A hard night is in store for the six boat fleet as they suffer light headwinds surrounding the Azores island of São Miguel, which they must round before pointing their bows towards France.
At 1900 GMT Groupama were just 0.1 nautical miles (nm) ahead, having maintained their tenuous lead over hard-pushing Telefónica, while PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, 2.9 nm behind, complete the leading trio of sisterships. No one is giving an inch in what is turning into a battle of epic proportions.
“So far the three of us have been glued to each other for the entire race. It’s no wonder that three nearly identical boats are on top of each other,” said PUMA skipper Ken Read.
The leaders should be free of the high pressure by Wednesday morning, but tonight the wind had eased considerably and speeds had dropped accordingly.
Groupama are the northernmost boat in the fleet, making 9.4 knots, with Telefónica on her starboard hip and PUMA just shy of two miles to leeward.
The southerly group of CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, Abu Dhabi and Sanya are just as closely bunched -- just 12.9 nm separate Groupama in first place from Sanya in sixth position, with 1232 nm to go to the leg finish in Lorient.
Read believes the leg will be won or lost after the turning mark where the fleet will meet an aggressive North Atlantic depression.
“It’s a question of who can deal with the big breeze best and who can avoid breaking in the meantime,” he said.
PUMA’s Mar Mostro has performed well on windy downwind stretches and Read said he would not bet against his team pulling off another leg win to make a hat trick of first places.
However, he also said, “I’m not sure I’d lay every dollar down for us either at the moment. There’s a bunch of good boats out there and it’s hard to pick them on any given day”.
The fleet are expected to round the Azores turning mark in the early hours of June 13 on thier way to a Lorient finish at the weekend.
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