April 2, 2012
INTENSE TIMES FOR TOP TWO
The tactical battle between leg leaders PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (Ken Read/USA) and Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas/FRA) continued today with PUMA maintaining a separation of 5.1 nm at 1000 UTC as the pair race towards Brazil’s Itajaí.
Since 0400 GMT yesterday, the top two have been trading places in a scrap set to get even more intense as they enter the final 1000 nautical miles (nm) of this 6,705 nm leg from Auckland.
A spell of upwind sailing during Saturday night and early Sunday morning saw both teams engage in a series of fast and furious tacks that had both crews on deck throughout.
The arrival of the three-hourly reports containing vital information about the fleet continue to be anxious moments as the crews wait to see the outcome of their efforts. Trimming, tweaking, stacking and tacking make life on deck a serious business.
Incredibly after 6,245 nm covered so far on Leg 5 by Groupama the French crew have PUMA clearly in sight. Covering each other move for move, there are no thoughts of taking fliers now.
“Keep them close, sail fast and they shouldn’t have a chance to break away,” said PUMA’s Media Crew Member Amory Ross.
PUMA and Groupama are today sailing downwind in a 20-knot south-westerly breeze, clicking off the miles to the finish at an average speed of 18 knots. They are currently 277 nm east of Puerto Madryn in Argentine Patagonia.
Meanwhile, in third place and back racing full bore, Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) have shaved their deficit to 247 nm, sailing 416 nm in the 24 hours to 0700 GMT today.
Back in the Southern Ocean sailing at the same latitude as the leaders, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) are just a day from arriving at Puerto Montt in Chile where they will meet their shore team who will help repair the boat.
Also nursing damage, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) is heading cautiously in the same direction as CAMPER as they continue to assess their leg 5 options.
April 3, 2012
TELEFÓNICA BACK IN THE GAME AS LEADERS SLOW
Overnight, Leg 5 leaders Groupama (Franck Cammas/FRA) and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (Ken Read/USA) who are match racing each other for a leg win, have been hindered by a high-pressure system, which has allowed third-placed Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) to make some spectacular inroads into their lead.
Off the coast of Chile, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) suspended racing at 0130 GMT and are making their way under escort from the Chilean Navy towards Puerto Montt for repair work. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) continue to nurse their patched up boat along carefully while evaluating their next course of action.
At 2200 GMT on Monday, Groupama led PUMA towards a high-pressure system, which slowed both teams to a little over six knots. Meanwhile, 187 nautical miles (nm) astern, Telefónica continued in good pressure at an average speed of 14 knots, clicking off miles to the finish at a rapid rate.
Throughout the night, the Spanish team continued to reduce their deficit and, by 0700 GMT today, had closed to within 112 nm of Groupama, who was now leading PUMA by just 0.2 nm. By 1000 GMT, Groupama led PUMA by 0.10 nm, however Telefónica had closed even further to lie just 100.5 nm behind Groupama.
“It’s just been blind luck really,” said Telefónica’s navigator Andrew Cape this morning. “But we are back in it, we’re here and we are not going to give up.“
Telefónica could continue to make gains today if they are able to maintain their current average speed of 15.3 knots, while the leaders expected to average a around 12 knots.
PUMA and Groupama both took a dive inshore to avoid the centre of the high-pressure and are now about 60 nm off the coast of Argentina sailing upwind in a building north-easterly breeze. In a style much more akin to match racing than ocean racing, they are watching each other intently and with both crews closely checking the other’s bearings and sail configurations.
“It feels like a race,” said PUMA’s navigator Tom Addis. “It’s hard in these long legs to remind yourself it is still a race when you are in the middle of the ocean on your own. But when there’s another boat, it makes it much easier.”
Commenting on the strategy of the two leaders, Telefónica’s Andrew Cape said the close match race could play nicely into the hands of the Spanish team.
“It gives us an opportunity to sail differently. It’s certainly easier, the pressure is not there. It doesn’t matter if we lose 100 nm now, whereas if you lose that amount when you are in front it is really bad and very depressing,” Cape said.
According to PUMA’s Tom Addis, Telefónica have been ‘in phase’ with the high-pressure systems forming off the coast, while PUMA has not. Addis said although the leading duo were keeping a careful eye on Telefónica’s progress, he believed that it is one thing to catch boats, but another to pass them.
PUMA and Groupama are now 879nm to the Leg 5 finish with a predicted finish time in Itajaí of April 7.
April 4, 2012
GROUPAMA SUSPEND RACING WITH BROKEN MAST
Groupama sailing team suspended racing from the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race after the mast broke just above the first spreader.
The crew are all safe with the team 60 nautical miles south of Punta del Este.
"We just lost the rig now, all the crew is safe. We are working to stabilize the rig on the boat. Not easy," skipper Franck Cammas told Race HQ.
"We suspend the race now and have a look at what doing. We are 59 miles to Punta del Este."
Groupama 4 was holding a narrow lead over PUMA's Mar Mostro in the leg from Auckland to Itajaí in southern Brazil when the incident was reported to Race control around 1540 UTC.
Volvo Ocean Race will release more information as it becomes available.
April 5, 2012
NO PROTECTION FROM TELEFÓNICA’S ADVANCES
Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas/FRA), which dismasted on Wednesday afternoon, arrived in Punta del Este in Uruguay at 0355 UTC this morning. The team will construct a jury rig with the help of members of their shore crew and return to the race track to complete Leg 5 to Itajaí, Brazil. Of the two teams still racing, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (Ken Read/USA), the only team not to have suspended racing at some point on this testing leg from Auckland, are powerless to protect their leading position from the unstoppable Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP).
“There is no way to cover a boat that five days ago was 400 nm (nautical miles) behind and at a dock,” reported PUMA’s Media Crew Member Amory Ross.
Telefónica made a brief pit stop on April 1 at Caleta Martial, a cove on Herschel Island in Chile, to make temporary repairs before returning to the race track 17 hours later.
Conditions today are no less testing. Still close-hauled, PUMA and Telefónica have reported gusts of over 50 knots between 0530 and 0610 UTC. In the darkness, it was all hands on deck to drop all sails when Telefónica was hit by a massive squall, which could easily have compromised their position.
“It was pretty chaotic,” said Telefónica’s watch leader Neal McDonald. “We had to take all the sails down, it wasn’t sailable at that stage and we went into survival mode for a few minutes.”
Conditions have since eased, but the Spanish crew are cautious.
“It is very sedate now, it’s only 13 knots,” McDonald added. “We’ve gone to a J4 small headsail, just in case we get a bit more. We are going to sit on that for a while and just see what happens.”
In spite of the earlier drama, Telefónica still managed to take another four nm out of PUMA, who, at 1000 GMT, led by 53.14 nm.
While PUMA is keeping in close contact with the coast of Brazil, just 14 nm offshore, Telefónica, having halved their lateral separation, are 40 miles further east. With just 434 nm of runway left to the finish, it would be heart-breaking for the team to be forced into second place by the runaway Spanish, a position that would feel more akin to finishing last.
“Hopefully the front they’ve carried north since Cape Horn will reach us with enough time to hold on to the lead, but we just don’t know,” PUMA’s Ross added.
“They are untouchable and unreachable so far offshore. One routing model has us finishing within five minutes of each other.”
Conditions for the finish could certainly be light and fickle and even if Telefónica were to enter the final hours in first position, the race could still produce a nail-biting finish in PUMA’s favour.
“It’s all in the hands of the weather gods,” McDonald concluded.
The leader is expected to cross the finish in Itajaí at approximately 1600 UTC on Friday.
Last edited by mpowlison; 04-05-2012 at 03:56 PM.
VOLVO OCEAN RACE CEO EXPRESSES CONCERN AT BREAKAGES
Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad issued a statement on Wednesday expressing his concern at the continuing instances of boats suffering serious damage in the 2011-12 edition.
Frostad, who competed in the race four times himself, said it was not acceptable to have so many incidents of boats failing in a Volvo Ocean Race. Frostad said race organisers would continue to do everything possible to get the boats not currently sailing back in the race as soon as possible.
Text of statement, which was released after Groupama sailing team announced they had suffered a broken mast, leaving only two boats currently racing in Leg 5 from Auckland in New Zealand to Itajaí in Brazil:
"It's too early to conclude exactly why this has happened but we are obviously concerned about seeing so many incidents of damage to our boats both in this leg and in the race as a whole.
"It is not acceptable that in a race like this we have so many failures. It is not unusual for boats to suffer problems, and sailors and shore teams are used to having to deal with some issues with their boats, but this has been on a bigger scale than in the past.
"It's important that we don't leap to any conclusions about why these breakages have happened. Some of them are clearly not related. However, we will take the current issues into account as we make decisions on rules and technology we will be using in the future.
"We have already put in a lot of work, discussing with teams, designers and all other stakeholders about the boats and the rules we will use in the future, and we expect to be in a position to announce a decision on that before the end of the current race.
"For the time being, our focus continues to be on the safety of the sailors. We are doing everything we can to help Groupama, and the rest of the teams not currently sailing, get back in the race as soon as possible."