Volvo Ocean Race team Groupama 4 secured third place in the In-Port race off Auckland's harbour today, Saturday March 17th, and has further boosted her second place in the overall standing, as well as clawing back three important points in relation to the Spanish leader, who brought up the rear in today's race in New Zealand. The next leg to Brazil is something all the crews are looking forward to.... Start on Sunday at 0100 UTC!
In-Port race off Auckland’s harbour - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
By organising the In-Port race just off the shores of Auckland, the Race Committee provided a superb spectacle for the thousands of New Zealand supporters. After an hour of racing, they were able to congratulate the local team, Camper, which took her first victory, and on home waters to boot! For Franck Cammas and his men, the start proved to be somewhat difficult when Telefonica dipped to leeward of her just before the starting gun. Groupama 4 then quickly took the initiative of tacking towards the container dock to shake them off. The tactical coup paid off since, in the company of the New Zealanders and the Chinese, the three boats benefited from a favourable wind shift. At the first mark along this dozen-mile course, the French boat made the rounding barely twenty minutes after the start, hot on the heels of Camper.
On home waters in front of a home crowd, the Kiwis couldn't lose their nerve. Camper slipped along at pace under spinnaker towards Auckland's bridge, where the fifteen knots or so of breeze eased gradually. As the spinnakers were dumped, a general re-bunching occurred. Though the New Zealand boat held onto pole position, it had a lead of just forty seconds or so in front of Groupama 4, which was in turn under pressure from the Americans... The beat against the wind in the harbour channel was an opportunity for a fine duel between Franck Cammas and Ken Read, the latter powering up to cover the French boat, which was the victim of a momentary failure of the hydraulic keel system.
Beneath the gaze of several thousand spectators flocked along the dockside, Groupama 4 was forced to link together two manoeuvres to get clear, and the hierarchy was established before the fleet had even rounded the final windward mark. The New Zealanders were then able to hoist their spinnaker for a second time without being hounded, tailed by the Americans a minute further back and the French a few boat lengths shy of them. The surprise performance came from the Chinese boat, with her Kiwi skipper Mike Sanderson, who was also very familiar with the specific features of the race zone: Sanya took fourth place whilst Abu Dhabi, despite fluffing a spinnaker manoeuvre, managed to finish ahead of the Spanish.
This counter performance by Telefonica thus enabled Groupama 4 to close down the Iberians' lead to just fifteen points, whilst retaining a three-point lead over the New Zealanders in the overall standing. A smooth operation then on the eve of the longest leg of the Volvo Ocean Race (6,705 miles), the start of which will take place on Sunday at 1400 hours local time (0100 UTC) bound for Itajai (Brazil), via Cape Horn. The forecast suggests that the first two days at sea will be very difficult.
Quotes from the boat:
Erwan Israël, tactician: 'This race was sublime with a great deal of manoeuvres and the boats all in close contact with each other as we'd hoped. We sailed well and managed to pull back after fluffing the start. Together with Charles, we applied a very good strategy and achieved a superb layline, which enabled us to make up ground on Camper and overtake Puma. Unfortunately, we then had an issue with the keel which caused us to lose this second place. That was the only slight disappointment of the day. Auckland is a fantastic race zone and we're almost happy for Camper's crew, who won on home waters after some tough offshore legs. For the public and the spectators, it's an absolute blinder. It's perfect.'
Franck Cammas, skipper: 'It was a very fine race. A podium place in an In-Port isn't something we pull off very often. That was topped off by the fact that Telefonica finished last. However, we're not yet at the top of our game or able to sail with sufficient confidence. This type of race is hotly disputed and the slightest error costs very dearly.'
The first leg as viewed by Franck: 'In these conditions, which are forecast to be tough, we're more focused on dealing with what the elements throw our way rather than on the race itself: you have to get through the worst moments in complete safety, as well as be able to continue on after Cape Horn! You always have to remain within the limit of what both the boat and the crew are capable of, which isn't easy. It's down to the skipper to take the appropriate line to avoid accidents. The crew and particularly those up forward are extremely exposed: there's always the risk of falling in the water and in this instance, there wouldn't be a lot of hope in recovering them in good health.
Cape Horn is reminiscent of deliverance: it's the certificate for the crew which has passed through the South Pacific without mishap. It's not insignificant and everyone's delighted to have signed up for this leg. We're looking at 17 to 18 days at sea, even though it's the longest leg of this Volvo Ocean Race. It should be pretty quick as far as Cape Horn, even though the first few days will involve a beat. After that, there will be some breezy conditions, waves and the cold to deal with! Everyone's in with a chance, especially Abu Dhabi, who we haven't yet seen in these downwind conditions.
The crew would have liked to have had a little more time to get into this leg more gently: we've only had a few days in Auckland and we haven't fully recovered from leg 4. As such we're setting off a little tired, but the same is true for all the teams...'
Standing for the In-Port race in Auckland:
1-Camper (1h 00' 38) = 6 points
2-Puma (54') = 5 points
3-Groupama 4 (1'26) = 4 points
4-Sanya (2'20) = 3 points
5-Abu Dhabi (2'52) = 2 points
6-Telefonica (3'27) = 1 point
Overall standing after four oceanic legs and five In-Port races:
1-Telefonica (Iker Martinez) : 1+30+6+29+2+27+6+20+1 = 122 points
2-Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas) : 2+20+2+18+5+24+2+30+4 = 107 points
3-Camper (Chris Nicholson) : 4+25+5+24+4+18+3+15+6 = 104 points
4-Puma (Ken Read) : 5+0+4+19+3+17+5+25+5 = 83 points
5-Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker) : 6+0+3+10+6+14+4+10+2 = 55 points
6-Sanya (Mike Sanderson) : 3+0+1+5+2+5+1+5+3 = 25 points
Groupama Sailing Team website