[VIDEO] Groupama Speeds Up, PUMA Falls Off

Groupama sailing team have pulled out a huge advantage over PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG after Ken Read’s second-placed team twice fell foul of wind holes which dropped their speed to less than a knot.

At 1900 UTC Franck Cammas’ crew had extended their lead to 138.2 nautical miles over PUMA, who were nursing an advantage of less than 20 nm over third-placed Team Telefónica.

Groupama were the first boat into stronger steadier trade winds on Wednesday, enabling them to create a much needed safety margin which bowman Brad Marsh believes could come in handy before the finish when the weather scenario could be very different.

“Our aim right now is to keep a buffer on the guys behind us and hopefully if things go wrong we have enough to hold them back,’’ he said.

“If the weather system changes, like with the system that is sort of threatening to develop behind us, then it’s easy to get all the boats scattered across the ocean.

“That creates a chance for someone like Telefónica or PUMA or CAMPER to make a rather large gain with a new weather system coming in from behind us. That’s the risk we have at the moment,” Marsh said.

According to race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante a 24 hour drag-race south is on the cards before the fleet turn towards New Zealand’s North Cape and slug it out against the wind to the finish in Auckland.

Infante says the final days of Leg 4 are unlikely to be straightforward as a low-pressure system lurking over Fiji could mean a major headache for the fleet’s navigators.

“An eastern course runs the risk of falling foul of the low’s light winds but reduces the anticipated upwind sailing to the finish, while a more western course means faster angles but sailing a greater distance against the wind,” Infante explained.

Fourth placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand navigator Will Oxley has plumped for the more westerly option and reckons the rest of the fleet will have to get closer to CAMPER’s track to avoid the low pressure.

“It looks like there’s low above New Zealand,” he said. “To the west of that low extends a finger of quite low air, so the boats in the east will end up having to come down to our line to get around that and we hope to see some compression at that point.”

Oxley also hopes the western route could help them equal the reaching pace of Groupama, PUMA and Telefónica — all three Juan Kouyoumdjian designs.

“I don’t think there’s any secret in the fact that this sort of reaching is not our strong point against the three Juan K boats,’’ he said. “It’s very hard for us to go the same speed in equal conditions, so we hope that we have a little more lifting breeze being a little more west than them which enables us to match their speed.”

Fifth placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker still believes the Emirati team have plenty to play for before the finish of Leg 4.

“After sailing so well and pushing hard to get into third we now find ourselves in fifth, but hopefully with a shot still at CAMPER,’’ Walker said. “We have just made a nice gain back at them and so maybe we still have a chance to convert our easterly position into gains.

The first boat is currently expected to arrive in Auckland on March 10 around 1000 UTC.

Report time: Wed, 07 Mar 2012, 1:04:21 UTC

Pos Team
DTL
(Nm)
DTLC
(Nm)
Speed
(KTS)
DTF
(Nm)
1
GPMA GPMA
0.00
0

13.3
874.5
2
PUMA PUMA
119.90
10

16.8
994.3
3
TELE TELE
145.00
3

14.4
1019.5
4
CMPR CMPR
199.80
7

15.2
1074.3
5
ADOR ADOR
286.80
28

7
1161.2
6
SNYA SNYA
379.80
6

15.3
1254.3

Text via Volvo Ocean Race. Photo by Yann Riou / Groupama / Volvo Ocean Race.

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