Volvo Ocean Race - Pack whittles away at the leader

Wade Morgan preparing for a reef, onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing during leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Miami, USA to Lisbon, Portugal.
In the Volvo Ocean Race, with 689 nautical miles to go to the finish of Leg 7 in Lisbon, Portugal, the pace has increased today as the chasing pack went into attack mode and continued to whittle away at Ian Walker and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s tenuous lead. Groupama (Franck Cammas/FRA) and Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) currently lying in second and first place overall, were back in the game, and the fleet was easily covering 500-miles plus in 24-hours, which was reducing the runway at a rapid rate.

According to Camper’s navigator Will Oxley, the complex weather has arisen due to a series of low pressure systems that are all merging to form one serious low-pressure right in the centre of the Atlantic. The fleet has been racing across with it for the last 24 to 30 hours and has been able to keep pace with the warm front, however now they are situated between the cold and warm fronts with around 25 to 30 knots of wind. 'We are desperately trying to stay in front of it [the system], because the wind will lift dramatically and die behind,' Oxley explained.

As the front grew nearer, the wind went ahead of the fleet, which meant sailing closer on the wind, bringing Telefónica and Groupama back into play in conditions that suit them well. Groupama had been holding third place since 0700 GMT this morning, but at 1600 GMT this afternoon, Telefónica entered the game, knocking Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) to fifth place as the fleet lined up across the front. 'This is useful because we need a boat in front of us in the ridge, just so we can go around them again,' Oxley commented.

In the 24-hour period to 1900 GMT today, both Groupama and Telefónica posted impressive runs of 534 and 533 nm respectively. Abu Dhabi’s account was 497 and lower than any other boat in the fleet as those behind consistently out-performed the Emiratis with a stronger following breeze.

At 1900 GMT tonight, Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg (Ken Read/USA) were within striking distance, 29.10 nm off the lead. Groupama in third was another 10 miles behind with Telefónica and Camper at 50 and 55 nm respectively. At 66 nm off the lead, Sanya was bringing up the rear, but still well in contention. The leading boat is expected to cross the finish in Lisbon on Thursday afternoon.

Volvo Ocean Race website