Main Content

2011-2012

Review


Watch leg 8 documentary in full HD click here.

Final results:

1. Groupama sailing team / 4 days, 23 hours, 31 minutes, 02 seconds / 30 points

2. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand / 5 days, 0 hours, 30 minutes, 09 seconds / 25 points

3. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG / 5 days, 0 hours, 43 minutes, 04 seconds / 20 points

4. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / 5 days, 2 hours, 17 minutes, 25 seconds / 15 points

5. Team Telefónica / 5 days, 8 hours, 40 minutes, 26 seconds / 10 points

6. Team Sanya / 5 days, 8 hours, 59 minutes, 41 seconds / 5 points


The Leg 8 race from Lisbon to Lorient was short, but it was anything but sweet - - from drifting in the Azores to racing into the eye of a storm where record-breaking speeds and heartbreaking boat damage resulted, the shortest leg of the race yet didn’t fall short of drama.

Just shy of 2,000 miles, the penultimate leg first lured the teams in with a false sense of security with drifting conditions in the Azores High at the São Miguel Island turning mark.

The six-boat fleet compressed to within just 10 nautical miles as they tacked around the island, completing the first real manoeuvre of what had otherwise been a moderate-paced reaching race that favoured the three Juan K boats; Telefónica, Groupama and PUMA.

The calm before the storm soon passed as the teams raced into an unavoidable gale-force low pressure system in the North Atlantic that made even the most experienced skipper an anxiety ridden insomniac.

“It’s hard as skipper sailing into a low pressure system that you know is going to be brutal from a safety standpoint,’’ PUMA skipper Ken Read said.

“I think it was the anticipation of that storm that wears me out. Once you’re in it you can deal with it, but it’s that anticipation that’s not much fun.”

The Volvo Open 70s ramped up to speeds in the mid-teens and talk of an IWC Schaffhausen 24-hour Speed Record soon began.

In pole position it was Telefónica who first notched a record, overtaking the 2011-12 race best of 553 set by CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand on the Leg 1 race from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa.

Soon enough, Chris Nicholson's team were back on top with what would prove an unbeatable result of 565.84 nm.

CAMPER trimmer/helmsman Rob Salthouse, competing in his third Volvo, said racing at such hair-raising speeds was exhilarating stuff, but crazy too.

“I’m told you don’t have to be mad but it helps, and if anyone thought that was fun they’re mad,’’ he said.

“It was dreadful. We were pushing man and boat to the limit for 48 hours. It was a great battle though, and that’s why we do this race.

"It’s why we keep coming back to this race – for the battle.

“We had four boats out there going for it, hammer down and on the edge. But doing it for more than two days is pretty stressful!”

But the pressing question on everyone’s lips was one of risk versus reward; just how hard could the teams push boat and sailor before something had to give in the face of the plus 50 knot winds and violent seas?

“The last day and a half was really full on, it was mentally hard knowing how hard to push, it’s so hard to back off in these boats,’’ Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker said. 

“There’s just such a huge difference between backing off a little and going flat out.

“I’m more amazed that these boats don’t break, than when they do break to be honest. We’re coming off waves so hard that bunks are breaking down below from the weight of the people landing in them. So you can imagine the loads on everything else.”

No one paid a higher price in the high-stakes penultimate leg than former overall race leader Team Telefónica.

The Spanish team first struck trouble on June 14 when the team broke their starboard rudder in 25 knots of wind, losing 11 nautical miles on the fleet and dropping from first to fourth.

The ever defiant crew surged back to the lead within hours before a second round of problems broke their replacement rudder and damaged the port rudder.

As the team dropped off the pace while stabilising their damaged boat the reality sunk in. “We have just seen any chance of us winning this round the world regatta slip away," Martínez said just hours after the incident.

It hadn’t been smooth sailing for Groupama either. Just 48 hours from the finish, Groupama faced a potentially dangerous situation as they tried to reduce sail area in preparation for gale-force winds.

The team’s mainsail got jammed at the top of the mast leaving bowman Brad Marsh to carry out some mid-sea heroics, climbing to the top of the 31-metre mast three times in winds of well over 20 knots and rough seas.

After two hours of repairs, Marsh’s skills kept the French team in the race and they only lost out 20 miles to the fleet.

With Telefónica now in survival mode and no threat to the lead, Groupama had the break they needed, completing a heroic comeback that firmed their grip on the overall standings and realising a dream homecoming in their homeport, Lorient.

“It’s a very good feeling for sure, it’s a dream we had 10 months ago and we realised this dream now,’’ Groupama skipper Franck Cammas said. “It’s not finished, we still have one leg to do and it is important to do this leg very well.”

Groupama earned 30 points to move on to a total of 219 points, 23 points clear of their nearest rival PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, who moved into second place with 196.

With just one leg and two in-port races remaining Groupama are in a strong position to claim overall victory in their debut Volvo Ocean Race.

PUMA skipper Ken Read even admitted that while his team certainly could come back and win, it would be tough.

“I hope I’m wrong but I have a feeling we’ve seen the opportunity to win this race slipping away,’’ Read said.

“That’s a big 10 points that they (Groupama) just amassed over us. Good for them, they keep sailing fast and smart, that’s a deadly combination.

“Being on the podium is always a good result, I don’t mean to sound like I’m whinging, but at the same time maybe we just saw the Volvo Ocean Race go away, so that’s kind of a bummer.

Downloads:

- Leg 8 crew list

- Leg 8 start course map

Preview


1,940 nautical miles (2,233 miles, 3,593 kilometres)

The penultimate leg of the race comprises a week-long dash from Lisbon, back out into the Atlantic to the course turning point at the island of São Miguel in the Azores. From there the fleet will turn hard right and head northeast, crossing the Bay of Biscay to finish in Lorient, on the Brittany coast of northwest France.

Although this is one of the shorter legs of the race, in its own way it is likely to match any of the others in terms of the tactical challenge it poses. With the turning point at Sao Miguel located in an area of typically light airs there is a strong chance of the fleet grinding to a halt here, with the race effectively re-starting once the fleet turns and heads for Lorient. On the way to the finish in Lorient the fleet will have to cross the Bay of Biscay, an area with a fearsome reputation for stormy conditions.

Downloads:

- Leg 8 crew list

- Leg 8 start course map

Secondary Content

Scoreboard

LEG 8
TOTAL
1
Groupama sailing team
30
253
2
CAMPER with Emirates Team NZ
25
231
3
PUMA Ocean Racing by BERG
20
226
4
Team Telefónica
10
213
5
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
15
131
6
Team Sanya
5
51

HISTORY