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Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
Groupama’s rapid advance on closest rivals Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has left Ian Walker’s men looking over their shoulders as they race to recover lost ground in Leg 6.

“It seems hardly possible that this can be true on every position report but that is what has happened" - Ian Walker, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

Fifth-placed French crew Groupama sailing team pulled back 50 miles on their Emirati rivals in the last 24 hours after Abu Dhabi found themselves in less wind than the rest of the fleet.

“The last few days have been mysterious as we seem to be plagued by lighter winds than our rivals,” a frustrated Abu Dhabi skipper Walker said as the gap between the two boats closed to 12 miles.

“It seems hardly possible that this can be true on every position report -- especially as the fleet is all in a line -- but that is what has happened.

“Groupama have been chipping away at our lead over them by bringing in these stronger winds and if we do not stop the losses soon they will be in sight.”

With the leading trio of PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand and Team Telefónica now almost 80 miles in front, helmsman Paul Willcox said their focus had turned to defending fourth position.

“Groupama have us a little freaked out,” he said. “They have been coming back strong over the past few days and continue to have good scheds.

“We definitely have our eye on the horizon behind us.”

Franck Cammas’ team, currently in second on the overall leaderboard, have struggled to find pace since the start of the 4,800-mile leg from Itajaí to Miami 10 days ago.

However, one team’s loss is another team’s gain, and Groupama’s advances on Abu Dhabi have provided a timely boost.

“Our deficit in relation to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has considerably reduced,” Groupama’s media man Yann Riou said.

“That comes as a source of motivation over the short term, knowing that one of the boats is almost within reach.”

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Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race

Justin Slattery showing his disappointment in missing yet another rain cloud to shower. Onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA.

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Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race

Crai Satterthwaite approaches the bow to help Wade Morgan onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA.

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Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race

Approching the doldrums at sunset onboard Groupama Sailing Team during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA.

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Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race

Thomas Coville and Erwan Israel on deck looking at the clouds onboard Groupama Sailing Team during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA.