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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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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
Biggest gust of the day sees Team Aberdeen Singapore plough into the back of Groupama sailing team !
Alinghi dominates the racing in a way rarely seen on this event, but The Wave, Muscat win half the days races, chasing them hard in second.
Groupama expecting to be back on the racetrack tomorrow – update on Team Aberdeen Singapore to follow in the next two hours.
The penultimate days racing in Singapore delivered possibly one of the most dramatic moments in the eight-year history of Extreme Sailing Series™. In winds that were varying from 5 to 23 knots across the racecourse, Team Aberdeen Singapore caught one of the biggest gusts of the day as they came into the finish line struggling to hold off the pace and ploughing into the back of France’s Groupama sailing team. The Extreme 40 pitlane, built on part of Singapore’s F1 track, is busy tonight with Groupama fully expecting to be back on the racetrack with a new mast. However, the damage assessment is not yet complete on Team Aberdeen Singapore. A full update will be available within the next two hours.
Groupama sailing team skipper, Franck Cammas, explained what happened: “We had big gusts and as we were finishing a gybe we saw Aberdeen come really fast from behind and that’s the moment when they came over us breaking the mast. Besides the broken mast the damage is not too serious and it is mainly on the mast, the mainsail, the jib and a hole on the trampoline so I think we will be able to race tomorrow with another mast. Tanguy Cariou is the only crew member hurt but it’s only superficial injuries. He was in the middle of the trampoline where the boat fell, which was the worst spot. Three crew members jumped off the boat. It’s the risk of racing. What is tricky here is that the wind is quite strong and very gusty which is difficult to anticipate. It’s not easy.”
Six races were sailed that saw Leigh McMillan’s team The Wave, Muscat up their game, winning 50% of the days races, and locking their sights on current event leaders, Alinghi. “Everything is going so fast, as you can see from the shore with the few clashes out there, and it’s all about improving communication,” commented McMillan. “The dynamics on the boat every race, every day, is coming together very nicely. It’s a great performance and we’re happy that we’re putting in good results. We’re fighting for podium spot, which is exactly where we want to be. We want to keep doing the same thing, finding how to work as a team. Overall great performance from everyone today and we’ll keep going to get that spot.”
Alinghi will lead the fleet going into the final day, having sat in pole position since race nine, but despite a 31-point cushion at the top of the leaderboard, helm Morgan Larson is all to aware how quickly things can change on the Stadium Racecourse. “We’re never fully confident with sailors of this calibre! But we’re happy with the way we’re sailing right now. It was a magical day. We put ourselves in a few risky situations and nearly collided with Emirates Team New Zealand but the guys did an amazing job on our boat and let the sails out to try and keep behind, flying our hull right over. That is the kind of teamwork that has gotten us where we are and we hope that tomorrow we can keep sailing this way and stay out of trouble.”
Team Aberdeen Singapore are currently assessing the damage, and a full update as to whether they will be back on the racetrack tomorrow will be available at approximately 2200 local time in Singapore.
Extreme Sailing Series™ 2014 Act 1, Singapore standings after Day 3, 21 races (22.02.14)
Position / Team / Points
1st Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 163 points.
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 132 points.
3rd Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bruno Barbarin, Thierry Wassem, Sebastien Stephant 130 points.
4th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Nick Blackman, Haylee Outteridge 117 points.
5th Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker, Glenn Ashby, James Dagg, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 117 points.
6th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Sophie de Turckheim, Tanguy Cariou, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan 104 points.
7th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Goodison, Pippa Wilson, Matt Cornwell 103 points.
8th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Peter Wibroe, Nicolai Sehested 95 points.
9th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Paul Campbell-James, Alister Richardson, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 89 points.
10th Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Tom Johnson, Will Howden, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 88 points.
11th GAC Pindar (AUS) Seve Jarvin, Troy Tindill, Ed Smyth, Sam Newton, Alexandra South 49 points.
12th Team Aberdeen Singapore (SIN) Nick Moloney, Adam Beashel, Scott Glen Sydney, Tom Dawson, Justin Wong 47 points.
For the second year running, a first since the creation of this title awarded by the French Sailing Federation for the past 12 years, Franck Cammas, the skipper of Groupama, has been voted Sailor of the Year.
Up against the winner of the Vendée Globe, who was the favourite to take the award, the skipper of Groupama won it by a fairly large majority after a particularly impressive 2013 season. French Champion of Match Racing, Offshore Racing and Olympic Sailing, not to mention a victory in the Tour de France à la Voile and the World C-Class Championship, Franck and his Groupama sailing team have once again made a clean sweep of the prizes.And yet, once again, the competition for this title was formidable:
– Francois Gabart, winner of the Vendée Globe
– Yann Eliès, double winner of the Solitaire du Figaro
– Billy Besson and Marie Riou, World Nacra 17 Champions
– Antoine Albeau, World Windsurfing Champion
– Bruno Jourdren, Eric Flageul and Nicolas Vimont-Vicary, World Disabled Sonar Champions.
But there we have it, as some were saying last night, ultimately, when there’s a competition, it’s always Cammas who wins! Questioned after the results were declared, the skipper of Groupama gave his verdict with the familiar simplicity we have become accustomed to during what will soon be 17 years:”It’s a massive surprise because in my view there are sailors here who have incredible achievements this year. This award comes as the result of a great deal of work and a team which is firmly in place. We have proven how quickly we can respond to switching from offshore racing to disciplines that are completely new to us. I hope that we will go further as we’ve witnessed some very, very fine images, which thrilled us all a few weeks ago in San Francisco. We’ve seen that the French were in a position to secure what is the toughest trophy in the world to win. We would very much like them all with us in the same team and show that in France, we too can do incredible things on the international stage.”
Sailor of the year 2013, Franck came close to securing another win for his team as the Groupama Research Department was nominated in the category for “Prix de la haute technologie” (High Technology Prize) awarded by the French Nautical Industries Federation, for the remarkable performance put up by Groupama C, winner of the Little America’s Cup back in September. In the end though it was the French engineers and researchers from Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup who took the prize.
Despite all that, hearty congratulations go to the superb team made up of Loïc Dorez, Pierre Tissier, Olivier Mainguy, Stéphane Chatel, Marine Villard, Martin Fisher, Gautier Sergent, Denis Glehen, Benjamin Muyl and Guillaume Verdier.Congratulations also extend to all the crew members who have sailed with Franck this year:
Sophie de Turckheim, Louis Viat, Tanguy Cariou, Erwan Israël, Fabien Henry, Arnaud Jarlegan, Devan Le Bihan, Malo Bessec, Matthieu di Russo, Christophe André, Stéphane Guilbaud, Julien Villion, Maxime Paul, Charles Caudrelier, Yann Riou and Guillaume Le Tuaud.
See you in 2014 for a year that, in sporting terms, will doubtless be extremely busy.
After navigating the first two stretches of water, the English Channel and the North Atlantic, Groupama 34 is dominating this Tour de France à la Voile with a 55-point lead over the second boat. In the past 35 editions of the Tour, it would seem that such a performance has never been matched before. Franck Cammas certainly isn’t letting it be said that he has already won the Tour however. Mathematically, the skipper of Groupama 34 is right, as there are still nearly 2/3 of the points to be distributed in the Mediterranean section of the race. As such, anything is still possible.
Though some observers were beginning to cast some doubt over Groupama sailing team’s ability to win this Tour, the three races contested at Saint Gilles Croix de Vie will have given them a cold shower, with three superb victories secured by Franck and his crew, as Bretagne Crédit Mutuel lament a poor day’s racing.
As has often been the case since the start in Dunkirk, the crew of Groupama 34 got off to some good and not overly risky starts, made fast headway, manoeuvred to perfection and opted for the right tacks with a very inspired Tanguy Cariou calling tactics: “It’s true that we’re very quick in the light airs. The crew is highly focused too”, explains a cheerful Franck Cammas, surprised when he’s asked if he can let some other competitors win sometime. “If we could win everything, we wouldn’t deprive ourselves of it. Don’t think for a minute that it’s easy though. The general level is very high and the results of the races are often uncertain just moments before the finish”.
Surrounded by a superb crew combining experience, youth and above all determination, the skipper of Groupama 34 is also reaping the rewards of excellent preparation and a training programme, which included the team from Dunkirk, skippered by Daniel Souben, who is currently lying in third position some eight points shy of second place.
The only surprise for Franck Cammas is his ranking in the offshore sprints: “I expected us to perform better in the offshore races, which are our speciality”. It should be noted though that they have won 3 out of 6…
Ultimately, of the 36 factors awarded, Groupama 34 has won 20 of them. That equates to the exact same number as those remaining in the Mediterranean stage…
Between now and Saturday however, the skipper is returning to Lorient to get some rest and also to spend some time at Groupama sailing team’s base, where the C-Class catamaran, aboard which he will be contesting the World Championships at the end of September in Falmouth, is in the process of being assembled.
Next meeting on 20 July in Roses, Spain, for the final week of racing in the 36th Tour de France, which will draw to a close in Marseille on 28 July.
Provisional overall ranking in St Gilles Croix de Vie:
1. Groupama 34 with 868 points
2. Bretagne Crédit Mutuel : – 55 points
3. Courrier Dunkerque : – 63 points
4. Sodebo : – 81 points
5. OmanSail : – 99 points
6. TPM : – 177 points
7. Genève : – 187 points
8. Nantes St Nazaire : – 204 points
9. Normandie : – 242 points
10. Martinique BE Brussels : – 272 points
11. Iskareen : – 284 points
12. Bienne Voile : – 329 points
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.
“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).
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
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 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.
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.
A trough of low pressure blocking the fleet’s path brought light winds on Friday and a tactical split in the trio at the front. Leaders PUMA have stuck doggedly to their north easterly course, while CAMPER and Telefónica gybed to the west in search of stronger winds closer to the Caribbean Islands.
By 1200 UTC today Team Telefónica had resumed a northerly track, putting pressure on CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, who must decide to follow suit or press on with a higher risk westerly strategy.
With up to 30 hours of slow sailing likely before the leaders break through into steadier winds, the pressure is well and truly on for the skippers and navigators on the top three boats.
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG navigator Tom Addis said leading into such a scenario was always tricky as it raised the threat of being caught by the boats behind, but was nevertheless confident in the short term strategy.
“A front has come through to the north and disturbed the trade winds so we’ve all compressed again,” Addis said. “It is unfortunate for us but it’s just how it goes.
“It’s hard to say when the breeze will pick up again. We’ve still got about 10 knots of breeze but it’s going to be a good day and a half before we’re into decent breeze again.
“When the wind goes light and you compress, especially for a good solid day, anything can happen. If someone gets a squall and picks up some wind for a few hours that could easily turn the fleet inside out.
“That makes things more tense on board, no question.”
Addis said PUMA’s current plan was to skirt around the eastern side of the Caribbean to avoid the additional threat of wind shadows in the lee of the island chain.
“The next 1,000 miles is going to be pretty light and tricky and it’s going to be ‘heart in the mouth’ stuff for the majority of the rest of the leg,” he said.
“We think we’ve got a solid plan and most likely we’ll go round the outside of the Caribbean islands,” he said. “Through the Caribbean there’s plenty of water but it’s fraught with lees.
“Those islands are very tall and they create big wind shadows so you’ve got to be very careful going through them.”
On second placed CAMPER, Media Crew Member Hamish Hooper said the mood was equally tense with skipper Chris Nicholson and navigator Will Oxley spending long hours together at the navigation station, deliberating on the best plan.
“It is certain to be a nerve-wracking few days for sure,” Hooper said.
“It has been said from the start that this last 1,000 miles will be where the leg is won and lost, and it’s looking about as tricky as tricky can be, with light fickle breezes throughout.
“It’s a maze. One boat will come out looking famous and it could be one of any of the five boats in the fleet.
“Abu Dhabi and Groupama who are still 100 miles behind are still right in this leg and in fact they are in the sometimes enviable position of having nothing to lose, so able to throw caution to the wind and take a gamble.”
Telefónica navigator Andrew Cape described the final push to the finish as “a bit touch and go”.
“There’s going to be a lot of changes, put it that way,” Cape added. “It’s going to be a tricky one. There’s going to be opportunities both ways but certainly the team that gets it right will be the winner.”
Cape said he was happy with the Spanish team’s positioning at this point but said there would be plenty of other key decisions to agonise over before the finish.
“We’re where we wanted to be, but this is the very first stage of about 25 that we need to get right,” he said.
At 1300 UTC PUMA still led the fleet, from CAMPER in second, Team Telefónica in third, Groupama sailing team in fourth and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in fifth.
Latest estimates show the leading boats arriving in Miami on or around midday on May 9.