Groupama threatened to throw the overall race wide open on Monday as they overhauled Team Telefónica for third place on Leg 6 and continued to make gains just as the leaders were coming to a grinding halt.
"We’ve come to a grinding halt unfortunately. There's not a breath of wind" - Mike Pammenter, CAMPER.
While long-term Leg 6 leaders PUMA and second-placed CAMPER were struggling to move at all, Groupama were making 10 knots and by 1900 UTC had closed to within 58 nautical miles of the front.
"We’ve come to a grinding halt unfortunately," said CAMPER's Mike Pammenter. "We made a lot of progress last night when it was supposed to be quite still, but unfortunately it’s all kicked in this morning and there’s not a breath of wind and we’re just flapping around."
"We’ve got 430 miles to go -- hopefully 48 hours if we can get a bit of breeze.
"We just have to work every bit of breeze. At the moment we’re doing one to two knots, which is quite painful really."
Behind the leaders, fifth-placed Abu Dhabi were also finding breeze and were back within 14 nm of Telefónica as the teams looked to pick the best route through the Bahamas, with around 220 nm to go before the final way point at Eluthera.
It will be a nail-biting finale for all concerned, with the Leg 6 outcome set to have huge consequences on the overall race situation.
A second successive leg win for Ken Read's in-form PUMA would move them within reach of overall leaders Telefónica, second-placed CAMPER and third-placed Groupama on the overall scoreboard -- but victory is far from assured.
As it currently stands, Team Telefónica lead overall by 16 points from Groupama sailing team. CAMPER are nine points further back and PUMA are a total of 32 points off the pace.
The winners of each of the remaining four offshore legs will pick up 30 points, with 25 for second, 20 for third and so on down to five points for sixth. The four remaining in-port races deliver six points for the winners, with five for second, four for third down to one point for sixth.
Telefónica's primary goal on Leg 6 into Miami is to finish ahead of Groupama to extend that lead over their closest challengers but they have a lot of work to do if they are to achieve that, with Groupama's decision to dive west inside the Turks and Caicos Islands easing them just ahead of their rivals by the 1000 UTC position report on Monday.
“This option is a bit risky, as we’re moving away from the normal route, but it could also be very valuable,” said Groupama helmsman Charles Caudrelier. “The leaders could get stuck in no wind and this could be our chance to catch up.”
Their speedy comeback has sent shivers down the spines of overall leaders Telefónica, who were desperately trying to get back up to speed after being snared by a wind hole to the east of the fleet.
“Things haven't gone how we wanted them to and we're becalmed, watching the boats we've been scrapping with for so long get away from us,” said Telefónica media crew member Diego Fructuoso.
“On top of that, the boats behind us are getting closer without us being able to do anything about it.
“It's not fair that this happens after so much time and effort but that's what sailing is like and above all races like this. We're still confident in being able to recover but right now there's nothing we can do.”
The first boats are expected to arrive in Miami around 1200 UTC on Wednesday, May 9.
- 5 May 2012Long leg piles pressure on shore crews
- 5 May 2012Abu Dhabi eye comeback, Groupama seek 'magic gust'
- 5 May 2012Status quo returns after CAMPER 'thread the needle' off Anguilla
- 4 May 2012Intuition comes into play in east versus west split
- 4 May 2012Weather trough splits leading pack as CAMPER go west
- 26 Apr 2012PUMA punch through to lead trade wind drag race