Rest of the fleet reaches Miami
Following the arrival of second placed Camper into Miami at 1921 UTC last night, so Groupama managed to hold their lead over overall Volvo Ocean Race leader Telefonica, reaching the finish line off US stopover at 0029 this morning, just 37 minutes ahead of their Spanish rivals.
Groupama's third place came after they had been slow out of the blocks leaving Itajai where they had had to fit their spare mast after they dismasted while lead the fleet up the coast of South America on the previous leg. As a result when the leaders were first into the new breeze as they headed up to Recife on this leg, they were left wallowing in last place.
However, the French never gave up and gradually reeled in overtook Abu Dhabi on the approach to the Caribbean and then in a brave tactical option, sailed inside the Turks & Caicos islands a move that caused them to overtake Telefonica just two and a half days out from Miami.
Groupama 4's third place was under constant threat when Telefonica passed to the east of Cat Island as Cammas and his crew were trapped in a zone of calms to the west of the Bahama island, the DTF separation between the two boats reducing to less than two miles before the breeze finally kicked back in.
The French VO70 led by just ten miles as at the Eleuthera Light turning mark, 130 miles from the finish, but they still had to negotiate the south to north flowing Gulf Stream en route to the finish and a wind which was shifting round to the southwest as it eased. Telefonica tried to pull one last move by moving to windward, but Groupama 4 still managed to hang on.
"I’m very happy to finish in front of Telefónica," said a relieved Groupama skipper Franck Cammas upon his arrival. "The fight with them was very good for two days. It was very good for the spirit of the crew to fight against Telefónica - we gained five points on the overall leaderboard and this is very good. It’s very exciting now to have this close fight between four boats.
"We're obviously frustrated because we weren't able to battle it out for the top spot for three weeks, which was hard to bear. Fortunately, the final week proved to be more positive, when we overtook Abu Dhabi and then Telefonica. Ultimately we did a really good job in terms of the overall standings. We ended this sixth leg on a positive note, but we got off to such a bad start that we wondered what we were doing here for ten days or so! However, we managed to stay calm and focused on getting the boat to make headway as we waited for a possible opportunity to come our way. We didn't do well over the first days of racing: we didn't have a good feeling with the boat and we certainly didn't have the trimming sorted out. We managed to get back into the fight thanks to a few good decisions, which fired our motivation again. We've finished ahead of the Spanish, who always sail very well, even though it was a very close run thing right up to the finish! On a physical level it was the easiest leg we've had, despite the heat, but it was also the most stressful since the start of the race in Alicante...
"The overall standings have bunched together as four boats are still in with a chance of outright victory in Galway: everything is still open and the battle will continue!"
Thomas Coville added: "What I really like is that I've learnt something different on every leg, and particularly at the end here, where we managed to get back into the fight thanks to two fine options by Jean-Luc Nélias and Franck Cammas. To keep ahead of a crew like Telefonica, you really have to dig deep... Even yesterday evening, we were making 1.2 knots in 1.2 knots of breeze: we were in despair! In the Gulf Stream too, we still had everything to lose as we were caught up in a very big squall, which could have turned the result on its head. It's fortunate that the race ended on a positive note like this because it will give the crew a massive boost."
As to Telefonica's performance on this leg, skipper Iker Martinez admitted: "It wasn’t a good result, we’re not happy at all. It was the first time we did an offshore leg and didn't get a result. We knew this would happen at some point and it happened in Leg 6. We didn’t manage the situation with these leg wins very well and we’ve paid a big price. But that’s it, we’ve finished, and now we have to think about the future."
This was the first time they have failed to finish on the podium in an offshore leg in this Volvo Ocean Race.
Bringing up the rear, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing finished in fifth place finishing at 08:57:37 UTC on Thursday after 17 days, 15 hours and 57 minutes and 37 seconds of racing.
Skipper Ian Walker said a general lack of speed had led to the fifth place result, seven hours and 51 minutes behind fourth placed Team Telefónica.
Walker said the Abu Dhabi crew were disappointed to be last into Miami after previously losing out to Groupama sailing team in a nip and tuck battle for fourth on the approach to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Walker admitted that a lack of raw boat speed had made it difficult for Abu Dhabi to be competitive, but said the whole crew had never let their heads drop at any point during the leg.
“This is not what any one of us is here for, but we know how tough this fleet is and we just don’t seem to have the legs at the moment to hang with the other boats and that’s making life very difficult for us,’’ Walker said. “I’m proud of the guys, how everyone has dug in and kept fighting till the end and after 16, 17 days sailing we’re just a handful of hours behind Telefónica and Groupama.”
Walker said being unable to keep up with the other boats had put continual pressure on navigator Jules Salter and himself to find ways to get the team back in contention. “It’s just been a tale of bleeding miles,’’ he said. “The fleet spent a lot of time in similar wind, sailing the trade winds, sailing a very similar strategy and for whatever reason we weren’t sailing as fast as the other boats. Day in, day out, those miles add up. It puts a lot of pressure on Jules and myself to try and pull a rabbit out of a hat and find something extra and make up for that. It puts a lot of pressure on us just to stay in touch with everyone let alone to try and make any gains.”
Walker said the need for speed had forced the crew to take two risks: packing a minimal amount of food in a bid to save weight - which resulted in some very hungry crewmen; and making some ‘roll-the-dice’ moves in the Caribbean. “As the leg went on we took more and more risk to try and get a bit of leverage to try and get back to Groupama. That didn’t work out for us in the end. The only other option was to just follow in their wake and just lose more miles, so that makes it a very difficult place for us.
“I think anybody following the race would see we have a speed issue and it’s an issue that we see pretty much on all points of sail, some more than others. It’s not to say we didn’t make any mistakes, but I’m sure all the boats out there made mistakes at some point during the leg."
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|V&A Waterfront In-Port Race Cape Town||6||2||5||4||3||1|
|LEG 2 º||29||18||24||19||10||5|
|Etihad Airways In-Port Race||2||5||4||3||6||2|
|LEG 3 º||27||24||18||17||14||5|
|Sanya Haitang Bay In-Port Race||6||2||3||5||4||1|
|Auckland In-Port Race||1||4||6||5||2||3|
|DHL In-Port Race Itajaí||2||6||5||4||3||DNS|