Volvo Ocean Race: Match race for the lead

Puma and Groupama back up to speed with 1130 miles to go to Itajai

Monday April 2nd 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 0655 UTC:

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Lon Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Puma Ken Read 44 00.970s 058 30.900w 22.8 10 1129.8  
2 Groupama Franck Cammas 44 06.520s 058 31.170w 22.5 10 1134.8 5
3 Telefonica Iker Martinez 47 26.670s 061 42.170w 22.5 352 1374.7 244.9
4 Camper Chris Nicholson 43 53.500s 079 38.250w 14.7 58 2784.6 1654.8
5 Abu Dhabi Ian Walker 44 46.630s 087 10.980w 18 89 2928.3 1798.5

With Telefonica back in action, three boats are left competing on this devasting leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. But since yesterday lunchtime, competition has hotted up between the leaders who are now engaged in a full-on ocean racing match race. Puma edged ahead of Groupama yesterday morning. The French team speared off to the west and pulled back into the lead at 1500 UTC yesterday afternoon. Overnight the two boats were swapping the lead are each sched, but this morning, possibly because she was first into the breeze Puma has pulled out a five mile lead.

At present the two boats are around 250 miles off the Argentine coast and over the last 24 hours they have been making slow progress north. However in the last three hours the southwesterlies breeze has filled in between the depression offshore and the high over the South American continent. As a result both boats are now making speeds in the early 20s. If they can keep up this pace then they should be able to get far enough north so that they remain in breeze as the high shifts east, away from the South American continent and into the Atlantic, over the next 24 hours. However beyond this the last 300-400 miles look set to be light and upwind.

Behind in third, Telefonica has done an impressive job catching up the leaders, despite being one man down and following a 17 hour pitstop in the lee of Cape Horn on Saturday. Holding pressure while the leaders wallowed yesterday has enabled Iker Martinez' crew to close from 378 miles behind yesterday to 245 at the latest sched. Unfortunately the Spanish boat's path north looks set to a more tricky one compared to the leaders as the high is set to cross their path over the next 24 hours.

On the opposite side of South America, Camper remains 400 miles from Porto Montt in Chile, where she will stop to make repairs to their boat's bow. Abu Dhabi still hasn't announced its plans but has been resolutely heading east in the same direction as Camper.

Yesterday Nick Dana reported from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing: It’s not very often that you’re doing 25 knots in a sailboat while desperately trying to slow down. These boats just don’t know how to go slow. Not to mention asking a Volvo Open 70 to slow down in the Southern Ocean - perhaps it’s greatest venue for speed. Imagine driving your town road speed limit in a Ferrari on the Nuremburg Ring – it just wouldn’t feel right, and it doesn’t. Every other wave we steer down the hull shape just reacts, and before you know it we will have catapulted from 12 knots to 24 knots, doubling our speed in a matter of seconds.

Unfortunately for us, slowing down is a necessity at the moment. With a rather large area of our port inside and possibly outside skin compromised, it would be risky to carry on at pace. After all it’s 1.5mm of carbon that separate us from the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean. While we are confident that our repairs are strong and would likely stand up to the test of more speed, we must introduce it slowly and monitor the weakened area. Thus we have made the turn towards the North East for more favourable conditions. So far so good – but it does not have our total vote of confidence yet.

In the meantime we are being patient. Everyone is catching up on rest and taking care of any injuries sustained in the several days of heinous conditions that were endured prior to the damage.

While everyone is determined to see the leg through, it is also necessary to explore our contingency plans. Hopefully Cape Horn is still in our cards though…there are a few of us that have had our sites on that goal for a long time now.


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