Volvo Ocean Race: Camper theoretically up to second

Upwind finish as Groupama is expected to clear Cape Reinga later today

Friday March 9th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Volvo Ocean Race charts courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and GRIB (European model) from PredictWind

Positions at 0701 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Groupama Franck Cammas 34 34.620s 171 07.900e 13.7 139 271.1  
2 Camper Chris Nicholson 32 49.020s 168 59.620e 12.5 133 412.3 141.2
3 Puma Ken Read 32 03.200s 169 16.320e 12.5 64 426.5 155.4
4 Telefonica Iker Martinez 31 56.230s 169 12.980e 13.5 59 433.1 162
5 Sanya Mike Sanderson 32 09.570s 167 53.870e 13.3 141 480.2 209.1
6 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 31 38.070s 168 16.820e 12.7 78 481.9 210.8

Yikes - the finish of leg four looks set to be a close one, or it does if one believes the numbers in the table above. While Groupama has done a great job of playing the shifts and have put 45 miles on the boats behind there is a monumental fight on for second place, with Telefonica, Puma and most recently Camper theoretically holding this position - and behind just over a mile separate Sanya and Abu Dhabi.

In fact distance to finish (DTF) is biased in favour of those in the south and doesn't take into account weather guage. So with the wind currently in the east for the boats jockeying for second, we reckon that Puma is really a nose in front of Telefonica, with Camper, currently on the opposite southeasterly tack, still in fourth. Behind Abu Dhabi is to windward of Sanya, so this isn't as close as the DTF numbers portray.

At present Groupama is currently 76 miles west (ie the wrong side) of Cape Reinga at the northern tip of New Zealand and she is going to have to tack soon if she is going to lay the Cape. She will then have around 80 miles to sail on starboard before she can tack back to get down New Zealand's east coast. To reach this point will take the best part of six hours and once again will result in the group vying for second to close in in terms of DTF. And of course once Groupama gets on to the right side of New Zealand and tacks, they will find themselves in a header with the wind having veered into the ESE... By the time the mid-fleet have to sail down the east coast of New Zealand tomorrow morning the wind will once again back into the northeast but lighter, so there is the possibility of yet more compression before the boats finally, at long last, pull into the City of Sails.

Hamish Hooper writes from Camper

I thought I had woken up in a nightmare today, beginning with being woken as I levitated above my bunk as we fell off a sizable wave.

I got up and it was a bit chilly so I put a thermal on, it was pretty bumpy so I thought I would head up on deck. In full wet weather kit I got up there to see we were battling along in gusts of 27 knots with what I deemed to be pretty massive seas. Then I saw a few graceful albatross gliding amongst the big rollers. For a moment I could have sworn I was smack bang in the middle of the Southern Ocean having skipped the Auckland stopover!

This was not a good thought. I missed the humour of this prospect. Alas we are still about 250 miles away from the top of New Zealand, probably another 24 hours until we finally lay eyes on it.

This is taking forever. I think we have served our sentence of time in this carbon fibre prison for this leg.

We are now officially into our reserve food bag, which was hastily packed moments before we left the dock to start this leg in China as the estimates of times for the leg had increased because of the delayed start announcement.

Having scrounged through leftovers from other day bags, I think we are alright for today and tomorrow, but for food on Sunday things might be looking petty scarce other than freeze-dry. Hopefully we will finish earlier rather than later in the day on Sunday. Either way everyone onboard will be hungry!

The guys ask me every morning what is for breakfast; “Muesli and yoghurt” Is always my reply- until today. When their eyes lit up at the prospect of a variation on breakfast from today… “We have run out of yoghurt so today’s breakfast is just muesli-“ just a slight variation. “And from tomorrow there is only freeze dry for breakfast- no more muesli”.

There has been a run on the snacks as well, word is out that after today the snacks will be gone so everyone is stocking up their personal allowance before real food crimes begin and a black market trade emerges.

I would say there has been some pretty significant weight loss from a lot of the guys on this leg. And with only one week until the start of the longest coldest leg of the race there isn’t much time to put it back on and get back some physicality in the gym.

Quiz Question: “What was the average weight lost by the crew of CAMPER in the first three legs?”

So a big part of the next week will be eating, which is of course the main topic of conversation now. Not much else other than sailing and food is spoken of anymore,which is fine by everyone because no one doesn’t like talking about food.

I would say by the time we reach Auckland each of the guys will have a pretty clear idea of where and what they will be eating for each meal and meal in between meals for the entire week.

Enough about food for now, back out here on the ocean, it seems like the battle royal might just be in the infancy of beginning. PUMA, Telefónica and CAMPER have all made a couple of tacks this morning in setting up for the approach to North Cape. The lead miles are coming and going as the boats tack back and forth. But it is all very close between us three. This is going to get interesting and even more so with Abu Dhabi and Sanya having potential to catch back up into the mix.

Hold onto your seats because I think any and everything could happen in the final 48 hours of this leg down into the greatness of the Super City Auckland.

Can’t wait to see that Sky Tower!

“Traditionally, for some reason there have always been some historical battles down the New Zealand coast right into the finish in Auckland, and this is shaping up to be no different. We are happy that we have managed to get back up into the mix so far, but the job is not done. Everything that has happened in this leg so far counts for nothing.“ CHRIS NICHOLSON

Nick Dana reports from Abu Dhabi:

This leg is starting to feel like we’re running in mud. The closer we get to the finish the more resistance we encounter. Current against us, five-metre ocean swells and dead up wind. Oh yes, and the breeze is supposed to drop below 10 knots again in the next few hours. Thus we have now dubbed our journey ‘the leg that just won’t die!’ Our ETA remains Sunday lunchtime, but we’re not counting our chickens until we can see sky tower on the horizon.

If you are watching the tracker you’ll have noticed we just tacked for a few hours and have just gone back. (If you stopped watching the tracker during our 1,000+ miles of easting towards Hawaii, fair enough!).

This recent tack was the result of the upcoming wind shift and pressure change that the fleet ahead of us is experiencing at the moment. Possibly the only benefit we have bringing up the rear is to not make the same mistakes or get caught out as those ahead have done. Additionally, Team Sanya along with us will be carrying more pressure in from behind and should inevitably compress with CAMPER towards the finish. Whether it will be enough to shot at fourth place may be a tough one, but we are fighting for every inch right now.


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