1131hrs UTC: France's Groupama completed a heroic comeback victory on Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Friday, strengthening their grip on the overall standings and realising a dream homecoming to the port of Lorient.
Franck Cammas and his crew were cheered by thousands of fans on the Brittany coast after crossing the Leg 8 finish line at their home port at 13:31:04 local, 11:31:04 UTC, with an elapsed time of four days, 23 hours, 31 minutes and four seconds.
Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand finished second at 14:30:09 local, 12:30:09 UTC, earning 25 points. Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg finished at 12:43:04 UTC, scoring 20 points and moving into second place overall.
Groupama earn 30 points, extending their advantage over Telefónica, whose own victory hopes were dashed when they broke a second rudder while leading overnight.
'It was a short leg, but it was a hard leg,' skipper Franck Cammas said while surrounded by thousands of fans on the docks at Lorient. 'It is a very good feeling for sure, it is a dream we had 10 months ago and we arrive with a win now.'
It is an impressive comeback for Groupama who dropped to fourth place just two days ago when their mainsail jammed and the team spent a costly two hours with bowman Brad Marsh at the top of the 31-metre mast effecting repairs in storm conditions.
But the never-say-die crew fought back to reclaim the lead less than 12-hours before the finish with blistering pace in the North Atlantic low pressure system that packed 45 knots winds and four metre waves.
The French team’s victory hopes were bolstered by the misfortune of their arch-rivals Telefónica as the Spanish team were forced to slow to survival speeds after breaking both their rudders on the furious run to the finish.
Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez said the damage had effectively ended their chances of overall victory, with Groupama now enjoying a significant lead with just one leg and two in-port races remaining.
As the crew of the top three teams celebrate with the French fans, the remaining three continue to race, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing currently in fourth place, while Team Telefónica are fifth and Team Sanya sixth.
1000hrs: To see the finish of Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race click here live video available on a variable basis, graphics for the remainder of the time.
Projected finish times are Groupama 1135hrs GMT, Camper 1225hrs GMT and Puma 1239hrs GMT
Telefonica skipper Iker Martinez: ’’We just lost our chance of winning all the race all around the world (overall race title). More than two years of work have gone in minutes.' - Richard Gladwell
0800hrs: Telefónica's Leg 8 victory hopes were wrecked in the early hours of Friday morning, as a second broken rudder forced them to slow the boat drastically, leaving Groupama on course for a triumphant homecoming to Lorient.
The team skippered by Olympic gold medallist Iker Martínez had to perform heroics to fit a replacement for their broken starboard rudder on Thursday afternoon, losing 11 nautical miles in the process but then surging back to reclaim the lead.
The leg was always destined to be decided by the high-risk gybe all the teams were preparing to make, however, and just after Telefónica became the first team to turn disaster struck, with a crash gybe breaking the replacement starboard rudder and damaging the one on port.
It was a heartbreaking moment for Martínez, whose team quickly ceded the lead to Groupama and by 0800 UTC were in fifth place, 100 nm off the pace and thinking only of getting home safely.
'The situation on board is normal but we have to be very careful as we only have one rudder and it's damaged,' said Martínez.
Groupama, eight points ahead in the overall standings going into the leg, now have the chance to build a significantly bigger advantage with two in-port races and just one final offshore leg to Galway.
At 0800, Groupama were 73.4 nm from the finish, with a lead of 23.1 nm over closest challengers Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg, who are third in the overall standings. Camper, fourth overall, were in third place on the leg 1.1 nm behind Puma, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing another 5.5 nm back.
On a predicted time to finish, Groupama will win, with Camper second, 15 minutes ahead of Puma, with Abu Dhabi fourth and Sanya fifth. Groupama is expected to finish at 1135hrs on the June 15, 2012.
'We're all fine,' assured Martínez, whose team won the first three offshore legs in the race but now could find themselves 28 points behind with three points-scoring opportunities to go.
'The mood on board is as good as it can be in circumstances like these, as we have just seen any chance of us winning this round the world regatta slip away. It's like two years' work just disappearing into thin air in a matter of minutes. What a mess! Now I'll be happy if we all get to shore without any further problems.'
Martínez added: 'I would like to say sorry from the bottom of my heart to our sponsors and more specifically to (team CEO) Pedro Campos who has risked so much to provide us with the necessary resources and time to be able to race in this regatta. I think that the only thing right now that that makes me feel any better is knowing that I've given one hundred per cent to this for the past two years.'
0240UTC: Reports on Team Telefonica's Spanish website say that the former Volvo Ocean Race overall leader has broken both rudders and their skipper has conceded that they now have no chance of winning the race overall.
The message translated from Spanish by Google and converted to English essentially says:
The 'Phone' (Telefonica) was the first boat to jibe followed by 'Groupama'. They both led the fleet and were within 300 miles of Lorient. An hour later the Spanish entry suffered damage to the port rudder and then the starboard rudder , so it has been forced to proceed to the French city at reduced speed.
'We sailed smoothly towards Lorient, about 12 knots. The situation on board is normal, but we must be very careful as we only have a rudder and damaged. Fortunately the rudder we can use is the port one, which we need to navigate to Lorient on starboard', were the first words of Iker Martinez after the incident.
Damage to the rudder to port and starboard rupture has occurred falling off a wave.
'The strangest thing is that at the time we sailed with a very safe rig', says Martinez. (A reference to the boat sailing safely under reduced sail, and not being pushed.)
'There were 30 to 40 knots of wind and we decided to spend the night with a full main and small jib on the bow. A configuration which was not particularly fast, but very safe with tough conditions .'
Now at one o'clock in the morning, the Spanish crew can control the situation. All on board are in good physical condition acknowledging that 'the mood is as good as it might be in these circumstances.
'We just lost our chance of winning all the race all around the world (overall race title). More than two years of work have gone in minutes. I'll settle for getting home safely without further complications . '
The Basque skipper then had some words to the Director of Telefónica Team and their sponsors: ' I apologize from the heart to our sponsors and, more specifically, Pedro Campos, who has been able to risk a lot to give us the resources and time needed to run this race. I think he just calms me down a bit to know that I gave my hundred percent during these two years . '
Iker Martinez is also noted that 'this is the first time something happens to me and I think it will be hard to swallow, but I'll have to worry that once we have all come back down to Earth and we are without any risk.
'Little more I can say for now. A sad day today for the 'Phone', and tomorrow, my birthday. How convenient, I ask that we get ashore all right . '
The positions as of 0300hrs, 'Telefónica' is in fifth place sailing at a speed of 11.3 knots and 257 miles from Lorient.
Virtual Eye shows the track and reduced speed for Telefonica. The gybe at 2200hrs UTC can be seen at the top of the image. Then her track alters as she heads NE before swinging down onto the same course as the others in the fleet. Sanya is well to the left of the shot. Groupama’s readouts are also shown (boatspeed at the top, windspeed at the bottom). Expand image to see detail clearly. - Virtual Eye-Volvo Ocean Race Click Here to view large photo
0130UTC: Based on the latest information form the Volvo Ocean Race trackers, Telefonica skippered my double Olympic medalist Iker Martinez, has had further issues and is limping towards the finish in Lorient.
Earlier on Day 4, Telefonica reported they had broken a rudder and managed to replace it at sea, in winds of 25kts.
The switch took an hour in an incredible act of seamanship, and then the former overall Race leader was able to catch up and lead the fleet again.
After the fleet gybed for the finish in Lorient around 2200hrs UTC, Telefonica was still contesting the lead with Groupama, but then started dropping back on the real time tracker - showing a speed of only 11kts and a course that was 50degrees different from the rest of the fleet. Later reports had her speed up to 15kts, but still 8-10kts slower than the front runners, and she has already dropped 40nm on the race leader.
The body of the fleet are sailing at speeds of 23-25kts and are expected to finish in Lorient at 1130hrs UTC today.
Telefonica has since returned to the same course as the rest of the fleet, but is still sailing at half the speed.
No information has been posted on the Volvo Ocean Race website as to the reason for the course deviation and speed reduction, however the most likely cause is further rudder issues, which appear to have been resolved.
Winds in the race are are now being reported in the 45-49kt range, and all boats seem to have throttled back, a little..
Telefonica has slipped back to fifth overall on the Volvo Ocean Race calculation system (distance rather than time to finish), and it would seem that she will now finish last on this Leg, unless she can repeat her earlier recovery, once again.
The action can be followed by using the Virtual Eye 3D tracker click here and the Volvo Ocean Race Dashboard
by Richard Gladwell
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11:41 AM Fri 15 Jun 2012GMT
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