Hometown heroes Groupama completed a last-gasp win in the Bretagne In-Port Race in Lorient on Saturday to take a big step towards overall victory in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.
Franck Cammas’ crew had spent much of the 9.2 nautical mile race fighting with PUMA for second place but all changed on the penultimate leg when they usurped long-term leaders CAMPER from the top spot and held on to take the win by just 13 seconds, picking up a maximum six points in the process.
The win puts them 25 points clear at the top of the overall leaderboard with just one offshore leg and one in-port race to go.
Five points for CAMPER’s second-place finish puts them top of the inshore series, level on 39 points with PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG after they claimed four points for third, their 11th podium finish in a row.
Telefónica took fourth, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing finishing fifth and Sanya taking sixth.
"This is a very good day for us, especially seeing as we didn’t plan on winning," said Cammas, who has now led his crew to three victories in the in-port series. "It’s incredible to be doing so well. We were aiming for at least third place today -- we outdid ourselves."
A disappointed Chris Nicholson, skipper of CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, recognised that his team had thrown away the victory.
"We snatched defeat from victory there,” Nicholson said. “We had that race. We sailed 95 per cent of it spot on and then just let ourselves down at the end.”
It was CAMPER who enjoyed the best start, overcoming the added pressure of having team manager and Volvo Ocean Race veteran Grant Dalton on board to rocket off the line in around 11 knots of westerly breeze on the waters of Lorient.
A split in the fleet up the first leg saw CAMPER round mark one ahead with Groupama chasing, followed by PUMA, Sanya, Telefónica and Abu Dhabi, who continued to be punished for a late tack during the start sequence.
Using aggressive tactics on the fast-paced second leg PUMA edged ahead of Groupama at the second mark, before dropping back to third when the crew lost control of the jib sheet.
CAMPER continued to lead, while Abu Dhabi were able to capitalise on a Telefónica’s inshore weakness and move into fourth place. Sanya slumped to sixth.
Under the watchful eye of thousands of spectators the teams fought hard to make gains knowing full well that opportunities for scoring points were running out and the importance of each meant more than ever before.
Just as the race reached its climax, a clever call by Cammas’ men saw them squeeze ahead of Nicholson’s crew to take their second win in Lorient following their Leg 9 victory.
Another disappointing result for Telefónica, who led the entire race up until the end of Leg 7, saw them slip further out of reach of the overall win from their fourth-place finish.
Focus now turns to the final offshore leg of the 2011-12 edition, a 550-mile sprint from Lorient to Galway in Ireland, starting at 1102 UTC on Sunday.
Overall In-Port Race Total
1 Groupama sailing team 6 225
2 PUMA Ocean Racing by BERG 4 200
3 CAMPER with Emirates Team NZ 5 196
4 Team Telefónica 3 194
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 2 124
6 Team Sanya 1 40
In-Port Series In-Port Race Total
1 CAMPER with Emirates Team NZ 5 39
2 PUMA Ocean Racing by BERG 4 39
3 Groupama sailing team 6 38
4 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 2 35
5 Team Telefónica 3 23
6 Team Sanya 1 15
- Volvo Ocean Race Media
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