Volvo Ocean Race- Groupama overtakes overall race leader

Crew meeting at the bow to make decisions onboard Team Telefonica during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA.

Groupama sailing team continued an incredible comeback on Monday, snatching third place off Telefónica as the Spanish team struggled in light winds.

Groupama's decision to sail west of the Turks and Caicos Islands in search of better breeze appeared to have paid for now as Telefónica came to a grinding halt in a windless zone to the west of the fleet.

'Things haven't gone how we wanted them to and we're becalmed, watching the boats we've been scrapping with for so long get away from us,' said Telefónica media crew member Diego Fructuoso.

'On top of that, the boats behind us are getting closer without us being able to do anything about it.

'It's not fair that this happens after so much time and effort but that's what sailing is like and above all races like this. We're still confident in being able to recover but right now there's nothing we can do.'

At 1000 UTC, Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg had a 10 nautical mile lead over second placed Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand, with Groupama and Telefónica around 80 miles back.

In terms of time to reach the next waypoint, Puma was just 24 minutes ahead of Camper, with Groupama 84 minutes astern of Camper. Groupama had established a lead of almost 2hrs 15mins over Telefonica, using the www.predictwind.com!Predictwind route and time calculation facility.

That method which calculates a time, based on an optimised course for the type of yacht, seems to be more realistic than the Volvo OR system of taking an instant position based on a straight line radius from the finish line. The courses required to finish first will be anything but straight line, as seen by the accompanying graphics from Predictwind, and boat positioning on the course is vital to pay a later dividend. Groupama's recent gains are indicative of the benefits of astute boat positioning.

According to Volvo Ocean Race reports, Camper's media crew member Hamish Hooper said that over the last 24 hours the pressure to catch Puma and fend off Telefónica had been relentless, with Chris Nicholson’s crew on high alert to capitalise on even the smallest chance to make a gain.

'Another day of straight line sailing over blue water surrounded by blue sky, trying to put miles on a blue boat and trying to catch another black one,' Hooper wrote in his latest report from the boat.

'Miles here miles there, it’s been a bit of a holding day really, in that we seem to just be poised for the slightest opportunity to sneak around Puma. It’s always hard though, to be fully focused in on the boat ahead, but then keep having to glance over your shoulder as well to worry about what the boats behind you are doing.

'The only thing you really can do is just keep moving forward at whatever speed you can.'

As the fleet enter the final 500 nm of Leg 6 Hooper said the crew were in good spirits but fully aware how testing the last stretch to Miami might be.

'The miles ahead look to be fraught with danger and pitfalls,' he added. 'I am sure there will be a severe lack of sleep coming up for everyone as the light air frenzy begins.'

Having led Leg 6 since the start in Brazil, Puma MCM Amory Ross said Ken Read’s crew had been dreading the dawn of their final Monday at sea, as light winds threatened to open the door for their rivals.

'On this Monday our beloved winds will likely leave us one final time, dying gradually over the course of the day’s passing,' he said.

'The complete easing of our breeze should begin this morning, and because we’re the furthest west it will impact us first. Tom (Addis, navigator) is saying tonight could be a full on drift-off.

'While this leg has been full of back-to-front compression scenarios, this one is just a few days from the finish line and that makes it that much more dangerous.'

Groupama’s push to the south in search of better winds has seen them make gains on the leading pack and MCM Yann Riou said the French crew were banking on staying in different conditions to the rest of the fleet.

'We chose the option of passing south of the Turks and Caicos Islands and it looks like we will be the only ones as Abu Dhabi have broken off to follow the fleet,' Riou said. 'So it seems likely now we will have something different to the rest of the boats.

'According to our forecasts there should be a little more wind on Monday -- to see if this happens and how much we get, we will have to wait and see. We will get the verdict by the end of the day.'

Latest estimates have the leading boats arriving in Miami on May 9 where preparations are under way for the official opening of the Downtown Miami Race Village later today.
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