Battle rages in Volvo Ocean Race as high pressure slows the fleet
The top three teams overall in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 remained locked
together in a titanic struggle on Tuesday as the fleet slowed slightly on the
way to the only Leg 8 turning mark -- São Miguel island in the Azores
At 1000 UTC Team Telefónica had nosed back in front of
overall race leaders Groupama sailing team, after a night of dead heating for
the lead, while within clear sight, in third, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG
remained a constant threat to the leading duo.
Jean-Luc Nélias said the light wind zone stretching as far as São Miguel had
slightly thrown the advantage back to Telefónica and compressed the whole fleet
over the last 12 hours.
‘’The wind dropped down and we now are in very
light winds,” he said. “We are 50 metres away from Telefónica, we can see PUMA
and on the horizon we can also see Abu Dhabi and CAMPER.
advantage over on Telefónica has reduced as the wind got lighter -- we were
faster yesterday in stronger winds. We managed to equal their speed last night
but slowed down a bit today.”
However, by 1300 UTC Groupama were back in
the lead pulling out a 2.1 nautical mile (nm) advantage on Telefónica after
positioning themselves to the north in a strong position to cover the fleet on
the remaining upwind section to São Miguel.
PUMA remained in third, five
nm off the lead and three nm ahead of fourth placed CAMPER with Emirates Team
New Zealand. Four nm back, Abu Dhabi were in fifth, with Team Sanya in sixth, 17
nm off first place.
PUMA skipper Ken Read said the competition for the
top three places had been intense since leaving Lisbon on Sunday.
certainly close,” he said. “Groupama and Telefónica are a couple of miles away.
It’s all on, that’s for sure.”
Despite the unrelenting pressure, Read
said the PUMA crew were treating the penultimate leg like any of the previous
seven in this edition of the race.
“To be honest, it’s not affecting the
crew,” he said. “We’re doing a completely normal watch system and treating it
like any other leg right now. Tom (Addis, navigator) is at the computer and the
guys on deck are just doing their job.
“So far the three of us have been
glued to each other the entire leg, but hopefully these guys up ahead get caught
up with each other and take their eye off us for a little while, we’ll see,”
Although currently fixated on finding the fastest path through
the light airs of the high pressure, the fleet’s navigators are also keeping a
wary eye on a potent low pressure system lurking to the north west which could
deliver a fast run from the Azores to Lorient if tackled correctly.
think this leg is still going to be won or lost on the other side of the
island,” Read said. “It’s a question of who can deal with the big breeze best --
and who can not break in the mean time.
“It’s going to be a big one and
we’ve got to get ready for it,” confirmed Telefónica navigator Andrew Cape. “We
have to reach into it to get more wind and the best course to
Needing to beat Groupama by two places to regain the overall
lead, Cape said the Telefónica crew know they may have to push harder and take
more risks than their French counterparts.
“Certainly the probability of
breakages is the same for everybody and no one is going to be the first to take
their foot off the pedal,” he said.
“We’re all going to go quite fast and
it will be a tight race because no one will want to slow down -- although
sometimes you might have to.
“It will be a very interesting aspect of
this leg: just how much risk will be taken.”
Latest estimates suggest the
boats will round the Azores waypoint in the early hours of June 13 on the way to
the Leg 8 finish in Lorient, on the Brittany coast of France.
- VOR Media