In the Volvo Ocean Race, a hard night is in store for the six-boat fleet as they now battle light headwinds surrounding the Azores island of São Miguel, which they must round before pointing their bows towards France. At 1900 GMT, Groupama (Franck Cammas/FRA)were just 0.1 nautical miles (nm) ahead, having maintained their tenuous lead over hard-pushing Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP), while Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg, 2.9 nm behind, complete the leading trio of sisterships. No one is giving an inch in what is turning into a battle of epic proportions.
Groupama Sailing Team
'So far the three of us have been glued to each other for the entire race. It’s no wonder that three nearly identical boats are on top of each other,' said Puma skipper Ken Read, while keeping an eye on the boats behind.
The leaders should be free of the high pressure on Wednesday morning, but tonight the wind had eased considerably and speeds had dropped accordingly. Groupama was the northernmost boat in the fleet, making 9.4 knots, with Telefónica on her starboard hip and Puma just shy of two miles to leeward. The southerly group of Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS), who have overtaken Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR), and Sanya (Mike Sanderson/NZL) are just as closely bunched and just 12.9 separate Groupama in first place from Sanya in sixth position, with 1232 nm to go to the leg finish in Lorient.
Read believes the leg will be won or lost on the other side of the island, where the fleet will meet an aggressive depression.
'It’s a question of who can deal with the big breeze best and who can avoid breaking in the meantime,' he said. Puma’s Mar Mostro has performed well on windy downwind stretches and Read suggests he would not bet against his team pulling off another leg win to make a hat trick of first places. However, he also said, 'I’m not sure I’d lay every dollar down for us either at the moment. There’s a bunch of good boats out there and it’s hard to pick them on any given day'.
Volvo Ocean Race website