Puma bounces back

Stuck off the Cape Verdes, Groupama falls back to fourth in the Volvo Ocean Race

Sunday November 13th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Chart above courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and PredictWind.

The worst has come to pass for Franck Cammas and his Groupama team. Last night at around 2200 Puma overtook Groupama in terms of DTF, followed by Telefonica at 0100 this morning and at the latest sched by Camper.

Yesterday morning the westerly group all gybed south. Puma was first to go at around 0730, followed by Telefonica around an hour later and Camper at around 1430. Since then all three have been making fast miles south in the 15 knot ENE trade winds. In addition their game of catch up has been enhanced by their convergence with the great circle.

On the drag race south, yesterday when Puma gybed Telefonica was 3 miles astern with Camper 23 miles back. At the latest sched Puma has extended her lead to 18 miles while Camper, due to the longer period she spent heading west yesterday morning is now back to 133 miles astern of the leader.

Meanwhile Groupama has been suffering in a major way to the northeast of the Cape Verdes. While most of the time she has been making 8-10 knots over a couple of scheds this morning her boat speed was down to 3-4 knots.

Groupama 4 skipper Franck Cammas commented: “The outcome won’t be very positive, that’s for sure. That’s the risk of our option. We knew it would be favourable in the short term. It was uncertain on the long term and it didn’t come out very good for us. We will fight to avoid losing too much compared with them. We certainly can lose 100 to 200 miles but it's still in a few days and many things can happen in the Doldrums. A few knots more and an interesting angle can help us. And in a few days we will get the same wind as our competitors."

Camper navigator, Will Oxley says, “We should now be able to point the bow towards Fernando de Noronha (an island off the coast of Brazil that the fleet must leave to port), whereas normally, at this stage, we would be worrying about how to get west and avoid the wind shadows of the Cape Verde Islands.” He says that barring the notorious wind clouds and squalls, which are commonplace in the Doldrums, the team will not have to gybe for another 1700 nm until they reach the island.

According to Oxley, Groupama is in a difficult position. The low-pressure system to the north has completely disrupted the trade winds and the Cape Verde Islands lie in path of Groupama 4. He thinks the team will attempt to cross the Doldrums much further to the east than the rest of the fleet, which is always a high-risk option. “As always,” he says, “high risk options can pay big dividends, but also see big losses.”

Weather-wise there isn't too much to report. The Doldrums are still around 700 miles to the south of the race leader and the westerly group will spend the next two or so days drag racing south across the trades to get there.


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