French entry GROUPAMA sailed to their first in-port race victory on a stormy Saturday in Itajaí, Brazil, edging out CAMPER and PUMA in a battle that featured a downwind, protest-filled start in which Telefónica held the lead all the way until they rounded the wrong mark near the end, enabling their rivals to gain in the overall standings.
IAN ROMAN - VOR
PUMA led the way on the 4,800-mile Leg from Brazil to Miami before the fleet separated laterally over a north/south distance of about eighty miles.Armory Ross - PUMA Ocean Racing
A large cold front blocked the path to the trade winds, giving the boats two options: sail a shorter distance by hugging the coast and avoiding the current, or heading straight out to sea on a more direct route to the trades, but where the currents were stronger.Armory Ross - Puma Ocean Racing
CAMPER and Abu Dhabi took the riskier course, sailing close to the coast. Telefónica and GROUPAMA headed directly east toward the trades. And PUMA split the difference in the middle.
After the crash, boom, bang of the last leg, the fluky light wind reaching conditions were a welcome relief for the battered boats and crews.
As large schools of dolphins surfed off their boat wakes, each crew had their share of strange encounters.
Early on in the leg, GROUPAMA thought they were closing in on PUMA only to find out they were stalking a large oil rig.
One night, just off the Brazilian coast, CAMPER and Abu Dhabi had to chaotically tack in the dark around a seismic vessel trailing 25,000 feet of cable.
And on GROUPAMA, media crew member YANN Riou resorted to eating a flying fish after it landed unexpectedly in the cockpit.Yann Riou - GROUPAM Ocean Racing
“I'm not going to pretend that I enjoyed it. Firstly, I don't know how to prepare sashimi, and secondly, flying fish raw without any seasoning isn't really very nice. That said, it's quite pleasant to taste some flesh whose freshness is unquestionable and doesn't need to be rehydrated.”
Cabo Branco, where Brazil bulges way out to the right toward Africa, just north of the bustling cosmopolitan sea port of Recife, was the race's first waypoint. It was the spot where the boats turned the corner, pointed their bows north, hoisted their massive spinnakers, and then rode the moody southeast trade winds and the Brazil Current toward the southern Caribbean. PUMA came around the bend first with CAMPER and Telefónica less than ten miles in their rear view mirror.Hamish Cooper - CAMPER ETNZ
Powering up the Brazilian coast in nearly ideal conditions, it was a three boat match race where one little mistake, one wind hole, or one fisherman's net, could quickly translate into the loss of ten miles and a change in position.
Hamish Hooper on CAMPER described the scene. “We have been stalking PUMA all day and night, gaining a mile here, losing a mile there. We managed to lose sight of Telefónica over the horizon -- the one off the stern for a change... but you know they will just be lurking back there set to come powering back when conditions favour them slightly more. There is definitely a feeling of the hunter being hunted.”
Armory Ross - PUMA Ocean Racing
Armory Ross - PUMA Ocean Racing
PUMA valiantly held her lead position as the boats said goodbye to South America and rode the Caribbean Current north, nearing their final equatorial crossing of the dreaded dead wind doldrums where storm cells dotted the ocean like booby traps.PAUL TODD - PUMA Ocean Racing
With 2,400 miles to go, PUMA punched through the sweltering doldrums and into the steady trade winds a mere three miles ahead of CAMPER and five miles in front of Telefónica, while Abu Dhabi and GROUPAMA match raced 75 miles behind.
The islands of the Caribbean extend from north to south like a big comma, and the southernmost Windward Isles – Grenada, the Grenadines, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia – were the next destination as the boats broad reached in 20-knot winds, zooming along at almost 30 knots and covering over 500 miles a day.
But the free ride ended as the boats were battling it out about 40 miles to the east of Martinique where a pesky North Atlantic low pressure system blocked the trade winds and left the three lead boats scrambling to find the best breeze for mind-numbing days on end.Yann Riou - GROUPAMA Ocean Racing
With 1,000 miles to go CAMPER tacked west toward the Virgin Islands hoping to find stronger winds closer to shore while PUMA stayed the farthest out to sea, and Telefónica hedged their bets by sailing down the middle.
Hamish Cooper - CAMPER ETNZ
Hamish Cooper - CAMPER ETNZ
These Volvo boys are nothing if not a bit crazy as Hamish Cooper aboard CAMPER illustrates.
“Soon after as we passed the Caribbean islands of St Bart’s and St Martin, a small window of opportunity presented itself when the breeze picked up sufficiently … to shoot through a 200 metre gap at 21 knots in six metres of water … right between Anguilla and Scrub Island, saving us around 5 miles going around the typically Caribbean named Dead Man’s Cay at the northern end of the island.”Hamish Cooper - CAMPER ETNZ
As they sailed into the Bermuda Triangle, the boats were running out of food and a Super Moon worked its magic on the Frenchmen on GROUPAMA. Trailing by 80 miles, they decided to take a desperate flier by sailing west and cutting the corner inside the Turks and Caicos Islands. And when they popped out on the other side, they had miraculously slid past Telefónica into third.
The last 350 miles were a match race between PUMA and CAMPER , and Ken Read and the pirate lads aboard the black sea monster Mar Mostro rounded the Eleuthera Island lighthouse at the top of the Bahamas, drifted into some steadier wind , and after seventeen days at sea pulled off a wire-to-wire victory, becoming only the second American skipper to win a leg finishing in the U.S.IAN ROMAN - VOR
Next Stop: Lisbon, PortugalIAN ROMAN - VOR
VOLVO OCEAN RACE SCOREBOARD
Abu Dhabi 68