Main Content

2011-2012

Review


Watch leg 6 documentary in full HD click here

Final Results:

1. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG / 17 days, 01 hour, 13 minutes, 59 seconds / 30 points

2. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand / 17 days, 02 hours, 21 minutes, 24 seconds / 25 points

3. Groupama sailing team / 17 days, 07 hours, 29 minutes, 03 seconds / 20 points

4. Team Telefónica / 17 days, 08 hours, 06 minutes, 38 seconds / 15 points

5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / 17 days, 15 hours, 57 minutes, 37 seconds / 10 points

Did not start leg 6

- Team Sanya / Rudder damage in leg 5 / 0 points *

* Team Sanya retired from Leg 5 and returned to New Zealand. The yacht was then shipped to Savannah for repairs and sailed to Miami to rejoin the race.

Ahead on the leaderboard, behind on the water - the 'mirror image' finishing positions of the main challengers on Leg 6 mean the Volvo Ocean race 2011-12 is impossibly tight with three offshore legs and four in-port races to go.

Almost exactly 17 days after they led coming out of Itajaí in Brazil, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG beat a thunderstorm on the way into Miami by a hair's breadth to make it back-to-back leg wins and take 30 points for first place.

An hour later, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand arrived with the foul weather to claim 25 points for second, before Groupama sailing team won their match race with overall leaders Team Telefónica for third, picking up 20 points to 15 for the Spanish leaders. The next morning, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing arrived in the moonlight for fifth and 10 points, while Team Sanya, unable to take the start, were putting the finishing touches to repairs in Savannah, Georgia and preparing to sail to Miami.

It was the first time Telefónica had failed to finish on the podium in an offshore leg and made their record-equalling three straight legs wins at the start of the race feel just that little more distant.

The combined effect was to leave the top four teams separated by just 17 points -- with Telefónica now leading on 164 points, followed by Groupama on 153, CAMPER on 149 and PUMA on 147.
PUMA led from the start, enjoying the psychological advantage of leading the fleet around the short inshore course and out into the Atlantic.

After an initial ‘bubble bath’ or around 20 knots for the first few hours, conditions settled on the first night to produce fast reaching conditions in flat seas and warm water as the fleet reached up the Brazilian coast.

"Oh my God, what a relief," was the reaction of PUMA skipper Ken Read. "What an incredibly welcome relief and a nice night of sailing it has been."

By the evening of Day 2, the fast reaching conditions had been replaced by lighter southeasterly airs and the fleet split. Going northwest were CAMPER and Abu Dhabi, PUMA took the middle road, while out to the east were Telefónica and Groupama with a lateral separation of 37 nautical miles from the leader boat CAMPER. PUMA were third.

On Day 4 PUMA took the lead from CAMPER and Abu Dhabi, sailing two knots faster. CAMPER took over once again as the fleet picked their way across a cold front, a 50-mile wide area of storms that produced a 180-degree wind shift. The fleet tacked back and forth under the clouds, led by CAMPER with Abu Dhabi just 0.4 nm astern. PUMA was a solid third, 1.9 nm behind.

After becoming becalmed overnight, PUMA led the way out into the fresh new breeze at 0400 GMT on Day 5, with a margin of 13.6 nm over CAMPER with Abu Dhabi in third. The boats made their way north towards the eastern tip of Brazil, with 55 nm separating PUMA in first to Groupama in last place. At 1900 GMT, Telefónica replaced Abu Dhabi as CAMPER’s sparring partner. Groupama were struggling 75 nm astern, mystified why the boat was lacking performance.

The wind died overnight on Day 7, causing considerable compression, but the crews were anything but complacent. Telefónica briefly snatched second place, but by 0700 GMT CAMPER were back in the reserve slot.  Groupama were now 104.30 nm behind. PUMA moved to within 17 nm of the beach, almost directly off the turning point at Recife, covering their position to ensure that no one pulled of a risky attempt at cutting inside and scything miles of the trip.

PUMA passed the Cabo Branco waypoint on the northeast tip of Brazil the following day to lead the way north towards the Equator. The race to the Doldrums at speeds of up to 18 knots was about pure boat speed, and the crews revelled in the trade wind conditions.

By Day 9, it was a marathon match race for second place, with PUMA led 25 nm ahead. Overnight and for several hours, CAMPER and Telefónica raced side-by-side, trading gybes and jibes, 150 nm off the coast of Brazil.  From the front, Read said, “Sailing on a Volvo 70 doesn’t get any easier than this.”

PUMA crossed the Equator at 0840 for the fourth and final time during this race, and made sure to keep King Neptune happy with a drop of rum, after failing on Leg 1 to supply the King with the correct libations, something to which the crew attributed their subsequent dismasting. A big night was in store as the fleet took on the final Doldrums crossing.

The order was PUMA/CAMPER/Telefónica/Abu Dhabi/Groupama, the latter now 151.6 nm astern. “It doesn’t feel good to be trailing the other boats, it’s a completely new feeling” said Martin Stromberg.

On Day 10, black clouds nearly brought down PUMA. It was a long hard night for Ken Read and his men, who had to fight to stay in front. As CAMPER and Telefónica fought against black, wind-sucking clouds in the midst of the Doldrums, PUMA bled miles through the night, their lead of 30 nm eroded painfully to 6.3.

Day 11 dawned and speeds rose to 20 knots as the fleet enjoyed proper champagne sailing for the first time, making a quick passage towards the Windward Islands, and the following day told a similar story as PUMA matched CAMPER in a crazy, wet roller coaster ride as the fleet crashed north in the most exhilarating of sailing. But by Day 13, the breeze had softened, producing the threat of squalls and clouds. It was a tense time for leg leaders PUMA as they traversed a trough. The unstable conditions made PUMA very vulnerable as the leading trio approached the Caribbean island of Antigua.

Tactical decisions had to be made and the leading three all chose different options, leaving the game wide open. PUMA took the high road to the east, looking for a quick exit from the light wind trough. CAMPER, having rounded Barbuda, sailed much closer to the Virgin Islands in search of new breeze, while Telefónica was positioned between the two, with their options wide open. 20.2 nm separated PUMA in first, from Telefónica in third.

Day 14 was a drift off. Glassy conditions and low boat speeds greeted the fleet as they entered the final 1000 nm stretch to the finish. CAMPER took a small window of opportunity and shot through a relatively small and shallow gap between Anguilla and Scrub Island, saving themselves five miles and the leading three compressed the lateral separation from over 100 nm on Day 13 to 25 on Day 14.

Day 15 was an island sprint, with PUMA 32.7 nm ahead of Telefónica who had moved into second. Ken Read and his men left the glass seas and found new breeze overnight midway between the Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands and extended their lead at average speeds of around 17 knots.

By May 7, Day 16, the weather gods had thrown in another band of light air. PUMA led from CAMPER and Telefónica while Groupama and Abu Dhabi were making steady gains and by 1600, Groupama had overhauled Telefónica to take third place. The French, with very little to lose, made a risky move and split round the Turks and Caicos Islands. Abu Dhabi went north and Groupama went south. The move paid off for Groupama.

With just one more tedious night at sea, PUMA led CAMPER by 11.3 nm on Day 17. Groupama in third were 55.20 behind, with Telefónica just 10 miles astern. Abu Dhabi were still over 100 nm in deficit and the leading trio raced towards the turning point at Eleuthera Island Light, 124 nm ahead.

PUMA's lead came under pressure on the final stretch but smart tactical work kept CAMPER at bay.

Download:

- Leg 6 crew list

- Leg 6 start course map

Preview


3,590 nautical miles (4,131 miles, 6,649 kilometres)

The first section of Leg 6 takes the fleet north along the Brazilian coast, past Rio de Janeiro on the way to Recife at the northwest corner of Brazil. From here the boats will cross the Equator as they continue north, passing the Caribbean islands and the Bahamas on their way to the finish in Miami.

The early tactical decision will be whether hugging the coast of Brazil or venturing well offshore will result in the best breeze on the way to Recife. Perceived wisdom here suggests that the crews will need to fully commit to one strategy or the other, as those trying to hedge their bets on the middle ground are unlikely to reap any rewards.

At Recife the fleet faces another decision as they prepare to face the Doldrums yet again. The challenge here is how long to follow the prevailing winds around the north coast of Brazil, and finding the quickest route through the Doldrums. Following the haul north to the course turning point at Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, the boats are likely to face light winds on the final run in to Miami, making crossing the strong northerly-running Gulf Stream a potentially tricky manoeuvre.

While the skippers and navigators will be highly familiar with the tried and tested strategies on this ocean passage, the keys to success are likely to be nerve and timing. Nerve, in terms of how hard to push the boat and crew, and the timing of exactly when to break out of the strong Southern Ocean westerly winds to head north. Get either of these factors wrong and the potential losses will be irrecoverable. Having negotiated the open ocean sections of the leg, the final northerly approach to Itajaí offers the crews little opportunity to relax with Argentina’s River Plate throwing a series high-pressure systems into the fleet’s path.

Download:

- Leg 6 crew list

- Leg 6 start course map

Secondary Content

Scoreboard

LEG 6
TOTAL
1
Groupama sailing team
20
253
2
CAMPER with Emirates Team NZ
25
231
3
PUMA Ocean Racing by BERG
30
226
4
Team Telefónica
15
213
5
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
10
131
6
Team Sanya
0
51

HISTORY