In the Volvo Ocean Race, after knocking Telefónica off the top spot at the end of Leg 7, Franck Cammas’ men dealt another blow to their rivals with a stellar performance on the waters of Lisbon’s River Tagus to take their points tally to 189.
Groupama - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg moved clear at the top of the in-port series rankings as they scored with a tactical gamble to grab second place and earn five points, while Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand could also take heart as they took the third podium place. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were fourth, followed by Sanya.
Telefónica were yet again left licking their wounds after a penalty turn for a start-line rule infringement on Puma relegated them to the back of the pack.
Their fate was sealed when their masthead halyard broke, unexpectedly dumping their spinnaker into the water. Sanya intentionally dumped theirs overboard after their halyard failed to unlock from the mast.
With two legs and two in-port races left to sail, the overall picture remains close. Groupama lead by eight points from Telefónica, followed by Puma 13 points off the pace and Camper within 23 of the top.
With 30 points for victory in each of the remaining offshore legs there is still everything to play for within that leading quartet, though Telefónica's watch leader Neal McDonald accepted Groupama have put themselves in a strong position.
'It's not making it any easier,' McDonald said. 'Groupama did a fantastic job today and extended their lead. Now it's two places offshore instead of one. They are getting themselves into a comfortable position.'
As the gun fired at 1300 local time (1200 UTC) Groupama enjoyed the best start, avoiding getting tangled up with their rivals to rocket down towards the first mark in 10-15-knot south-westerly winds.
'We did a great job today with the start,' said Groupama skipper Franck Cammas. 'Sometimes I’m not very good with the starts so we worked a lot yesterday to practise downwind starts.'
Groupama Sailing Team, skippered by Franck Cammas from France, leads the fleet as they approach the 25 de Abril Bridge, in the Oeiras In-Port Race in Lisbon, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Despite exchanging leading positions several times with Camper as the fleet blasted down the Tagus River past Lisbon’s iconic 25th of April Bridge, Groupama rounded the first mark ahead and never looked back, holding onto the front spot for the remainder of the 11.6nm course.
Puma were stuck in fourth before a late decision to make for the alternative gate saw them haul back Abu Dhabi and Camper and sneak into second.
'We got one little opening, one little crack, and if I didn’t have 100 per cent confidence in the crew we couldn’t have pulled it off,' said Puma skipper Ken Read.
'We made that call to go round the other mark with about two boat lengths to go. That was just a call by me, thinking, ‘I think we can shoot this’. We went for it, nobody said a word, and we pulled it off.'
Chris Nicholson’s Camper managed to hold back Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi crew to record their sixth in-port race podium finish in eight races.
'Today is not as much doom and gloom as what people think,' said Camper skipper Chris Nicholson. 'Today we wanted more but it could have been a whole lot worse as we’ve seen.'
Volvo Ocean Race website