 34 minutes later for fifth, with Team Sanya the sixth boat in just over 35 minutes after that.
“I don’t really know what we could have done better to improve our position,” said Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker. “We got up to third place at one point. It was disappointing to finish fifth and now it’s time for some downwind sailing.”
Thousands of fans jammed into spectator craft to welcome the boats in and thousands more packed Auckland Viaduct Harbour after a drag race through the churning water completed a fantastic set of arrivals to mark the race’s return to the city after a gap of 10 years.
“My God, I feel good to be in Auckland,” said PUMA’s American skipper Ken Read after the team had received a traditional Maori welcome into the harbour.
“From day one of this leg, ever since we sailed into the South China Sea, it’s been tough. I know that’s what we signed up for but man this was a challenging leg. This result is something we can build on. We just wish we had a couple more weeks to hang around in Auckland.”
While Groupama sailing team were making a triumphant entry into the City of Sails on Saturday night, PUMA were nursing a slim advantage over the pack, with just 40 nautical miles separating the five boats as a tense, tactical race for the best way to play the currents and to avoid wind holes raged through the night.
PUMA managed to protect their lead, coming in at 10:33:47 UTC for a total elapsed time of 20 days 3 hours 57 minutes over the two stages of Leg 4, which began back on February 19 in Sanya, China with a short race around the bay and a delay to keep the fleet from the worst of the conditions in the South China Sea.
Telefónica now lead the overall standings with 121 points despite losing their perfect record offshore. Groupama have 103 points and take over second place from CAMPER, now back in third on 98, with PUMA fourth on 78.
“It’s a really good result,” said Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez. “The level is so high that to get on the podium is very difficult. The teams are so strong.”
CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson was not too downhearted after just failing to overtake Telefónica in a race that was as close as their run in to the finish in the Maldives on Leg 2.
“It was a really close race but we just ran out of runway at the end,” said Nicholson, whose CAMPER team count Auckland as one of their two base ports. “It was the toughest leg so far. Now we’re really tired and we’re just looking forward to being home.”
Sunday’s result confirms that PUMA are back in business after the broken mast that saw them forced to retire from Leg 1, and gave them little time to prepare for Leg 2.
Second place into Auckland marks their first podium finish in an offshore leg and it came courtesy of a terrific comeback.
They started the leg with a 39 minute deficit after being hit by a windless patch while leading on Stage 1 and watching the fleet sail past them. It looked like ill luck was set to stay with them as they were forced on a more and more northerly course.
Their strategy worked, bringing them back in touch with the fleet after days of ever more lonely sailing towards Japan, before Groupama took control in a strong easterly position on day seven.
CAMPER hopes of challenging for the lead suffered a devastating blow when they tore their vital J2 headsail, losing 60 miles to Groupama in the process, and it became increasingly clear that this was all about the race for second.
The three boats behind Groupama stayed neck and neck all the way through to the finish, as behind them Abu Dhabi and Sanya closed the gap significantly.
Sanya, stranded 393 nm off the pace on day 17, were within 30 nm of PUMA by the final morning — not quite close enough to challenge for a podium place but satisfied to have been part of a terrific scrap.
“It’s very cool to be home and to have everyone out supporting us,” said New Zealand native Sanderson. “I couldn’t be any more proud of the leg we sailed. The fact that we kept up with and finished so close to the new boats just shows that we can be competitive.”
11/03/2012 0:57:25 UTC
DTL DTLC BS DTF
1 GPMA FIN 019d 15h 35m 54s
2 PUMA FIN 020d 03h 57m 50s
3 TELE FIN 020d 04h 45m 22s
4 CMPR FIN 020d 04h 46m 55s
5 ADOR FIN 020d 05h 20m 35s
6 SNYA FIN 020d 05h 55m 43s
Overall Leg 4 Total
1 Team Telefónica 20 121
2 Groupama Sailing Team 30 103
3 CAMPER with Emirates Team NZ 15 98
4 PUMA Ocean Racing by BERG 25 78
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 10 53
6 Team Sanya 5 22