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Volvo Ocean Race- Puma takes up the running as race lead see-saws

by Sail-World and Volvo Ocean Race on 25 Apr 2012
Ken Read relaxes on the bow in light conditions, onboard Puma Ocean Racing during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA. Amory Ross/Puma Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race© http://www.puma.com/sailing

US flagged, Puma Ocean Racing have taken the lead from Camper, who had survived the heart stopping 'bang' and explosion of a tack line to hold the lead, before losing it to Ken Read’s crew.

Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg climbed to second place at 0100 UTC, clocking up more miles in the past 24 hours than anyone else in the fleet, some 265 nautical miles to Camper’s 247, before finally breaking into the lead by 1.3 nm at 0700 UTC, according to the snap-shot system used by Volvo Ocean Race.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were in third place, trailing by 8.2 nm, Team Telefónica gained in fourth, trailing by 24 nm and Groupama sailing team were 38.4 nm in the wake of the fleet in fifth place.

Using the routing feature of www.predictwind.com!Predictwind.com the fleet is still very closely grouped as they head towards the eastern corner of South America. Using one set of wind data, Puma is expected to be a couple of hours ahead of Camper as they turn the corner and head for the Leg 6 finish in Miami. Out to sea Telefonica is lying second on one analysis and third on the other. However the margins are only an hour with more than three days left to sail before reaching the corner at Touros, Brazil.

Pulling Camper back to the other boats, is that fact that the weather routing shows some light wind areas coming up in the next few hours for the Emirates Team NZ crewed yacht. Winds ahead of Camper are predicted to drop to 5.8kts before picking up to 10kts again around 0100 on 26 April UTC/GMT. This patch of light airs sailing has been factored into the lead prediction. The boats further south are expected to sail in more consistent breezes. But the lateral separation which was a feature of the opening two days, looks set to reduce as the southerly boats, Groupama, Telefonica and Puma sail a more direct course as the head for the corner

Puma Media Crew Member Amory Ross said the team were revelling in their fast track middle lane, with Mar Mostro clocking up 'easy miles' in the flat seas.

'Life on deck is quiet, calm, and dry, and you begin to see the potential in these boats when they’re hitting their stride,’’ he said. 'A puff hits and instead of heeling over, they accelerate rapidly; 16, 17, 18, 19 knots…it doesn’t take much to make the numbers climb.

'It feels like we’ve only had a handful of these days over the length of this race, but the reward is always worth the wait.'

As his team spearheaded the race to reach the trade winds first, Ross said they were feeling quite content with their chosen route.

'Our middle-of-the-road position seems to have worked alright, too,’’ he said. 'We haven’t fallen into the inshore duo of Camper and Abu Dhabi who are sailing in stronger winds, and we haven’t lost much to Groupama and Telefónica, further offshore in less current.

'We’re still more or less in between the two packs and closing quickly on the ridge we need to pass to reach the trade winds.'

Meanwhile, on board Camper, residential Media Crew Member Hamish Hooper is keeping an eye on Abu Dhabi and a look out for Puma on the horizon. Hooper said keeping watch was the first action of his day, and an enjoyable one at that.

But monitoring the split fleet was a nervous activity, too, Hooper said: 'A split will no doubt over the next few days reveal winners and losers of the first stage of this leg.'

Worst still, was the agonising sound of something breaking, which the team endured overnight, Hooper said.

'With an almighty bang we broke a tack line when doing a sail change,’’ he said. 'It was the kind of explosive bang that booms from somewhere on the boat, everything goes silent for one long second until it’s figured out what’s broken, if everyone is OK and what the next move is.

'Amazingly just as soon as the tack line broke the guys had the fractional zero sail plugged back in and we were back on course only losing a couple of minutes in the process.'

Skipper Chris Nicholson said the team were fortunate that no one was injured and the break only cost a minute or two.

'We were doing an inline peel and we 90 per cent of the way through it, there was a big bang and it’s bad because when sails fly out with ropes attached to them people can get hurt, luckily everyone was OK and time wise it probably cost us a minute or two so we are very fortunate,' he said.

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