Second victory for Puma
Puma scored her second consecutive leg victory when she arrived in Miami to claim leg six of the Volvo Ocean Race from Itajaí, Brazil, with the dream story of the American boat first into the round the world race's sole US stopover.
Ken Read's team crossed the finish line at 18:14:00 UTC today, having taken 17 days 1 hour and 14 minutes on the 3590 mile long course from Brazil.
Puma initially led out of the start and then as the boats divided approaching Rio she was ahead of Telefonica and Groupama on the offshore course as the boats attempted to be first to get into the trades. She pulled into the lead half way between Rio and Salvador de Bahia on 25 April. Most impressive about Puma's performance on this leg is that she never managed to stay in front for the next 14 days despite the constant threat from Telefonica and in particular Camper. This lasted all the way to the finish line and at the 1430 UTC sched today Chris Nicholson's team was just 0.3 miles astern. Would it be any closer in one designs?
"You could say this is one of the best moments of my sailing career," enthused Read on his arrival. "We have to enjoy this now, but we have to keep thinking about the big picture [ie the whole race] and now the way things are staking up the big picture maybe isn’t so out of reach - why not us? That has been our motto for a while.
Of the constant on-slaughter from Telefonica and Camper, Read added: "Some days we would get a little lead and be able to extend, but every time we got out to a 15-20 miles lead we hit a parking lot. But the guys got used to it. It happened 5-6 times this leg, but the crew would not be shattered and that bodes well going forward. These guys just being mentally tough – that was a soft physical leg, but a hard mental leg, nobody breaks – that is the best part of this crew."
With victories on the last two legs, Read says that following their dismasting on leg one, it has been only on the last couple of legs that they have had the opportunity to improve the boat. "We have been able to make some mode changes and it is like the old adage - you had better be faster every next day and I think we have done that."
Despite closing dramatically on Puma on the approach to Miami, Camper reached the finish line at 19:21:25, just over an hour after the leg winner. Skipper Chris Nicholson commented: "The last leg was pretty tough for us in terms of breaking the boat, repair time and then turn around time in Itajai, we were there almost 10 days behind everyone else. So I am very happy with the way the whole team pulled together to make it happen so we could get here in good shape. We saw a lot of good things from both teams in terms of strategy and speed. There were one of two days where we were knocking it out against Puma and Telefonica with a lot of sail area up in a lot of breeze just wondering who would crack first and we all faired pretty well out of it."
Of Camper getting so close to them towards the finish Puma navigator, Tom Addis explained: "Camper got close on the tracker, but it was an insurance policy - we took a hit to cut off their options and to come across the Gulf Stream with zero risk. This is not an elapsed time race - you only have to win by a bowsprit, so it got close, but it was all in hand."
While Tom Addis said that the critical moment for Puma came going offshore after Rio and then getting through the dying cold front just around the corner off Brazil, Camper's navigator Will Oxley said there were critical moment occurring daily. "There were probably 50 places where it could have gone wrong.
Interestingly the finish order of the top four is the exact reverse of the overall leaderboard going into this leg, so assuming Groupama hangs on to third place ahead of Telefonica then the overall leaderboard will be
1. Telefonica 164
2. Groupama 153
3. Camper 149
4. Puma 147
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 68
The current ETA for Groupama and Telefónica is 0300 UTC, with fifth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing expected at 0800 UTC.