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Volvo Ocean Race- Day - 1 Fleet on the final stretch to Ireland

by Sail-World and Volvo Ocean Race on 2 Jul 2012
Groupama Sailing Team crew onboard during leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Lorient, France to Galway, Ireland. Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team /Volvo Ocean Race http://www.cammas-groupama.com/

Volvo Ocean Race are running a series of updates on progress on the final 550nm Leg 9 of the race to finish in Galway, Ireland.

Wind conditions currently are reported to be 16kts, but are predicted to drop to 9-11kts for the remainder of the leg from Fastnet to Galway.

The boats rounded Fastnet Rock at 1030 approx UTC, and the finish is projected for 0300UTC on July 3, 2012

1115 UTC: PUMA have extended their winning edge to almost one nautical mile after leading the fleet on a spectacular rounding of the Fastnet Rock. Here’s the official rounding times so far: PUMA 10:31:06, Telefónica 10:32:25, Groupama 10:36:20, CAMPER 10:37:05. Abu Dhabi and Sanya continue in fifth and sixth respectively and are yet to round the iconic race marker.

1035 UTC: Marking a major milestone, PUMA led the fleet around Fastnet Rock at 1031 UTC. The black cat was followed by Telefónica in second, CAMPER third and Groupama fourth. Abu Dhabi and Team Sanya have a few miles to go yet.

0915 UTC: PUMA are the new leaders, taking the top spot at 0830 UTC ahead of Telefónica, CAMPER and Groupama. During a live call to Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker said his team’s slow pace and fifth place could be due to some suspected keel damage. 'We normally struggle a bit, but now we’re struggling a lot,’’ Walker said. 'I suspect we’ve got some damage to our keel, but there’s no way to find out till Galway.' Team Sanya remain sixth as the fleet approach the final 20 nautical mile runway to Fastnet Rock.

0815 UTC:Team Telefónica are leading the fleet as they close in on Fastnet Rock, some 40 nautical miles away. CAMPER are pushing hard in second, about 0.5 nautical miles astern, while third placed PUMA and fourth placed Groupama are gaining pace on their course more to the west. Abu Dhabi are working hard to regain speed in fifth place skipper Ian Walker said, and Team Sanya remain sixth.

'We’ll go thorough a second trough that will head the wind, so we’ll end up on the wind on much tighter angles near Fastnet Rock and a little more on the wind to get round the corner of Ireland, then the wind should come aft again to get us into Galway,' Walker said.

The latest ETA for the fleet’s Galway finish is 0300 UTC according to Volvo’s Duty Officers in the headquarters in Alicante, Spain.

0715 UTC: Telefónica continue to lead, but CAMPER aren’t letting them forget that it ain’t over till it’s over. The fleet have just over 40 nautical miles to the famed Fastnet Rock. CAMPER navigator Will Oxley said while his crew were notching 22 knots speed with a fractional zero jib and one reef in their main that would all change as they neared the Irish coast where the wind is expected to drop. PUMA are still pushing hard in third place, ahead of Groupama who are on their port quarter. Abu Dhabi and Sanya are fifth and sixth respectively.

0615 UTC: The fleet is flying at break-neck speeds, surging to in excess of 20 knots regularly with Team Telefónica leading the pack with just over 200 nautical miles remaining. CAMPER remain second, followed by PUMA, Groupama, Abu Dhabi and Sanya. CAMPER MCM Hamish Hooper said the racing was intensifying and the crew were putting every ounce of energy into the final day’s racing. Navigator Will Oxley isn’t getting much rest, that’s for certain. 'This leg and the Volvo race is going to come down to the wire,’’ Oxley said.

0515 UTC: It is so close out there that there is now nothing between CAMPER and Telefónica who are tied at the top, with the Spanish team positioned just ever so slightly more to the north-east, about 1.5 nautical miles, of the Spanish/Kiwi side. CAMPER have logged a slightly higher speed, but will it be enough to hold off their challengers and win their first offshore leg? PUMA continue to fend off attacks from the rear and hold third place, followed by Groupama, Abu Dhabi and Team Sanya.

0415 UTC: It really is neck and neck at the head of the fleet as the sun rises, with the four front split by the smallest of margins. With boat speeds still in the late teens, CAMPER are refusing to be shaken from the top spot but PUMA and Telefónica are snapping at their heels. Groupama, the most westerly boat, are two miles back but averaging almost a knot quicker. Fastnet Rock at the southern tip of Ireland is the next mark on the course, and the fleet have just over 100 miles to go to reach it.

0315 UTC: Around 40 miles west of the Scilly Islands, the battle for first place is still raging. CAMPER are pouring everything they've got into holding off their rivals -- they want this win badly -- and so far they're doing a great job. But it's incredibly tight at the top and the pressure is on from Telefónica, PUMA and Groupama, all split by two miles. Abu Dhabi and Sanya are still in touch with the leaders, astern by roughly 10 miles.

0215 UTC: The leading foursome seemed to have picked their sides for now, with CAMPER and Telefónica opting for a more easterly routing while PUMA and Groupama have stuck with the west. The two groups are roughly fives miles apart and averaging similar speeds - so who will come off best?

0100 UTC, 02/07/12: While CAMPER picked their way to the front of the fleet thanks to clever sail changes by the crew, according to MCM Hamish Hooper:

'What's keeping us in a good position right now is that the guys are doing good sail changes at the right times. The sea state has settled down a bit now. There was a bit of wind against current that was making it a bit lumpy. We decided to go a bit lighter on this leg and it seems to be helping to do the trick. At the moment it seems to be working for us and long may it continue.'

2300 UTC: Slowly but surely Groupama are clawing their way to the front of the fleet, knocking Telefónica out of second place and closing to within 0.4 miles of CAMPER. PUMA are around a mile to the west of Groupama.

2200 UTC: It's all hands on deck as the fleet skirt the Leg 9 exclusion zone implemented by race control to prevent the teams sailing through the most dangerous of shipping lanes. At least 10 ships are currently within a 20-mile radius of the Volvo Ocean Race boats -- and in the pitch black, with winds gusting up to 25 knots and waves crashing over the boat, that makes for some pretty tricky times.

2120 UTC: Sanya's MCM Andres Soriano has found a little time down below to reflect on the last leg of the race:

'We have 15-17 knots of breeze, and we have just put the bow down, making 18-20 knots with the J2 and staysail up providing us with some power!

'We have gone into our watch system which has been adjusted a bit for this leg. For the first two hours of your off watch, you will be in the designated wet bunks and on standby. For the last two hours, you get to hop into your ‘jammies’ and get all cozy!

'Dinner was a nice heart warming ‘Beef and pasta hotpot’ and it put a smile on everyone’s face! The breeze is expected to build a bit as the night goes on, and it should free up a bit more as well bringing more of a reaching angle and faster speeds…'

2115 UTC: No sooner had we scribbled that previous update than Telefónica peeled off for a sail change. Advantage goes back to CAMPER. Meanwhile, PUMA's more westerly course sees them with three miles of lateral separation from their rivals.

2055 UTC: The wind's rapidly getting up and with that leg leaders CAMPER choose to bear away to change sails. Telefónica, prepared to push to the limit and beyond, choose to hold their sails longer and reclaim the lead.

2030 UTC: Groupama are the first to put a reef in their mainsail, opting to then change headsails. Bowman Brad Marsh explains:

'We’re heading into the night time at the moment and just as it’s getting dark we’re heading to a bit of a front. The rain has started and the wind is beginning to build so we’re anticipating a sail change. We have 21 knots at the moment, we’re expecting it to get up to 25, 26, knots, not much, but with the rain and everything it’s pretty physical. I can see CAMPER over my shoulder, Telefónica to leeward, PUMA to windward. Franck’s just called a sail change so I’m off to the bow to get wet.'

Watch the video calls to all of the boats http://new.livestream.com/volvooceanrace/Leg9/videos/1770073!click_here.

2015 UTC: In a bid for more breeze, PUMA and Sanya have split from the bulk of the fleet and opted to sail to the west of Ile de Sein, a tiny island off the western tip of France. Here's skipper Ken Read to explain his team's decision:

'We’re expecting the breeze to build so we don’t mind being the high boat. There’s a big reef up here, we’re going to go a slightly bigger distance but we think it’s going to pay in the long run.'

1930 UTC: CAMPER are doing a grand job of attacking Telefónica's lead and the live tracker looks like they might have just nosed in front. Helmsman Tony Rae sums up they're attitude to this leg:

'We would just love to win this leg. We know we have a huge amount of support back in New Zealand and we're giving it 110 per cent to try to make that happen. We'll be giving it everything.'

1835 UTC: Media man Nick Dana brings us this update from fifth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing:

'We're holding on to these guys. These aren't necessarily our conditions but we're holding on, and we're happy with that.'

They've also got freeze-dried turkey tertrazzini for dinner - yum.

1820 UTC: Team Sanya MCM Andres Soriano tells us on the first live video call that they have 15 knots of wind, 16 knots of boat speed. Current sail configuration is full main, J1 jib with storm jib up too. CAMPER and Telefónica have pulled out a narrow 1.5-mile lead over PUMA and Groupama, with Abu Dhabi a further 1.5 miles back and Sanya another 1.5 miles further behind.

1745 UTC: Live video calls to the six boats start in 15 minutes - at 1800 UTC. Post your questions into the live blog and we'll do our best to ask them.

1545 UTC: It's CAMPER's MCM Hamish Hooper who brings us the first words from the water. He recalls how the team bounced back from a startline penalty to challenge the frontrunners:

'When we saw the red flag raised by the umpires, I looked at the guys as we completed the turn- there was no response from anyone, just the already determined look on their faces become even more steely and more intent.

'Not that they needed it but I think it was a good shot in the arm, a reminder of the difficulties we have encountered all the way through this race but managed to stay strong and keep fighting like a scroungey dog that needs to fight for every meal. We have been fighting for every point and this wont stop until there are no more points to fight for.

'So far the racing is tight, lee bow tacks and ever so slight positioning in relation to where you want to be in relation to the other boats. It will be close contact boat on boat sailing all the way to the pub in Ireland. Two very exciting prospects; close boat racing & the pub in Ireland. Bring it on.'

1500 UTC: The charge north-west has begun but it's not quite at the breakneck speeds we saw earlier in the afternoon. Volvo Ocean Race weather expert Gonzalo Infante reckons the key to an early advantage could lie in the timing of an impending sail change as the breeze rises. For the moment though, it's still Telefónica out in front.

1400 UTC: The fleet are nearly round Belle Ile and it's still Telefónica in charge, but only just. The CAMPER boys cut the south-east corner of the island and pulled back half a mile on the leaders to take their deficit to 0.1 miles. PUMA are up there with the Telefónica and CAMPER, while Groupama are less than a mile behind. Sanya are up into fifth, with Abu Dhabi in sixth.

1300 UTC: We're only two hours into racing and it's already tight at the front as each team puts pedal to metal to win the final leg. Telefónica still lead but only by 0.6 miles over CAMPER, with Groupama 0.1 miles further back in third. PUMA, following CAMPER's inside track, are fourth with Abu Dhabi in fifth and Team Sanya just 1.6 miles behind Telefónica.

1200 UTC, 01/07/12: After blasting round the 6.5-mile inshore course at speeds of over 20 knots, Telefónica lead the fleet south towards the island of Belle Ile, the first waypoint of the leg. A conservative approach to the inshore section sees Groupama at the back of the pack -- but that's not likely to last for long.


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