With just over 70 per cent of the 39,000 nautical mile round the world course now completed, the final outcome of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 looks likely to go down to the wire.
As the boats left Brazil on the 4,800 nm Leg 6 to Miami in the United States, Team Telefónica had a 16 point advantage over second placed Groupama sailing team. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand lie a further nine points behind in third, just seven points ahead of PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG in fourth.
Before the finish of the race in Galway in July the sailors have almost 11,000 nm of tough offshore racing and four tricky in-port races to go. A maximum 144 points is still up for grabs for any team.
With the offshore legs getting increasingly shorter from now on Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez says there will be a premium on the crews’ close quarter racing techniques.
“We spent some days when we were meant to rest trying to improve because now the legs are going to become more like inshore races,” Martínez said.
"I’m very confident. The boat is even better than it was in New Zealand. We can’t ask for more."
CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson said the crew had been discussing the reducing leg lengths in their team meetings in Brazil but did not plan to adopt a different strategy just yet.
“They certainly do get shorter from here on in,” Nicholson said. “We are talking about a 14-day leg to Miami which is a lot less time than the last one took us.
“I think before you talk about strategies you have to think about the mood in the team and we are all feeling good about things right now. For sure there are a lot of points still on the table and we will be fighting right until the end.
“This race is so close that you never know just what will mean the difference between success and failure. It can be something really small like one wave that you get on that sends you off into another patch of breeze and then another weather system that means you win the leg.”
Having been prevented from finishing two previous legs with boat damage Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing sit in fifth, 91 points off the lead. Team Sanya lie in sixth having retired from the first leg and shipped their boat directly to Miami after pulling out of Leg 5 with a broken rudder.
Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker said after sailing much of the race so far on their own for a variety of reasons he would welcome the chance to mix it with the fleet.
“We haven’t really had the chance to do any of that so far,” Walker said. “I think what we have seen in this race so far is that the boats can get spread very quickly. Even small differences in angle, five or 10 degrees means the boats separate by tens of miles before you know it."
Groupama sailing team skipper Franck Cammas said with four legs and four in-port races still to go it was too early to concentrate on overall positions.
"I think we have to concentrate on out proper track and our overall strategy," Cammas said. "We must not focus too much on the leaderboard, I think. That's not a good game to play before perhaps the last leg to Galway I would say."
PUMA skipper Ken Read said his team were focused solely on the leg ahead of them and expected some pleasant sailing for once after the rigours of the previous leg through the Southern Ocean.
"I don’t want to jinx the fleet but it looks like we could have some really nice sailing," he said before stepping aboard Mar Mostro in Itajaí. "It’s potentially the first leg of this race that we can say that.
"It looks like we might get some downwind sailing out of Itajaí, we might get some nice trade wind sailing, and maybe some consistent wave patterns. It’s great for the boat and great for the team."
- 6 Jul 2012Skippers talk it up ahead of final in-port fight
- 22 May 2012Chasing pack close on Groupama as winds soften
- 20 May 2012Top four compressed ahead of transatlantic leg start
- 13 Apr 2012The big debate - skippers comment on Leg 5 attrition
- 4 Nov 2011Volvo Ocean Race fleet heads for first night ordeal
- 9 Oct 2011Fleet returns with lessons learned