Volvo Ocean Race second In-Port Race was held today, Saturday 10th December, from Cape Town's V and A waterfront. There was fifteen to twenty knots of breeze.
From the start the Spanish were in the driving seat, tailed by the Americans and the New Zealanders. Franck Cammas and his men came fifth, with the satisfaction that they're making progress in this specific format of very short, intense racing.
'It's all in the start... The race was very close, but obviously we're not happy with our fifth place. We performed some fine manoeuvres and took a few tactical options. However, the standing is a reflection of our start. We opted to remain downwind of the fleet and that wasn't a good option!' indicated Franck Cammas at the end of this second coastal race off the South African port.
Basically, the Spanish on Telefonica had perfect timing and managed to hoist their spinnaker on the start line to leeward of the fleet, followed by the Americans on Puma and the New Zealanders on Camper. Franck Cammas and his crew positioned themselves in the middle of the line and struggled to hoist their big downwind sail: the outcome of the match was virtually decided at that point as the course, which comprised seven marks, favoured tacks with eased sheets, which is a point of sail where it is nigh on impossible to overtake a rival and hence always favoured the leaders...
The only two upsets of this hour-long race related to the top three spots as the chasing trio didn't really have a lot of opportunities for tactical initiatives given the short tacks between the marks. Puma managed to lead round the first mark thanks to a good gybe, tailed by the Spanish and the New Zealanders: the three leaders were able to choose the right side of the race zone offshore until they reached the layline, which is the edge of the playing field when you're putting in a tack. The hierarchy remained the same until the crews were able to hoist their downwind sail and the American Ken Read made a bad call to remain on the right-hand side of the race zone under gennaker... while Telefonica and Camper gybed immediately at the mark to hoist their spinnaker: the punishment was irrevocable since the Spanish snatched back control and held onto it all the way to the finish.
With the hierarchy established, each crew sought above all to protect their position by controlling their direct pursuer. As such, on the beats, Abu Dhabi systematically tacked on top of Groupama 4, Camper on top of Puma, Telefonica on top of Camper... With the wind being relatively stable in terms of direction, there weren't any tacks which were more favourable than the others and with half of the course run with eased sheets or wind on the beam, the separation remained virtually the same from the first mark to the finish.
The assessment for Franck Cammas and his men therefore is essentially the result of the initial start phase, as Groupama 4's crew performed well on the manoeuvres and was efficient in the sail choices. And even though the mixed results have caused the French boat to lose a few points, she has retained a good lead over her three pursuers, without letting the two leaders steal a march. It's during the second leg between Cape Town and Abu Dhabi, whose start will be given tomorrow, Sunday, at 1300 hours UTC, that a true assessment will be able to be drawn as regards the reliability of the boats, the accuracy of the navigators and the performance of the crews. Standing in the 'In-Port' race in Cape Town:
1-Telefonica (Iker Martinez) 6 points
2-Camper (Chris Nicholson) 5 points
3-Puma (Ken Read) 4 points
4-Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker) 3 points
5-Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas) 2 points
6-Sanya (Mike Sanderson) 1 point Overall standing after three races (Alicante + Alicante-Cape Town + Cape Town):
1-Telefonica (Iker Martinez) 1+30+6 = 37 points
2-Camper (Chris Nicholson) 4+25+5 = 34 points
3-Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas) 2+20+2 = 24 points
4-Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker) 6+0+3 = 9 points
5-Puma (Ken Read) 5+0+4 = 9 points
6-Sanya (Mike Sanderson) 3+0+1 = 4 points Groupama Sailing Team website