[VIDEO] Franck Cammas and Groupama Victorious in Itajai

Things change quickly in Itajai.

During departure, the wind was practically nonexistent, the sun was shining, and the teams were confident. In a race as close as this one, every point is vital. However, with ten minutes until the start, the clouds rolled in and the wind picked up, turning a sunny Brazilian day into a wet and windy affair that would require crews to be on their top game.

At the start, it was apparent that it would be a hard fought circuit. PUMA caught a penalty right off the line, as the judges asserted that they, the windward boat had fouled the leeward boat, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, by heading down when they had no rights. PUMA did their penalty turn, but Ken Read was none too pleased. Speaking after the race had concluded, Read initially joked that he needed to start “buying the judges more champagne,” but eventually became serious. “[The] way I look at it is Abu Dhabi was 15 boat lengths clear astern, gun goes off and they have to bear off, they have to go to proper course. I don’t know what the judges are going to say. It’s not windward leeward, I don’t know, I gotta go talk to them, I have to see what they’re seeing, cos right now we’re not seeing the same thing.”

After the boats were off, it became clear who intended to dominate the race. Telefonica reached the top turning mark clear ahead, followed by the fleet. PUMA brought up the rear, but was less than 30 seconds behind the leaders, and in no way out of the race. At the second mark, it was again Telefonica who held top spot, but PUMA had gained a boat and was now in fourth, behind Telefonica, Groupama, and CAMPER.

At mark number three, things became undone. Iker Martinez, Telefonica skipper, mistakenly rounded the wrong mark and sailed the wrong direction for several hundred meters at least, before backtracking in order to round the proper mark. That gave Groupama control, and the French boat shot ahead into first, aided by the shortening of the course due to wind conditions.

With Telefonica chafing at the back of the fleet, it was Groupama who secured a first place, six-point victory. CAMPER ETNZ finished second, gaining five points, and it was Ken Read and the Americans who made the comeback to round out the top three. Abu Dhabi placed fourth, and unfortunate Telefonica placed fifth.

It’s become a battle between the top four boats, with just 39 points separating fourth-place PUMA and leader Telefonica, and even less separating Groupama and Telefonica as well as Groupama and CAMPER.

Tomorrow begins the homecoming tour for American team PUMA as the fleet heads to Miami. Coverage begins at 2:00 PM EDT / 11:00 AM PDT.

Header photo by Ian Roman / Volvo Ocean Race. Gallery photos by Paul Todd / Volvo Ocean Race.

Team Telefónica
Groupama sailing team
CAMPER with Emirates Team NZ
PUMA Ocean Racing by BERG
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
Team Sanya