A bearded and beaming PUMA skipper Ken Read enjoyed a glorious homecoming and a second consecutive leg win on Wednesday after an intense match race with close rivals CAMPER that has thrown the overall race wide open.
The American Read and his crew, wearing shorts and T-shirts, crossed the Miami finish line at 1414 local time, 1814 UTC, with a lead of around five nautical miles over CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, who gave them a real scare over a fraught final 24 hours and at one point closed to within just 0.6 nm.
CAMPER crossed the finish line for second place just over an hour later, at 19:21:25 UTC, but to far less pleasant conditions, with a thunderstorm that arrived at just about the same time forcing the crew into foul weather gear for the final miles and indoors for their welcoming reception.
Groupama later came home in third after fending off fourth-placed Telefónica in another tense match race, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing eventually joining them in fifth place.
Those results left the top four on the overall leaderboard separated by just 17 points, while confirming that PUMA are right back in contention.
With six of nine offshore legs now complete, Telefónica lead with 164 points, followed by Groupama on 153, CAMPER on 149 and PUMA on 147.
PUMA’s valiant defence of their long-held lead, which they lost just briefly to CAMPER early in the 4,800 nm race from Itajaí, Brazil, has seen confidence surging among Read and his team.
“This is unbelievable,’’ a heavily bearded Read said just minutes after crossing the line in the company of about 100 spectator boats who had followed their triumphant arrival. “It's great to be back in the United States, actually we've been to Miami before in this boat, so this marks our complete circumnavigation.
“It was touch and go, the guys on CAMPER sailed very well, but I couldn't be more proud of our team, they did an unbelievably great job.”
It is the fourth podium finish in six legs for PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG and confirms a major fightback since the team’s devastating retirement from Leg 1 with a broken mast.
CAMPER's second place earned them 25 points and skipper Chris Nicholson complimented his competitors on a hard fought victory against his team who are gaining form ahead of Leg 7.
"It's been a long leg and PUMA have sailed very nicely, they have defended very well, but I think we have attacked well too,’’ he said. “I'm pretty happy with how it's gone. We're in better shape now for the next leg.”
- 31 May 2012Race lead in the balance on nerve-racking final miles
- 20 May 2012Top four compressed ahead of transatlantic leg start
- 18 May 2012Four in-ports, three legs, too close to call
- 8 May 2012CAMPER keep up pressure, Groupama play cat and mouse
- 5 May 2012All bets off in final 1,000 miles
- 22 Apr 2012Everything to play for on way to Miami