Volvo Ocean Race- Tack Fests and Turtles as Leg 7 reaches crucial mark

Brad Marsh trimming the jib onboard Groupama Sailing Team during leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Miami, USA to Lisbon, Portugal.

In a sea state that is horrible and air that is cold, the six-boat Volvo fleet is enduring something of a tack fest as they battle to keep with the Gulf Stream, thrashing their way around the fringe of the pesky high pressure centre.

At 0700 GMT today, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) deposed Camper once again to take the lead, and Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) re-joined the party.

Approximately halfway between Newport, Rhode Island in the United States and the Atlantic islands of the Azores, the fleet is experiencing 60 degree wind shifts with massive changes in velocity. All on board are fed up with sailing upwind and for them the wider angle of the fresher westerly breeze can’t come quick enough.

Overnight Camper had an unexpected encounter with a turtle, which became entangled in their foils, causing the boat to slow from 13 knots to nine knots fairly abruptly. The boat was backed down and the turtle quickly freed and although the incident was unrelated, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is now 10.7 nautical miles ahead.

'The racing is extremely tight right now, and perhaps the most heated all race for us yet, what a cracker,' exclaimed Abu Dhabi’s bowman Wade Morgan.

Fleet positions as the leaders move north to avoid light winds to the east, between them and the finish in Lisbon.
As the fleet continues to short tack and slam upwind, Team Telefónica has ended their lonely sojourn in the south and is now positioned midway between Camper, the most southerly of the fleet and Groupama who are following in the wake of Abu Dhabi. Although 37.5 nm behind and having to think carefully about the moves from Groupama away to their north but only 2.3 nm astern, Telefónica’s position in closer proximity to the fleet is certainly a safer option.

Although it is unusual to spend so much time on the wind in the Atlantic, the fleet has no option other than to go north to skirt the high pressure and wait for the westerly wind to set them free. The team to reach the new breeze first will have a big advantage, which could be carried almost to the finish in Lisbon later next week.

Camper's Media Crew Member, Hamish Hooper, this morning reported that his crew had an unlikely 'collision' with a turtle that slowed the red boat’s speed from 13 knots to nine.

Helmsman Roberto Bermudez noticed the deceleration yesterday and sent new crewman Nick Burridge downstairs to the endoscope to investigate, Hooper said.

Burridge soon emerged, scratching his head and saying: 'What do you know about turtles? Because I think we’ve caught one with our keel.'

With their hard fought lead at stake the crew went into overdrive to free the reptile.

Puma to the north, enjoys better breezes and faster speeds than Camper - Leg 7 26 May, 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race
'The guys on deck sprung into action and had the boat backed down within seconds, turtle free and we were back to normal speed on course again with no significant time or distance lost on the other boats,’’ Hooper said.

The crew has maintained their lead overnight and at 0400 UTC were 4.7 nautical miles ahead of former Leg 7 leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

The rest of the line-up remained unchanged with Puma Ocean Racing in third, Telefónica fourth, Groupama sailing team fifth and Team Sanya sixth, 71 nm behind the leaders.

Camper helmsman/trimmer Rob Salthouse said the team’s strategy was aimed at getting north, punching through a potentially risky high-pressure system before reaching promising seas.

'We are now trying to work our way north up towards this high, get through the high and into the next low pressure,’’ he said. 'If we can do that in good shape it will be the rich get richer, so here is hoping.'