Groupama sailing team claimed their first inshore victory on Saturday to close to within striking distance of overall race leaders Team Telefónica, who sailed the wrong course while leading the DHL Itajaí In-Port Race.
Franck Cammas and his men scored six points for their maiden in-port win, taking them to 133 points and within 16 points of Telefónica on the overall leaderboard.
Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand claimed second place and five points, finishing just 17 seconds ahead of Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg, who clawed their way back after being forced to make a penalty turn at the start of the race.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing finished fourth, scoring three points, while Telefónica were unable to recover from their mid-race error and finished last, claiming just two points. Team Sanya did not start and will rejoin the race in Miami.
'I'm very happy because we saw a big improvement in this kind of inshore race from where we were at in Alicante,' said Groupama skipper Franck Cammas. 'We've shown we can win. It's always the boat who makes the fewest mistakes who wins.'
After a 10-minute postponement, storm clouds off the coast of Itajaí unleashed rain and an unsteady southerly breeze that finally enabled the downwind start that was marred with two protests against PUMA within seconds.
While Groupama sailing team and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were occupied with forcing PUMA to do a penalty, a 360 turn, it was Camper who took the lead.
But it was Team Telefónica who held first place at the top mark, having avoided all of the drama by racing a clear course from the pin end of the line.
The overall race leaders were followed by Camper, who trailed by less than a second, then Groupama, Abu Dhabi and Puma in last place but by no means written off, just 28 seconds behind the leaders.
Telefónica led at the second mark, but the remainder of the fleet reshuffled, with Groupama manoeuvring into second place, followed by Camper in third, and Puma jumped into fourth ahead of Abu Dhabi.
After a short two-sail reach to the third mark Telefónica made a terrible mistake that cost them the lead at the fourth buoy, rounding the wrong mark, giving Groupama control.
While Telefónica scrambled to return to the correct route, race officials shortened the course at the fifth mark rounding, to the advantage of Cammas’ men.
'I am very disappointed because this is the first time in my whole life that this has happened,' said Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez. 'I am so sorry for the shore crew who worked like crazy guys to give us some time for training. Then, to get a result like this is not good.'
PUMA skipper Ken Read said the closeness of the race came as no surprise but as ever had been a tough work out for the professional crews.
'I don't think anyone expected anything less,' he said. 'They are a bunch of evenly matched boats, very well sailed and very professionally run. It's good for the race, good for the fans.
'It may not be so good for our ulcers but that's why we're here -- to go out there and compete and that's what we're doing.'
Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said his team's second place had come after 'a good solid performance' from this crew who he described as being 'on fire in the manoeuvres'.
'I would have really liked another lap,' Nicholson said with a smile. 'Our guys were working so well I fancied us for the win with another time round.'
Fourth placed Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker said he was pleased to have been even able to compete after only completing repairs from the previous leg the night before, but confessed to frustration at not getting a better result.
'It's a victory for us even getting there today and any boat we beat was a bonus,' he said. 'But I'm a bit disappointed because we made a good start and gave Puma a penalty. Then we got a bit stuck in the middle.'
'Now we will redouble our efforts and get back to where we were, a strong inshore team.'
The teams and shore crews are now turning their sights on the final preparations for Sunday’s 4,800 nm Leg 6 race to Miami, USA, which gets underway at 1400 local, 1700 UTC.
DHL In-Port Race Itajaí results:
1st - Groupama Sailing Team 6 points – 46min 27 sec 2nd - Camper with Emirates Team NZ 5 points - + 0.48 sec 3rd - Puma Ocean Racing by Berg 4 points - +1.05 4th - Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 3 points - + 1.33 5th - Team Telefónica 2 points - + 5.40 DNC* Team Sanya 0 points
Overall Race Leaderboard:
1st Team Telefónica – 149 pts 2nd Groupama Sailing Team – 133 pts - 3rd Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand - 124 pts 4th Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg – 117 pts 5th Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing - 58 pts 6th Team Sanya - 25 pts
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