Groupama's first in-port race victory
The Volvo Ocean Race's DHL In-Port Race Itajaí proved that despite the attrition on leg five, the teams remain as competitive as ever. The drama-laden race held off the Brazilian stopover port featured an impressive four lead changes, culminating in the Franck Cammas-steered Groupama claiming the French team's first in-port race victory and allowing them to take four points off Telefonica's overall lead.
With uncertainty before the race over the available breeze there might be, so after a 10-minute postponement, storm clouds off the coast of Itajaí unleashed rain as a shifty southerly breeze of at times 10 knots filled in that finally enabled the downwind start to be held. In this, the committee boat end of the line was favoured with Puma squeezing between Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and the committee boat. The Ken Read-skippered boat was protested by Ian Walker's team for failed to keep clear, a call endorsed by the umpires. Despite being in the second tier by the committee boat at the start, Camper pulled into the lead as Puma swung away to carry out her 360 penalty turn.
Meanwhile Telefonica had started away from the trouble closer to the pin end of the line and enjoyed a substantial shift half way up the beat to slip into the lead as the boats reached the first mark, rounding just ahead of Camper followed by Groupama and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, with Puma bringing up the rear 28 seconds behind the leaders.
Telefónica continued to lead at the second mark, as the wind dropped so Groupama pulled up into second place, with Camper in third, and Puma overhauling Abu Dhabi to jump into fourth. But during the short two-sail reach to the third mark Telefónica made a schoolboy navigation error and headed for the wrong mark, allowing Groupama to pull into the lead. While Telefónica attempted to get back in the game, with the wind easing off race officials shortened the course at the fifth mark rounding, allowing victory to go to the French VO70.
Groupama was followed across the line by Camper 45 seconds behind, then Puma, Abu Dhabi and eventually Telefónica.
The six points Groupama scored for their first in-port race win, takes them to 133 points overall, in second place now 16 points astern of Telefónica.
"We are very happy because we have made a big improvement in these inshore races compared to what we did in Alicante," Groupama skipper Franck Cammas said. "We've shown we can win. e were in a good fight and some boats made mistakes around us and it's always the boat that makes the least mistakes which wins, but everyone makes mistakes because it is hard to manage these boats around a short course."
Of Telefonica's error, Cammas admitted that he had come close to following the Spanish VO70 doing the same mistake only Charles Caudrelier on board had prevented him. "We were lucky this time," he said.
Chris Nicholson skippered of second placed Camper said: "You didn’t see us set the world on fire, but we didn’t make too many big mistakes. We had flawless crew work - the bottom drops the guys were pulling off were fantastic and allowed us to stay in the game. It was good racing from everybody today."
Puma skipper Ken Read said of their comeback: “In these really short races you can’t ever count yourself out. It was pretty flukey out there, and after the judges flagged us for a penalty at the start, we certainly had our work cut out for us. Telefónica gave us all a nice little break. All in all, I guess we can’t be too upset with a third-place finish, but I do have to figure out how to see more clearly what the judges are seeing. We loved our start, and I wouldn’t do it any different. I’m proud of the guys for maintaining plenty of fight.”
The teams and shore crews are now turning their sights on the final preparations for tomorrow's start of the 4,800 nm Leg 6 to Miami, USA, which gets underway at 1400 local (1700 UTC).
DHL In-Port Race Itajai results:
1st - Groupama Sailing Team 6 points – 46min 27 sec
2nd - CAMPER with Emirates Team NZ 5 points - + 0.48 sec
3rd - PUMA Ocean Racing by BERG 4 points - +1.05
4th - Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 3 points - + 1.33
5th - Team Telefonica 2 points - + 5.40
DNC* Team Sanya 0 points
Overall Race Leaderboard:
1st - Team Telefónica – 149 pts
2nd - Groupama Sailing Team – 133 pts
3rd - CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand - 124 pts
4th - PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG – 117 pts
5th - Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing - 58 pts
6th - Team Sanya - 25 pts
Video highlights or watch the full replay here
Photos below by Ian Roman and Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Race