In the Volvo Ocean Race, it’s all gone a little bit quiet out on the Atlantic race track for the fleet after tropical storm Alberto swept across all but leg leader Franck Cammas/FRA and Groupama yesterday. The six-boat fleet has had a more satisfactory day today, clicking off miles downwind towards the Lisbon finish at speeds of around 19 knots.
However, a patch of lighter airs is slowing the fleet, allowing the pack to close on Groupama, as they chase an easterly moving low-pressure system. At 1900 GMT tonight, Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg had gained four miles and closed to within 8.10 nm of the leader, with Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) in third, just a fraction of a mile behind Puma, having made a gain of 10 nm in the past three hours.
In contrast to yesterday’s storm, today has been pleasant downwind sailing as the remnants of the storm moved away to the north and the fleet extended to the east. As the wind eased, so did conditions onboard. Hatches that had been tightly closed were thrown open to air out the boats and the crews have been able to rest and eat, and mentally prepare for the next hurdle. However, the calm after the storm is temporary. Ahead, the low will provide exhilarating sailing once more, provided the fleet can reach it in time to reap the benefits.
'We are quietly slipping along,' reported Groupama skipper Franck Cammas. 'However, the weather is very complicated up ahead. It is hard to know which option we’re going to take as there are a lot of pitfalls in front,' he said, fully aware that the chasing pack will catch Groupama tonight.
'We are fortunate that everyone is following the same course at the moment,' Cammas added. The Frenchman is preparing to use the full range of sails onboard Groupama on this Atlantic leg to Lisbon, Portugal, which could even throw in some upwind sailing mid-Atlantic.
The fleet has a lateral separation of approximately 38 nm as the drag race towards the front continues. Telefónica have taken the high road north and are to windward of the fleet, while Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand are to leeward in the south.
Franck Cammas has positioned Groupama just under two miles to windward of Camper, but 23.8 nm ahead, but tonight will be an anxious time as the fleet continues to make better speed than Groupama, which at 15.4 knots was over a knot slower than Camper and four knots slower than the hard-pushing crew on board Telefónica.