The Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 In-Port race in Miami will set the tone for the finale however, it would seem that the light airs expected on Saturday (1700 UTC) in Florida, may upset the forecasts. Indeed, with two days to go till the start of the transatlantic leg to Lisbon, there's some jostling in store between the top four teams. Franck Cammas and his men will be endeavouring to stay ahead of the Spanish leaders, whilst also trying to contain the New Zealanders and the Americans…
Volvo Ocean Race - Miami (USA), Practice Day for Groupama 4 skippered by Franck Cammas
On the eve of the In-Port race off Miami, the start of which will take place at 1700 UTC on Saturday, the overall standing testifies to the fact that there are four teams in the running for the final podium and any one of them could win this eleventh edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. Indeed there are seven races left to run: four In-Port races (which are each worth six points to the winner) and three offshore races (which are each worth 30 points to the victorious team).
That equates to a possible total of 114 points to be distributed to the winner of all the races, 95 points for the one who amasses a string of second places, and so on… However, right now, there are just 11 points between the Spanish leader and the French team in second place. Furthermore Groupama 4 is just four points ahead of the New Zealanders and six points ahead of the American team!
With two victories in a row during the last two offshore legs, Puma is really making its presence felt now and Ken Read's team is on an upward cycle on a race zone it's very familiar with. Meantime, the New Zealanders have regained their strength after observing that their boat has made good progress in terms of speed, as their second place in Miami, just 37 minutes shy of the Americans, bears witness.
For the Spanish, the course from Brazil-United States proved to be somewhat laborious and marks a dip in performance by the Iberians. As for the Emirati crew, it has given up any hope of a victory in the overall standing and now knows for sure that it doesn't have the potential to stand out other than in breezy, downwind conditions or in short formats where it is pretty incisive. Finally, the Chinese boat is returning to race mode in Miami, but its performances to date haven't enabled it to win a race, other than an In-Port race in light airs.
For Groupama 4, the sixth leg saw crew morale take a knock for nearly ten days but Franck Cammas and his men had what it took to overcome the difficulty and snatch back two places thanks to some aggressive strategic choices. The disappointment of this mixed result is compensated for by the certainty that Groupama 4 is one of the top boats in the fleet and that the most inexperienced crew on setting out from Alicante, is now operating at the same level as the Volvo Ocean Race specialists.
As such, the In-Port race in Miami will provide all the teams with an opportunity to size up the competition prior to what is a very important transatlantic race for the final standing.
However, the weather forecasts for Saturday suggest that the course off Miami will be complicated: a wind, which isn't likely to exceed ten knots, current, oppressive heat, considerable cloud cover, storms and tropical squalls… And for the start of the seventh leg, it's these same conditions, which will reign over Florida! As such it will be necessary to extract oneself rapidly from the coast in a weak to moderate easterly breeze, whilst taking into account the strong current from the Gulf Stream.
Indeed there is a vast transition zone offshore of South Carolina, which will need to be traversed before the fleet can latch onto the southerly breeze providing downwind conditions. And it will be necessary to climb a long way North to get around the Azores High, which is blocking the passage to Lisbon… In this way, there won't be any slack periods and the crews will need to be incisive from the get-go on Sunday evening (1700 UTC), because once again the wind will favour the frontrunners.
'For the Miami In-Port race on Saturday, things don't look easy, with a course which hasn't been generally agreed by the racers, but you need to satisfy the public and media. There are some points up for grabs and it's very important at this stage of the race, as the top four are really bunched together. Psychologically it's essential for team morale too, as a victory in a short format is a bonus: it gives everyone a boost, the sailors and the shore crew alike!
Following on from that on Sunday, the seventh leg between Miami and Lisbon is a fairly classic course for us: we're heading eastwards, from the Americas to the ‘old' Europe. As regards the sailing, it should be more interesting than the last leg with more game-playing, as there will be more changes in weather situation and probably more wind. There will be some downwind conditions, which are set to last, with some gybes to negotiate, which will be virtually a novelty on this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race! This leg will be nicer and more fun…' explained Jean-Luc Nélias in Miami prior to the Pro-Am race this Friday.
Overall standing after the sixth leg
1-Telefonica (Iker Martinez) : 1+30+6+29+2+27+6+20+1+25+2+15 = 164 points
2-Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas) : 2+20+2+18+5+24+2+30+4+20+6+20 = 153 points
3-Camper (Chris Nicholson) : 4+25+5+24+4+18+3+15+6+15+5+25 = 149 points
4-Puma (Ken Read) : 5+0+4+19+3+17+5+25+5+30+4+30 = 147 points
5-Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker) : 6+0+3+10+6+14+4+10+2+0+3+10 = 68 points
6-Sanya (Mike Sanderson) : 3+0+1+5+2+5+1+5+3+0+0+0 = 25 points
Volvo Ocean Race website