Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were today counting the hours, minutes and seconds until they can get a taste of the sailing conditions which have put huge smiles on the faces of the PUMA crew.
Days of endless upwind sailing through tough seas has taken its toll on Ian Walker’s men as they battle it out in the middle of the pack, while PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG have been revelling in speeds of up to 20 knots after picking up new breeze to the north of the fleet.
“It’s been a real case of snakes and ladders in the last few days,” said Abu Dhabi bowman Justin Slattery.
“We are gaining on some skeds and losing on others. There’ve been some pretty bad clouds too. It’s wearing the guys down for sure. We just want to get out of this part of the world and into the trades but they seem to be eluding us so far.”
Slattery said in the next 24 hours Abu Dhabi hoped to be hitting the north-easterly tradewinds needed to get their Volvo Open 70 Azzam screeching and boost moral on board.
“When we start heading south and we get those blue skies I think it will lift our moods considerably,” he said. “We’re just over this at the moment. We’re beating yet again and we’re used to it now but it’s very slow and monotonous though. We just want to get up, get going and get reaching seeing 20 knots on the dial.”
Meanwhile PUMA have already seen their spirits soar after pulling back more than 180 nautical miles on their rivals in the last day alone. In a bid to claw their way back into contention, Ken Read’s crew took a route past Taiwan and as far north as the Japanese islands in search of a new weather system.
PUMA had closed the gap on frontrunners CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand to less than 70 nautical miles at 1600 UTC and were less than 40nm to the north of Groupama sailing team.
“Sailing up the Taiwan coast for those few days was not easy sailing at all,” PUMA bowman Casey Smith said.
“It was hard on the boat and very hard on the crew with a lot of short tacking and sail changes. It was extreme upwind conditions and everyone was pretty spent after those few days.
“We’ve been reaching now for the last day and a half and the mood has changed drastically. If we get a bit of sunshine now you won’t find a happier boat.”
Smith said PUMA’s plan was to roll over the top of the fleet in better breeze than their rivals – but that they could have a fight on their hands once they reconnect with the likes of CAMPER and Groupama.
“I think in the trades you‘ll see a drag race between all the teams, not just us and Groupama,” he said.
“Once we break into the trades we still have 4,500 miles left to go to Auckland so it’s going to be one great big drag race all the way down there. Groupama are the closest boat to us at the moment, they came out of their bunch really well, and we’re hoping to be in touch with them and give them a ride for their money.”