Emirates Team New Zealand (Photo © George Bekris)

 

In a thrilling winner-take-all final race, Emirates Team New Zealand unhooked itself from a starting buoy to win the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series New York with the high score of 52 points.

Another large crowd, estimated at 100,000, turned out on a sunny day and was treated to some very unpredictable racing. This after over 75,000 came out on Saturday.

Watch a recap here

 

Photo © George Bekris

Photo © George Bekris

No lead was ever safe on Sunday as the wind shifted through wide arcs from the west to the north and ranged anywhere from 5 to 20 knots.

“It was one of those series where everyone had good luck and bad luck, but we got our good luck at the end of the regatta,” said Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Glenn Ashby. “It was exciting and crazy at the same time. Today it was important to keep your cool and stay focused.”

Photo © George Bekris

Photo © George Bekris

The Kiwi crew, led by Ashby and World Sailor of the year and Red Bull Youth America’s Cup champion helmsman Peter Burling, was literally dead in the water at the start of Race 3. Crewman Blair Tuke had to jump in the water to unhook the starting buoy’s anchor line from the catamaran’s rudder. Making matters worse, the port hull was punctured by the buoy and water was leaking into the hull throughout the race.

“We saw the buoy coming at us with about 20 seconds to go,” said Ashby. “It wasn’t ideal but we were lucky in the end.”

 

The Kiwi crew’s luck came full circle on the next-to-last leg. They rounded the last windward mark in fifth place, about 42 seconds behind leading SoftBank Team Japan. But as all the crews began the downwind leg they sailed into a patch of no wind that engulfed the course.

Photo © George Bekris

Photo © George Bekris

As the leg was perpendicular to the southerly flowing current, some of the crews were being swept over the course boundary. Land Rover BAR, Groupama Team France and SoftBank Team Japan all were penalized for crossing the boundary in the current.

The Kiwis, further behind, held in the middle of the course and when the wind filled in the Kiwis took off on their hydrofoils at 16 to 20 knots boatspeed, leaving the rest of the fleet gasping in disbelief.

Photo © George Bekris

Photo © George Bekris

At one point during the final race ORACLE TEAM USA looked to be in position to win. Skipper Jimmy Spithill and crew won the start and led around the first two mark roundings. But Dean Barker’s SoftBank Team Japan grabbed the lead by working the right side of the course while ORACLE TEAM USA struggled on the right side. In the end the reigning America’s Cup champion placed second in the race and second for the series.

“The crowd was insane,” said Spithill. “Today was great for the fans. In these conditions you have to roll with the punches and keep fighting. We wanted to win but we’ll take the second place. The Kiwis got a Hail Mary there at the end, but you have to take your hat off to them and congratulate them.”

Third went to Franck Cammas’ Groupama Team France, winner of Race 2. SoftBank Team Japan placed fourth, Land Rover BAR fifth and Artemis Racing sixth.

Photo © George Bekris

Photo © George Bekris

Illustrating just how challenging the day was on the short, confined racecourse, Nathan Outteridge’s crew won the first race going away but was then sixth in Races 2 and 3.

“We got a little bit of luck in the first race and managed to hold on, but we had some terrible moments in the last two races…” said Outteridge. “You can’t get people to come watch sailing if you don’t bring it to them. That’s what we’ve done here. When the America’s Cup is in Bermuda next year, in super high-tech boats, we’ll get some amazing racing.”

The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series now moves onto Chicago, June 10-12. After that it heads to Europe for events in the U.K. in July and France in September.

Photo © George Bekris

Photo © George Bekris

Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series New York Final Standings

1. Emirates Team New Zealand – 52 points
2. ORACLE TEAM USA – 50 points
3. Groupama Team France – 44 points
4. SoftBank Team Japan – 42 points
5. Land Rover BAR – 42 points
6. Artemis Racing – 40 points

 

Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Overall Standings
(After six events)

1. Emirates Team New Zealand – 244 points
2. ORACLE TEAM USA – 236 points
3. Land Rover BAR – 227 points
4. SoftBank Team Japan – 203 points
5. Artemis Racing – 201 points
6. Groupama Team France – 194 points

 

Photo © George Bekris

Photo © George Bekris

 

Groupama M34 Win Normandy Offshore

Groupama 34, skippered by Franck Cammas, crossed the finish line today at 11h35m27s GMT. Oman Sail skippered by Sidney Gavignet and Courrier Dunkerque skippered by Daniel Souben complete the podium. Having flirted with the top spot several times last night, Bretagne – Crédit Mutuel settles for fourth.

Accompanied by sunshine and around ten knots of north-easterly wind, two M34 duos crossed the finish line off Le Havre in quick succession. GROUPAMA 34 skippered by Franck Cammas was the first to cross at 1135 GMT, followed 10 minutes later by the Omani crew skippered by Sidney Gavignet (Oman Sail). Franck Cammas and his crew completed the 134-mile course in 27 hours 28 minutes at an average speed of 5.02 knots.

The second duo, made up of Courrier Dunkerque (skipper: Daniel Souben) and Bretagne – Crédit Mutuel (Nicolas Troussel) had been neck and neck since 0630 GMT this morning and, after a bitter duel, crossed the finish line some 5hrs30m later at 1209 and 1210 GMT respectively! That ONE minute difference gave the Dunkirk crew the final step of the podium.

The M34 TPM Coych completed the course at around 1430 GMT and astern of it, ACEREL – NORMANDY Elite Team and Nantes St-Nazaire are continuing to battle it out as they too prepare to make the finish line.

Don’t miss their finish and the outcome of this final duel, follow the cartography HERE (http://yb.tl/nsw2014)

With the offshore course just about complete, we turn our attention to the inshore racing! Tomorrow the seven Tour de France à la Voile one-designs will be embroiled in battle once more on the race zone off Le Havre. From Friday through until Sunday, the J80s, 7.5s and IRCs 1 to 4 will really flesh out the Normandy Sailing Week fleet in the Baie de Seine.

Impressions from the top two M34s:

Franck Cammas, GROUPAMA 34: “It was a course raced in light airs and as forecast there was a lot of current and very little breeze. We never had to drop anchor, which in itself is quite a feat, and the tide turned in our favour at just about the right time. It was a fine battle this morning off Antifer with four boats bunched together. It was a fresh start to the race and we even ended up in 3rd at one point. Then the wind kicked back in and together with Oman Sail we were well placed and able to extend away from our pursuers.

It wasn’t easy to make Dieppe yesterday, as the current was often stronger than the wind. We had to get in really tight to the shore and the wind shifted from time to time. You constantly had to make sure you were in the right spot at the right time so the aim was to make fewer mistakes than the others.

I’ve only sailed the M34 for two days this year so we had to rediscover our automatic reflexes. In this instance we had a lot of downwind conditions so there were a fair few hours at the helm, which wasn’t unpleasant. Our navigator Julien Villion did a great job.

It’s only the first race but we’re up against stiff competition so we’re going to remain vigilant over the coming days so we can keep an eye on Courrier Dunkerque and Oman Sail, who are sure to show us that they’re on their game and a force to be reckoned with! Normandy Sailing Week has all the ingredients to harden up the crew and rediscover our automatic reflexes with a view to the Tour de France à la Voile.”

Sidney Gavignet, Oman Sail: “Groupama and ourselves really laid into each other! One overtook, then the other overtook, we took the inside lane, we took the outside lane, got caught in ridges of high pressure, in short it was thrilling! There was always something going on, especially with the currents, which we played with a great deal. We weren’t far off passing Groupama before Merville, where we’d really made up some ground, and then a small light patch enveloped us, we didn’t get a good grasp of a slight wind shift and Groupama left us for dust. After Cabourg we were on a direct course to the finish line so the green boat was able to cover us right the way to the finish.

What made the difference was that they have a crew that is nicely broken in compared with ours, which is ‘under construction’. We’d like to spare a thought for the three crews of youngsters who disappeared from our screen… It’s just learning the hard way! It was certainly very technical with the light airs and the currents and that’s where you appreciate how hard it must be for them. We’re very happy with our second place!”

View the first 3 finishers http://www.normandy-week.com/index/videos2014/gall/53/annee/2014/idnews/118

Discover Normandy Sailing Week on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube!

OFFSHORE ranking (prior to the jury’s decision) at 1430 GMT:

1st: GROUPAMA 34 (Franck Cammas) – FINISHED

2nd: OMAN SAIL (Sidney Gavignet) – FINISHED

3rd: COURRIER DUNKERQUE (Daniel Souben) – FINISHED

4th: BRETAGNE – CREDIT MUTUEL (Nicolas TROUSSEL) – FINISHED

5th: TPM COYCH (Florian Simonnot) – FINISHED

6th: ACEREL – NORMANDY ELITE TEAM (Baptiste Choquenet)

7th: NANTES ST-NAZAIRE (Jean-Baptiste Gellée)

 

For more news and action from Normandy Sailing Week click   http://www.normandy-week.com/index/index/gall/54/annee/2014/idnews/121

 

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK, passes a spectator boat, during the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK, passes a spectator boat, during the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

 

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing launched an 11th hour comeback in the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race to take their tally of in-shore successes to three, while Groupama scored a strong second to pile the pressure on overall race leaders Telefónica.

Ian Walker’s crew were rewarded for sailing a near-perfect race on Saturday when they snatched the lead from Groupama on the penultimate leg and went on to seal a dramatic victory.

Although they were pipped at the post, Groupama’s result moves them to within just seven points of Telefónica, who had yet more in-port disappointment when a penalty for touching one of the turning marks relegated them to last place.

In a thrilling finale, PUMA came from behind to rocket past CAMPER into third just metres from the finish line.

It was a fourth successive podium finish in the in-shore series for Ken Read’s PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew, and it brought them to within a point of third-placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand on the overall scoreboard.

Team Sanya, the only team not racing in a new generation boat, were unlucky not to finish higher up the leaderboard, having to settle for fifth after a brave battle with their rivals.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK celebrate taking first place, in the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by  IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK celebrate taking first place, in the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

“It feels great,” said a jubilant Abu Dhabi skipper Walker moments after crossing the finish line.

“We’ve had a tough time of it. We had no time at all to prepare for the last in-port race and we made a special point of having two full days’ training here. We wanted to show the world that Abu Dhabi hasn’t given up. We’re a good team, we’re determined, and it feels great to win a race.”

With the Volvo Ocean Race entering a critical stage with just three offshore legs and three in-port races left, just 14 points split the top four boats.

Telefónica still lead with 165 points but snapping at their heels are Groupama on 158, while CAMPER and PUMA are dangerously close on 152 and 151 respectively, bolstered by the results of the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race.

In a nail-biting contest peppered with position changes, Abu Dhabi capitalised on a strong start along with Sanya but it was Telefónica who led round the first mark, showing off their blistering speed on Leg 1.

The action couldn’t have been any more intense with Abu Dhabi and Groupama overhauling Telefónica on Leg 2. Meanwhile, after paying the price for heading offshore, CAMPER and PUMA were left desperately chasing the frontrunners.

While the front two stretched their lead, a fierce battle for third developed, climaxing on Leg 6 with Telefónica hitting the mark and the rest of the fleet piling in behind.

Telefónica were penalised by the on-the-water umpires, adding to their in-port misery and ending their hopes of consolidating their overall lead.

Sniffing a chance to pick up crucial points, PUMA, CAMPER and Sanya put pedal to metal and launched an extraordinary comeback that brought them back in touch with then leaders Groupama and second-placed Abu Dhabi with just a few legs left.

Abu Dhabi’s defining moment came when they hoisted a bigger sail than their French rivals, making the most of the smallest of speed advantages to pass Groupama despite having to dodge a spectator boat.

With the breeze fading, race officials chose to shorten the course and Abu Dhabi hung on to claim the win, all the more sweet due to the fact that just a few weeks ago their stricken boat Azzam was on a container ship en route to Brazil.

The sailors and shore crews are now turning their sights on the final preparations for 3,580 nautical mile Leg 7 from Miami to Lisbon, Portugal, starting on Sunday at 1700 UTC (1300 local time).

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK celebrate taking first place, in the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK celebrate taking first place, in the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

 

PORTMIAMI In-Port Race results:
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, 74:09
2. Groupama sailing team, +00:33
3. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, +02:02
4. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, +02:11 
5. Team Sanya, +2:35
6. Team Telefónica, +6:28

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, skippered by Ken Read from the USA chases down CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, skippered by Chris Nicholson from Australia, to take third place in the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by  IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, skippered by Ken Read from the USA chases down CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, skippered by Chris Nicholson from Australia, to take third place in the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

PUMA Ocean Racing  (Photo by George Bekris)

PUMA Ocean Racing (Photo by George Bekris)

Ken Read and The PUMA Ocean Racing Powered By BERG team win Leg 6,American skipper Ken Read led his PUMA team to a second consecutive leg win on Wednesday, arriving on home soil in Miami triumphant following an epic 17-day match race with closest rivals CAMPER to confirm they are back in contention for overall victory.

Since the heartbreak of the first leg, in which their yacht Mar Mostro dismasted, PUMA have been on the up – and after scoring their first offshore success in Leg 5 from Auckland to Itajaí, Brazil, they made it two in two with glory in Leg 6.

After coming off best in an intense battle for first place with CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, who at one point closed the gap to less than a mile, Read said his team were back in the fight for the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 trophy.

“That was about as stressful as it can get, believe me,” Read said. “It was touch and go, and the guys on CAMPER sailed very well, but I couldn’t be more proud of our team — they did an unbelievably great job.”

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crossed the finish line at 18:14:00 UTC, 17 days after leaving from Itajaí, Brazil, with CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand around an hour behind PUMA and on course to take second.

PUMA Ocean Racing first into Miami (Photo by Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race)

PUMA Ocean Racing first into Miami (Photo by Ian Roman /Volvo Ocean Race)

PUMA dominated the 4,800 nautical mile leg from the start, only surrendering the lead on two occasion to CAMPER and for no more than 48 hours.

A fast start to the leg in fresh conditions saw PUMA lead out of Itajaí and into several days of fast sailing up the Brazilian coast.

As winds eased the fleet split into three groups, with CAMPER and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing closest to the shore enjoying two days at the head of the pack, while Team Telefónica and Groupama sailing team opted to head east in search of better breeze. PUMA split the difference and it paid as they got a jump on their rivals that would lay the foundations for their eventual win.

With the south-east trade winds providing near-perfect conditions for the Volvo Open 70s, a drag race began up to the Equator and through the Doldrums, which presented little problem for the fleet. But 10 days into racing, PUMA were nearly undone by storm clouds which stalled the leaders, allowing CAMPER and Telefónica to reel them in to just six miles.

Into the Caribbean Sea they enjoyed fast sailing once more until they hit tricky weather systems that once again saw the leading boats compress. Despite coming under fire from CAMPER right up until the very last minute, faultless sailing saw PUMA defend their lead to claim the win.

PUMA Ocean Racing Crosses the Leg 6 Finish line in Miani, USA (Photo by Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race)

PUMA Ocean Racing Crosses the Leg 6 Finish line in Miani, USA (Photo by Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race)

It’s the fourth time in six legs that PUMA have finished on the podium, and they pick up an invaluable 30 points for the leg win to take their overall tally to 147.

CAMPER will be awarded 25 points for second place, their best result in the offshore series since Leg 2 from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi when they finished second behind Team Telefónica.

“It’s been a long leg and PUMA have sailed very nicely, they have defended very well, but I think we have attacked well too,” CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson said as his team closed in on the finish line. “I’m pretty happy with how it’s gone. We’re in better shape now for the next leg.”

Both teams will close the gap on overall leaders Telefónica, who were still scrapping it out for the final podium position with Groupama sailing team.

The current ETA for the arrival of Groupama and Telefónica is 0300 UTC, with fifth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing expected to arrive at 0800 UTC.

 

eg 6
09/05/2012 18:23:56 UTC
DTL DTLC BS DTF
1 PUMA FIN 017d 01h 13m 59s
2 CMPR 0.00 7 12 9.2
3 GPMA 55.20 9 16 64.4
4 TELE 65.10 9 15 74.3
5 ADOR 135.70 9 14 144.9
SNYA Did Not Start
Franck Cammas and Groupama 4 Crew win Brazil In-Port (Photo by Yann Zedda)

Franck Cammas and Groupama 4 Crew win Brazil In-Port (Photo by Yann Zedda)

A confused start and a mistake by the Spanish leader marked this sixth In-Port race in Brazil! And despite pressure from the New Zealanders, Franck Cammas and his men controlled the course with flawless assurance… An extremely encouraging result just days after the installation of a new mast and above all a few extra steps closer to first place in the overall standing for Groupama 4.

The weather was stormy and unstable as the Volvo Ocean Race fired up again with the In-Port race off the port of Itajai (Brazil). In rain of varying degrees of intensity, the kick-off was given just a few minutes later than scheduled so as to enable a moderate southerly breeze to move in. The scenario involved around ten knots of breeze and little visibility beneath the squalls, but a very pleasant temperature for racing.

A penalty for the Americans

The start was very untidy: the Americans barged their way through at the Committee boat end, failing to respond to Abu Dhabi’s luff, they in turn having to leave room for Groupama 4, which was powered up in this phase of the course. As such Puma were dealt a 360 degree penalty. However, the damage was done as Franck Cammas and his men found themselves to leeward of Puma and Abu Dhabi, whilst the New Zealanders made the most of this bottleneck to get past everyone to windward. Indeed the start was carried out under spinnaker and getting the upper hand in the initial metres was essential.

Meantime, everyone had forgotten about the Spanish, who got a clear ride to leeward of the start line and when they came in to gybe onto the first course mark, Telefonica on top of Camper and was able to get past by taking their wind. This resulting stalling by the New Zealanders also enabled the Emirati boat and the French boat to take up root on their stern at the first mark, as the breeze was tending to ease. The whole fleet remained bunched, because even the Americans were still in the match thanks to the weakening breeze.
The short beat towards the following mark favoured a position to windward of any rivals and once again the Spanish made the best of the edge they had and were first to hunt down mark 2. Groupama 4 made the most of this manoeuvre to cover the New Zealanders thanks to a perfect change of tack on their bow! Franck Cammas thus snatched second place behind Telefonica as they were about to begin a long reaching leg, still in around ten knots of breeze.
A fatal error!

Itajai In-Port - Groupama 4 © Yvan Zedda

Itajai In-Port - Groupama 4 © Yvan Zedda

The surprise came when the Spanish leaders began to make for the wrong mark under spinnaker, whilst the rest of the fleet continued along on a reach! Groupama 4 moved up into the lead at that point and made a dive towards the next mark under spinnaker. The hierarchy appeared favourable with Camper conceding a few metres, Puma and Abu Dhabi around a hundred metres further back… and Telefonica a leg down. As they rounded the leeward mark, the breeze fell away to less than six knots and the beat was shaping up to be extremely tense. Groupama 4 benefited from a good wind shift whilst Camper, forced to get clear of the dirty air left by the French boat’s sails, headed off to the wrong side of the racecourse.
Remaining focused in this fluky breeze wasn’t easy, but Groupama 4’s tactician, Laurent Pagès, perfectly controlled the New Zealanders, preventing them from taking the initiative as the Kiwi boat was at ease in these light upwind conditions. The battle behind them was just as fierce between Abu Dhabi and Puma, though the Emirati boat didn’t manage to overtake the American boat which, in turn, was putting pressure on Camper! By that stage, all Franck Cammas and his men had to do was to put in one last gybe before the finish line. Groupama 4 went on to win her first In-Port race with a 48-second lead over Camper and 1’05 ahead of Puma. Most importantly the French team secured some very important points for the final standing since the Spanish leaders finished last…

Quotes from the boat

Laurent Pagès, tactician on Groupama 4:

“It was an intense race! Added to that, we got a surprise at the start because the south-easterly wind kicked back in very quickly: we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare ourselves and visualise the right place on the start line correctly. However, we weren’t far off performing a very good start in contact with the other boats. After that you had to remain lucid as regards what the wind was doing, as it was oscillating a fair bit, and we had to make sure we didn’t fluff the manoeuvre. We were lucky to be in a position to benefit from the mistake made by Telefonica as they were leading the race at that point. Obviously the direction they were taking threw our crew into doubt but the answer came very simply thanks to Charles Caudrelier. We noted that we were making fast headway upwind and we were always striving to stick to the inside track to round the marks. We ended up by securing a win, but above all gained four points on the Spanish leader in the overall standing! It’s important for the results in Galway… However, it’s also a psychological bonus: we’ve kept up this dynamic since Abu Dhabi so we just have to continue in the same vein.”

Franck Cammas, skipper of Groupama 4:

“It’s a great surprise: we weren’t expecting to be in front in this type of race. We were lucky, but we’ve also made a lot of progress in this format. Added to that, luck smiles on the daring: we were in the thick of the action from the first course mark. We were at ease in all the phases of the game, with a new genoa which gave us good speed upwind. We’ve also got a better handle on these close-contact races now, which is enabling us to build up our game without having to worry too much about our rivals. Even under spinnaker we found some deeper angles without having to follow the other boats. Winning an In-Port race after a dismasting is obviously a point in our favour, even though there’s nothing like the final offshore exercise to really test our reliability. And it’s good for morale too…”

Standing in the In-Port race in Itajai:

1-Groupama 4 in 46’27 = 6 points
2-Camper 48” astern = 5 points
3-Puma 1’05 astern = 4 points
4-Abu Dhabi 1’33 astern = 3 points
5-Telefonica 5’40 astern = 2 points
DNS-Sanya = 0 point

Overall standing after five offshore legs and six In-Port races:

1-Telefonica (Iker Martinez) : 1+30+6+29+2+27+6+20+1+25+2 = 149 points
2-Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas) : 2+20+2+18+5+24+2+30+4+20+6 = 133 points
3-Camper (Chris Nicholson) : 4+25+5+24+4+18+3+15+6+15+5 = 124 points
4-Puma (Ken Read) : 5+0+4+19+3+17+5+25+5+30+4 = 117 points
5-Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker) : 6+0+3+10+6+14+4+10+2+0+3 = 58 points
6-Sanya (Mike Sanderson) : 3+0+1+5+2+5+1+5+3+0+0 = 25 points

Itajai In-Port - Groupama 4 © Yvan Zedda

Itajai In-Port - Groupama 4 © Yvan Zedda

PUMA Ocean Racing's Mar Mostro (Photo by George Bekris)

PUMA Ocean Racing's Mar Mostro (Photo by George Bekris)

PUMA held firm in the face of a relentless attack from Telefónica to clinch an epic Leg 5 victory on Friday, crossing the finish line in Itajaí, Brazil with a winning margin of just 12 minutes after the Spanish team had threatened to complete one of the great sporting comebacks.

After more then 7,500 nautical miles of racing from Auckland, starting with a first-night battering as bad as any in the race’s history and on through brutal conditions in the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn, PUMA’s Mar Mostro finished in brilliant sunshine at 19:09:51 UTC.

Telefónica, who had been a constant threat to them, followed her in at 19:22:29 UTC for a second place that strengthens their position as overall leaders with five of nine offshore legs now complete.

Both boats were roared home by dozens of spectator boats and thousands of fans lining every possible viewing position on the way in.

Team Telefonica, skippered by Iker Martinez from Spain, as they chase PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, skippered by Ken Read from the USA, in the final miles of leg 5 from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil, in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. ( Photo by  IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

Team Telefonica, skippered by Iker Martinez from Spain, as they chase PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, skippered by Ken Read from the USA, in the final miles of leg 5 from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil, in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

It was an extraordinary finish to the battle for first place in a leg that saw five of the six boats forced to stop for repairs.

Telefónica were 400 nm behind the leaders when they resumed racing following a pit stop to work on structural damage to their boat. They quickly began to reduce that gap and when Groupama sailing team were forced out following a dismasting they were suddenly in a two-way battle for first.

Volvo Ocean Race stop over Itajai, Brazil, April 2012 (Photo by PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race)

Volvo Ocean Race stop over Itajai, Brazil, April 2012 (Photo by PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race)

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG score 30 points for their win, taking their total to 113 points. It means they are just 34 points behind overall leaders Team Telefónica, despite having been forced to retire from Leg 1 because of a broken mast.

Groupama will reduce the Telefónica lead to 20 points if they complete the leg in third place under jury rig, as planned.

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, currently carrying out repairs in Puerto Montt in Chile, can get back to within 28 points if they complete the leg in fourth.

As it became clear that PUMA were doing enough to hold off Telefónica, the team’s Media Crew Member Amory Ross handed out chocolate treats to the crew, before skipper Ken Read took back the helm to take his team over the finish line.

Volvo Ocean Race stop over Itajai, Brazil, April 2012 (Photo by PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race)

Volvo Ocean Race stop over Itajai, Brazil, April 2012 (Photo by PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race)

“We’ve never seen such an amazing welcome,” said an overwhelmed looking Read, who took time to sympathise with his five rivals and their problems over the course of the leg.

“I’ve never done such a tough offshore leg in my life. It’s been pretty intense. Our hearts go out to the crews who have suffered damage. We know what that’s like and it’s even worse when it’s in a place like the Southern Ocean.”

Telefónica had been written off after suspending racing for 17 hours for structural repairs inside the Cabo de Hornos National Park on March 31. The team resumed racing at 2133 that same day, more than 400 nm behind the leaders.

Nevertheless, a powerful South Atlantic front that rose from the south propelled Telefónica to within striking range of PUMA within days. Anxiety levels were rising on board PUMA, even after Groupama’s dismasting on April 4, but Read’s men were able to steel their nerves in a long match-race to the finish line for their first leg victory in this edition.

 

PUMA have had a steady rise since the devastating blow of their broken mast on Leg 1. In the past four scoring events PUMA have finished second three times and now first, with real momentum with the American-based team as they head towards Leg 6 to Miami in the United States.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will ship their boat to Itajaí for Leg 6, while Sanya will rejoin the race in Miami after losing a rudder while leading earlier on Leg 5.

PU
Leg 5
06/04/2012 19:48:37 UTC
DTL    DTLC    BS    DTF
1            PUMA    FIN    019d   18h 09m 50s
2            TELE    FIN      019d   18h 22m 29s
–            CAMP    Suspended Racing
–            GPMA    Suspended Racing
–            ADOR    Did Not Finish
–            SNYA    Did Not Finish

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Mike Sanderson and Team Sanya Lead the Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Auckland, New Zealand at the start of leg 5 ( Photo by Paul Todd / Volvo Ocean Race )

Mike Sanderson and Team Sanya Lead the Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Auckland, New Zealand at the start of leg 5 ( Photo by Paul Todd / Volvo Ocean Race )

Team Sanya led the fleet out of Auckland and into a likely battering from the weather en route to the Southern Ocean, as Leg 5 to Itajaí got underway with the second half of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 completely open.

Auckland skipper Mike Sanderson enjoyed a dream start to the leg as his underdog Sanya outfit led the fleet around the inshore course on his home waters.

Sanya smoked their five rivals off the start line, enjoying better breeze in a commanding position to round the first mark ahead of Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG followed them around the televised section, followed by Team Telefónica, CAMPER with Emirates Team Zealand and Groupama sailing team.

Puma Ocean Racing bowmen during leg 5 start  Volvo Ocean Race stop over Auckland, New Zealand, March 2012 (Photo by Paul Todd / Volvo Ocean Race )

Puma Ocean Racing bowmen during leg 5 start Volvo Ocean Race stop over Auckland, New Zealand, March 2012 (Photo by Paul Todd / Volvo Ocean Race )

With 6,700 nautical miles of ocean racing ahead of them, no team will be placing any significance on the leaving positions, especially with such a trial by the elements in prospect.

According to race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante a low pressure system to the north east of Auckland is set to intensify as it moves towards the colder waters of the Southern Ocean.

“It’s a heat machine right now,” Infante said. “As it interacts with the cooler air off New Zealand it could generate some big winds — 30 knots up to maybe even 50 or 60 knots.”

PUMA skipper Ken Read said keeping the boat and the crew in one piece was the top priority, with gales likely in the first few days.

Read added: “It’s going to be boat-breaking and person-breaking weather, and I think the smart will prevail.”

As the leg goes on, the fleet will sail through the notorious Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties where the winds consistently blow above 40 knots and conditions are more than capable of breaking boats.

Team Abu Dhabi at leg 5 start Volvo Ocean Race stop over Auckland, New Zealand, March 2012 (Photo by Paul Todd / Volvo Ocean Race)by Paul Todd

Team Abu Dhabi at leg 5 start by Paul Todd

Three new sailors have been added to the crew lists in Auckland. Anthony Nossiter from Australia is joining Abu Dhabi to replace the outgoing Justin Ferris, while just for this leg Finnish Olympic gold medal winner Thomas Johanson takes over from injured Kelvin Harrap on PUMA and Danish Olympic gold medallist Martin Kirketerp steps in on Sanya for Ryan Houston who has a kidney infection.

 

With the weather forecast to batter the fleet in the opening day of the leg, it will be a baptism of fire for the new crewmembers.

“Right now all our focus is on the weather forecast, which looks absolutely diabolical for the first 36 hours,” said Ian Walker, skipper of fifth-placed Abu Dhabi. “We just have to prepare our boat and our people as best we can.”

Groupama Sailing Team, skippered by Franck Cammas from France in tough conditions, at the start of leg 5 from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. ( Photo by Paul Todd / Volvo Ocean Race )

Groupama Sailing Team, skippered by Franck Cammas from France in tough conditions, at the start of leg 5 from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 ( Photo by Paul Todd / Volvo Ocean Race ).

Despite having three leg wins and two in-port victories under their belt, Iker Martínez’s Team Telefónica sit just 15 points clear at the top of the overall leaderboard, with less than 40 points separating the top four boats and fifth-placed Abu Dhabi still determined to fight their way back into the reckoning.

And as the 39,000 nautical mile race hits its mid-point with Leg 5 to Itajaí in Brazil, with more than half the points still to be awarded, it is anyone’s to win.

“The door has always been open for any team to win,” Martínez said. “The teams are very close and there will be some more boats winning legs for sure.”

Bowman Daryl Wislang from New Zealand onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, skippered by Chris Nicholson from Australia, leading the fleet during the Auckland In-Port Race, in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by Ian Roman / Volvo Ocean Race)

Bowman Daryl Wislang from New Zealand onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, skippered by Chris Nicholson from Australia, leading the fleet during the Auckland In-Port Race, in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by Ian Roman / Volvo Ocean Race)

CAMPER, currently ranked third overall behind Telefónica and Groupama, started the leg riding the high of victory on home waters in Saturday’s In-Port Race.

And with just 18 points separating them from the leaders, skipper Chris Nicholson said his team were still very much in the race.

“It’s still well and truly game on,” he said. “I see the future for the overall podium results for this leg as wide open — as wide open now as they were in Alicante.”

“I’ve been watching this race since 1981 and never before got this far and not really known what’s going to happen going forward,” added Sanderson whose sixth-placed Sanya are showing their best form of the race.

After second place finishes in Leg 4 and the Auckland In-Port Race, PUMA are also on a roll – but skipper Ken Read, who skippered PUMA to third place in the Southern Ocean leg of the 2008-09 event, said keeping the boat and the crew in one piece was the top priority.

“Quite frankly this is not a leg to be talking about wins and losses right now,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to talk tough but the reality is this is not the most hospitable part of the world and we have to make sure we’re smart.”

Leg 5 is expected to take around 18 days to complete.

Team Telefonica, skippered by Iker Martinez from Spain, at the start of leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Photo by Marc Bow / Volvo Ocean Race)

Team Telefonica, skippered by Iker Martinez from Spain, at the start of leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Photo by Marc Bow / Volvo Ocean Race)

 

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, skippered by Ken Read from the USA, closing towards the finish of leg 4 in Auckland, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by Ian Roman / Volvo Ocean Race)

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, skippered by Ken Read from the USA, closing towards the finish of leg 4 in Auckland, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo by Ian Roman / Volvo Ocean Race)

 

PUMA CLINCH SECOND PLACE AFTER MIGHTY THREE-WAY TUSSLE

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG won an epic battle for second place on Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Sunday, clinching the runner’s up spot on a rainy morning in Auckland to complete a memorable comeback and secure their first offshore podium place in 2011-12.

Team Telefónica followed them in just under 50 minutes later for third after holding off CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand in a scrap that continued gybe-for-gybe all the way to the finish line.

Just around 93 seconds separated Telefónica, winners of the first three legs, and CAMPER — a tiny margin after a leg that took the teams over 5,220 nautical miles from Sanya in China to the sailing-mad city of Auckland in New Zealand.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing came in just under 34 minutes later for fifth, with Team Sanya the sixth boat in just over 35 minutes after that.

“I don’t really know what we could have done better to improve our position,” said Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker. “We got up to third place at one point. It was disappointing to finish fifth and now it’s time for some downwind sailing.”

Thousands of fans jammed into spectator craft to welcome the boats in and thousands more packed Auckland Viaduct Harbour after a drag race through the churning water completed a fantastic set of arrivals to mark the race’s return to the city after a gap of 10 years.

“My God, I feel good to be in Auckland,” said PUMA’s American skipper Ken Read after the team had received a traditional Maori welcome into the harbour.

“From day one of this leg, ever since we sailed into the South China Sea, it’s been tough. I know that’s what we signed up for but man this was a challenging leg. This result is something we can build on. We just wish we had a couple more weeks to hang around in Auckland.”

While Groupama sailing team were making a triumphant entry into the City of Sails on Saturday night, PUMA were nursing a slim advantage over the pack, with just 40 nautical miles separating the five boats as a tense, tactical race for the best way to play the currents and to avoid wind holes raged through the night.

PUMA managed to protect their lead, coming in at 10:33:47 UTC for a total elapsed time of 20 days 3 hours 57 minutes over the two stages of Leg 4, which began back on February 19 in Sanya, China with a short race around the bay and a delay to keep the fleet from the worst of the conditions in the South China Sea.

Telefónica now lead the overall standings with 121 points despite losing their perfect record offshore. Groupama have 103 points and take over second place from CAMPER, now back in third on 98, with PUMA fourth on 78.

“It’s a really good result,” said Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez. “The level is so high that to get on the podium is very difficult. The teams are so strong.”

CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson was not too downhearted after just failing to overtake Telefónica in a race that was as close as their run in to the finish in the Maldives on Leg 2.

“It was a really close race but we just ran out of runway at the end,” said Nicholson, whose CAMPER team count Auckland as one of their two base ports. “It was the toughest leg so far. Now we’re really tired and we’re just looking forward to being home.”

Sunday’s result confirms that PUMA are back in business after the broken mast that saw them forced to retire from Leg 1, and gave them little time to prepare for Leg 2.

Second place into Auckland marks their first podium finish in an offshore leg and it came courtesy of a terrific comeback.

They started the leg with a 39 minute deficit after being hit by a windless patch while leading on Stage 1 and watching the fleet sail past them. It looked like ill luck was set to stay with them as they were forced on a more and more northerly course.

Their strategy worked, bringing them back in touch with the fleet after days of ever more lonely sailing towards Japan, before Groupama took control in a strong easterly position on day seven.

CAMPER hopes of challenging for the lead suffered a devastating blow when they tore their vital J2 headsail, losing 60 miles to Groupama in the process, and it became increasingly clear that this was all about the race for second.

The three boats behind Groupama stayed neck and neck all the way through to the finish, as behind them Abu Dhabi and Sanya closed the gap significantly.

Sanya, stranded 393 nm off the pace on day 17, were within 30 nm of PUMA by the final morning — not quite close enough to challenge for a podium place but satisfied to have been part of a terrific scrap.

“It’s very cool to be home and to have everyone out supporting us,” said New Zealand native Sanderson. “I couldn’t be any more proud of the leg we sailed. The fact that we kept up with and finished so close to the new boats just shows that we can be competitive.”

Leg 4
11/03/2012 0:57:25 UTC
DTL     DTLC     BS     DTF
1             GPMA     FIN     019d 15h 35m 54s
2             PUMA     FIN     020d 03h 57m 50s
3             TELE     FIN     020d 04h 45m 22s
4             CMPR     FIN     020d 04h 46m 55s
5             ADOR     FIN     020d 05h 20m 35s
6             SNYA     FIN     020d 05h 55m 43s
Overall         Leg 4     Total
1             Team Telefónica     20     121
2             Groupama Sailing Team     30     103
3             CAMPER with Emirates Team NZ     15     98
4             PUMA Ocean Racing by BERG     25     78
5             Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing     10     53
6             Team Sanya     5     22

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by  Amory Ross / PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Amory Ross / PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)