The 11th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race was tipped to be the closest ever, and it did not disappoint. To coincide with the Leg 9 documentary, we take a look back at all the action.
For the first time in the race’s 39-year-history four boats were still in with a realistic chance of winning with a matter of days remaining. The high-tech third generation Volvo Open 70s made offshore racing appear like match racing and time and again thousands of miles of ocean racing came down to minutes and seconds at the finish line.
The sailors pushed themselves and their yachts to the absolute brink, breaking bones, boats and records, while taking on hurricane force winds, mountainous seas and extreme temperatures.
Groupama sailing team claimed an overall victory in their maiden appearance in the world’s longest and toughest sporting event. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand fought back to finish second and Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg rounded out the podium in third.
Team Telefónica enjoyed months at the head of the leaderboard thanks to victories in the opening three legs only for the crack of a second rudder breaking to sound the end of their chances on Leg 8 from Lisbon, Portugal to Lorient, France.
On the Leg 9 race to the finish at Galway, the podium places remained up for grabs, with Puma, Camper and Telefónica all in with a shot.
Tensions mounted to fever pitch as the compressed fleet rounded Fastnet Rock with barely a moment to take in the iconic sailing landmark, but soon the finish order became clear.
'It's a very happy moment for us and for all the team,' 39-year-old skipper Franck Cammas said to the roars of tens of thousands of fans who came out to welcome Groupama in Galway. 'I didn't think we could win. This is my dream.'
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing placed fifth overall after winning three in-port races and one offshore leg and Team Sanya, the only second generation Volvo Open 70, rounded out the fleet in sixth place.
Puma skipper Ken Read reflected on the accomplishment of finishing the Volvo Ocean Race.
'As athletes in a high-profile sport like this we cherish the opportunity to race against the best and that's what we've all done here for nine months,’’ he said. 'There's always a winner, there's always a loser, but at the same time there's the accomplishment of actually finishing this race.'
Here's how it all panned out:
Leg 1 – 6,500 nautical miles from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa
The opening leg of the epic ocean marathon was a test of resolve on
water and a logistical nightmare on shore. In the first 24 hours Sanya
and Abu Dhabi were forced out with hull damage and a broken mast
respectively. PUMA had to retire later as well, having broken their mast
and being forced to take refuge on the world’s smallest inhabited
island group at Tristan da Cunha. Telefónica surged to victory, followed
by CAMPER and Groupama sailing team.
For a full Leg 1 review, click HERE
Leg 2 – 5,430 nautical miles from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi
Expect the unexpected was the catch phrase of the second leg, which
was split into two by race management to counter the threat of piracy in
the Indian Ocean. Telefónica won the first stage by just 57 seconds
over CAMPER. In a devastating blow, Sanya were again forced to retire
this time taking haven at Madagascar with rigging damage. The yachts
were loaded onto a ship and transported from a secret location to the
second start at Sharjah. Despite the scare of discovering a gash in
their hull, Groupama raced through to victory in Stage 2, overhauling
Telefónica with 10 miles to go.
Leg 2 review HERE
Leg 3 – 4,600 nautical miles from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China
Telefónica again claimed victory, but nothing else about Leg 3 was run
of the mill. Again the leg was split in two and the boats loaded onto a
container ship. Abu Dhabi snatched an unexpected victory within hundreds
of metres of the first stage finish; despite Telefónica leading from
the get go. Stage 2 saw the lead change several times as the fleet raced
in the treacherous South China Sea. Telefónica busted their vital code
zero sail, PUMA damaged their daggerboard after a collision with a tree
trunk and CAMPER’s Aussie skipper Chris Nicholson marked Australia Day
by claiming the lead. But, Telefónica surged back to win, followed by
Groupama, CAMPER, PUMA, Abu Dhabi and Team Sanya.
Leg 3 review HERE
Leg 4 – 5,220 nautical miles from Sanya to Auckland, New Zealand
After race management delayed the start because of a threatening storm,
the fleet got underway in a bruising race that saw Groupama claim their
first leg win. The fleet took a dramatic split with Telefónica, CAMPER
and Sanya choosing to go west through the Solomon Islands, but it wasn’t
enough. Despite damaging their bow and taking on hundreds of litres of
seawater, which prompted the famous quote from Media Crew Member Yann
Riou, “If we don’t sink, we win”, the French team cruised to victory. It
was a dream finish into Auckland for the team’s Kiwi bowman Brad Marsh.
PUMA finished second, followed by Telefónica, CAMPER, Abu Dhabi and
Leg 4 review HERE
Leg 5 – 6,705 nautical miles from Auckland to Itajaí, South America
The Southern Ocean leg lived up to expectations, forcing all except one
of the six boats to stop for repairs – or worse – in the race for
survival. Team Sanya were forced to retire with rudder damage in the
opening 24 hours, having to ship their yacht to Savannah for repairs
before rejoining the fleet in Miami. Abu Dhabi were also forced to
return to port with a damaged hull, but returned to racing. Meanwhile
the fleet endured well in excess of 60-knot winds, but worse still was
the sea state, which resulted in one of the greatest attrition rates in
the history of the race. Teams were forced to throttle back as the
reality of the situation set in. Abu Dhabi and CAMPER were both forced
to Puerto Montt in Chile to rendezvous with shore crew for repairs, and
Telefónica stopped at Cabo de Hornos National Park to repair their
damage and unload injured bowman Antonio Cuervas-Mons. PUMA and Groupama
continued unscathed, until Groupama devastatingly broke their mast and
were forced to stop at Punta del Este to set up a jury rig. Meanwhile,
in in what threatened to be one of the greatest ever comebacks,
Telefónica surged back to contention, but it wasn’t enough to topple
PUMA who claimed their first leg win. Telefónica were second, followed
by Groupama and CAMPER. Abu Dhabi shipped to Itajaí.
Leg 5 review HERE
Leg 6 – 4,800 nautical miles from Itajaí to Miami, USA
PUMA claimed back-to-back leg wins, racing to a dream hometown victory
in Miami. From fast reaching, to frustrating lulls, the climb up the
coast of South America packed it all. CAMPER finished second, Groupama
third and Telefónica fourth, creating a “mirror-image” on water of the
overall leaderboard that resulted in just 17 points separating the top
four teams overall. Abu Dhabi finished fifth, while Sanya continued en
route via ship to Savannah for repairs.
Leg 6 review HERE
Leg 7 - 3,590 nautical miles from Miami to Lisbon, Portugal
Alberto, the first tropical storm of the 2012 hurricane season, had
everyone talking. The opening night was brutal, but the fleet survived
to punch into the North Atlantic sleigh ride in an easterly moving
depression. But it was Abu Dhabi who played the mix-and-match weather
best to race to their first leg victory, although Groupama threatened to
upset them at the end, closing to within one mile in the Tagus River.
Groupama finished second and jumped into the overall lead. PUMA took
third, Telefónica fourth, CAMPER fifth and Sanya sixth. With the top
four teams split by just 21 points, the stage was set for the closest
Volvo Ocean Race finish in its 39-year history.
Leg 7 review HERE
Leg 8 - 1,940 nautical miles from Lisbon to Lorient, France
It was short, but far from sweet. From drifting in the Azores to racing
into the eye of a storm, where record-breaking speeds and heartbreaking
boat damage resulted, the shortest leg of the race yet didn’t fall
short of drama. The peak of the action came when the teams reached top
speeds in the North Atlantic, where CAMPER notched 565.84 nautical miles
to set the race record 24-hour distance. As the fleet balanced risk
versus reward in a massive storm, Telefónica suffered a heartbreaking
fate, breaking both their rudders and limping to the finish knowing full
well their chance of an overall race victory were shattered. Meanwhile,
Groupama raced to a dream home victory, followed by CAMPER, PUMA, Abu
Dhabi, Telefónica and Sanya.
Leg 8 review HERE
Leg 9 – 550 nautical miles from Lorient to Galway, Ireland
The final leg was more a long in-port sprint than a short offshore
race. Sleep was unthinkable as everything was left to play for. CAMPER
were penalised early for an incident on the start line, but fought back
with just six minutes separating PUMA, Telefónica, Groupama and CAMPER
around Fastnet Rock. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi suffered keel problems that
slowed the black boat to about 90 per cent and Sanya struggled to keep
up in their second hand boat. As the breeze off the Irish coast eased,
tensions mounted, and CAMPER edged into the lead with 10 miles remaining
to claim their first offshore win. Groupama finished second, securing
overall victory, PUMA finished third, Telefónica fourth, Sanya fifth and
Abu Dhabi sixth. With just the Discover Ireland In-Port Race left to
sail Groupama were confirmed as overall race winners, with CAMPER
needing only to finish the in-port to secure second place, ahead of
third placed PUMA.