Volvo Ocean Race - The relentless pursuit continues

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand.
Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race©
In the Volvo Ocean Race, Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg, along with Ken Read/USA, have set out in a northeast direction alone, with the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Tanega Shima being their closest landmark and the remainder of the fleet not within 165 nautical miles (nm). The rest of the fleet were enjoying some fast sailing this evening as they reached speeds of 18 knots.

Despite torrential downpours, Franck Cammas/FRA and Groupama 4 have the pedal right down and have kept up their relentless pursuit of Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS).

The French team, part of the main pack of five boats that are keeping close company, is 24 nm to port of Camper, where until 1900 UTC tonight they had more wind and were sailing two knots faster than any of the other teams. But, at the 2200 UTC position report, Groupama’s speed had dropped and Camper was sailing fastest with the French boat lagging four miles.

'If I ever say I want to do this race again, you are allowed to kill me,' uttered Groupama 4’s bowman and boat captain Martin Krite, his face ravaged and his eyes dark with tiredness. He is only half-serious, but this leg just doesn’t seem to be getting any easier, nor is it getting much shorter.

The fickle wind is causing speeds to race up and down depending where on the ocean each boat is positioned. In the three hours to 2200 UTC third-placed Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson/NZL) averaged 13.2 knots, while fourth placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR), following a similar course to Groupama 4, only managed 9.2.

Team Telefónica faired a little better at 11.9 and was the backmarker of the main pack having altered to an east southeast course between 1900 and 2200 tonight, while the ‘go it alone team’ on Puma ‘s Mar Mostro were in a completely different weather pattern and making 15.2 knots.

It is still very possible that Puma’s tactic will shake up the leader board and navigator Tom Addis and skipper Ken Read are working tirelessly to decode the forecasts, but at 2200 UTC tonight, Camper was still top of the table.

'It has been a sleepless couple of days, a tough leg, and even tougher race, and nobody has given up an inch of effort or enthusiasm. I am happy to slug it out up here along with these 10 guys, even if it is the Volvo Ocean Race in solidarity', summed up Puma’s media crewmember Amory Ross.

Volvo Ocean Race website