At 17:44 GMT (19:44 local time) Sunday, PUMA, skippered by America’s Ken Read, a first-time skipper in this event, crossed the finish line today in Cape Town to take second place in leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race, after 22 days, five hours, 44 minutes and 50 seconds (22:05:44:50).
PUMA’s three-point score for the in-port race in Alicante, plus the three points she notched up by rounding Fernando de Noronha in third place, added to the seven points she bagged for second place in this leg, secures second place overall for this team, but only by one point. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA) leads with 14 points.
On stepping ashore, to a riotous welcome from a huge Cape Town crowd, Ken Read said:
'Seeing where we’ve come from - there was no such thing as PUMA Ocean Racing a year ago, second place is great. I am very proud of our sailors, our team as a whole, from the boat builders to the office staff. '
Navigator Andrew Cape/AUS added, 'It was a great race, with a great team. We are still learning, and for us this first leg was a learning experience. We had a good leg but Ericsson was lucky to ride that front all the way here. They made it look easy. It was tight out there, but that is what racing is about. No boats were mega fast or slow, it was a great race. '
A consistent performance by Ken Read and his crew has seen PUMA very rarely out of the top three on a tough leg, which had all ranges of conditions. Not having had the opportunity to two-boat tune with other Volvo 70s prior to the start of the race, Read quickly attached PUMA to Ericsson 4 and, he says, benefitted hugely by racing, often in sight of, Ericsson 4.
'We like our boat, that hasn’t changed,' he said in the last hours of the leg. 'We got faster thanks to a lot of sailing near other boats. We know there are teams better-polished out there and we need to get better to beat them, but we understand what it will take to win this race,' he added.
As early as day three, as the fleet cleared Gibraltar and sailed out into the Atlantic, PUMA was surrounded by other boats and by day five, 15 October, PUMA and Ericsson 4 spent a sleepless night trying to shake each other off. 'Honestly, I though the racing would be close, but this is ridiculous,' said Read that day.
PUMA made a break from the rest of the fleet on day six, and gybed onto a westerly course shaking off Ericsson, but only briefly. Ericsson 3 (Anders Lewander/SWE) filled Ericsson 4’s place and the two-boat tuning continued as PUMA entered the oily stillness of the Doldrums.
At the scoring gate of Fernando de Noronha, day 13, PUMA rounded in third place and the top four boats were shoehorned together, their points on the leader board showing equal six. It was a nail-biting time for PUMA and the rest of the fleet as they prepared for the westerly gales forecast on day 17. Adding to the pressure was the closeness of their rival Ericsson 4 who was within four miles of the black cat. The gap closed to 100 metres on day 18, 28 October, as the tension grew.
Ericsson broke loose on day 19 and PUMA had to settle for second place, briefly playing her Stealth card on day 21 as she secretly gybed north in search of more wind. 'We have an Ericsson 4 to kill and a fleet to keep away,' wrote French watch captain Sidney Gavignet midway through the cat’s StealthPlay. But although the crew pushed as hard as they dared, Ericsson 4 was long gone.
'Congratulations to Ericsson 4. They are the proof that ‘pushing hard’ now has an entirely new meaning,' Ken Read wrote today as he drove PUMA towards the finish in Cape Town.
The next boat expected to finish will be Ericsson 3 (Anders Lewander/SWE), at approximately 05:00 GMT tomorrow morning. Volvo Ocean Race - Leg One Finish Positions (Provisional)
1. Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) FINISHED
2. PUMA USA (Ken Read/USA) FINISHED Overall Leaderboard (Provisional)
1. Ericsson 4: 14 points
2. PUMA 13: points