Volvo Ocean Race - Newsletter - Leg 4 Finish Auckland 14 March 2012
Groupama - a few minutes from the Leg 4 finish Volvo Ocean Race Richard Gladwell
Welcome to Sail-World.com's Volvo Ocean Race Newsletter for 14 March 2012
The 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race have reached Auckland, the halfway point of the Round the World classic now in its 11th edition.
Returning to Auckland for the first time in a decade, the fleet has once again made contact with one of the cornerstones of the traditional four stop route, which in its heyday attracted a peak fleet of 29 entries. . But that was in the days when adventure dictated the course, rather than commercial considerations.
It is said that this fleet is the most competitive yet. Small but perfectly formed. Yet there is a significant gap between each of the boats on the leaderboard, with four of the ocean legs completed.
While the points table is what it is; what it isn't, is an accurate guide to the margins between the boats. Much has been made of Camper's perceived shortcomings tight reaching; Groupama's straying navigation on Leg 1 and to a lesser extent on Leg 2A; Telefonica's invincibility and so on.
Groupama - Volvo Ocean Race Village, Auckland, Day 3 Richard Gladwell
The reality is that Telefonica picked up points at vital points at a time when she had to beat Camper. By a margin of 117 seconds at the end of the 4000nm leg from Cape Town to the Maldives; and 93 seconds into Auckland at the end of a 5300nm leg.
That's three and a half minutes in almost 35 days of sailing and over 9,000nm to put nine points in her bag.
Puma's Brad Jackson (helm) and skipper Ken Read - Volvo Ocean Race, Leg 4 Finish - Puma Richard Gladwell
Reverse those out (ie assume that Camper were able to beat/head off Telefonica on both occasions) and the points table still has Telefonica in the lead with 112 points, Camper has 107 points and Groupama third, unchanged on 103 points.
That is quite a different picture of the boats' capabilities relative to each other - much, much closer than the current leaderboard indicates. As for the next two - being Puma and Abu Dhabi - both have shown flashes of form.
Team Sanya's sails get a work over at the Doyle loft in Auckland Richard Gladwell
But dismastings on Leg 1 have counted heavily against them - both in terms of the mental effort required to get a campaign back on its feet, together with the fact that there is little time in the stopovers to take a breath. Add to that the 'once bitten, twice shy' factor, following any dismasting - and it is too hasty to make any judgements as to performance, on the basis of what has passed to date.
Don't forget that Abu Dhabi holds the Rolex Fastnet monohull speed record - set largely on the basis of a fast downwind ride from the Rock - and you may have another pointer to performance to come in the Southern Ocean.
Tight finish for Camper 93 seconds behind Telefonica - Volvo Ocean Race, Leg 4 Richard Gladwell
But reality says there are some substantial gaps on the leaderboard, and closing those with a tightly matched fleet will not be easy. Consistent performance is what is required.
Auckland has taken the Volvo Ocean Race to its heart. If you want to get taste of what sailing is like in Heaven - have a look around the Viaduct on a fine, blue sky day. The marine vista seems infinite with all manner of water activities. What is different is that the crowds aren't there as spectators - they are immersed in the action - being participants rather than detached, and are as fascinating to watch as the programmed entertainment.
Future round the world racers get a look at the Volvo Ocean Race, Leg 4 Finish Richard Gladwell
The next few days will see the focus going back on the sailing, with three days of racing before the Race starts on Sunday.
Richard Gladwell Editor@Large
If you wish to see Sail-World's complete Volvo OR coverage, go to www.sail-world.com - and click on the Volvo Ocean Race button in the top header bar, you'll see all stories for all regions from this exciting race - all updated as the race unfolds.
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