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Final Results:

1. Groupama sailing team / 19 days, 15 hours, 35 minutes, 54 seconds / 30 points

2. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG / 20 days, 3 hours, 57 minutes, 50 seconds / 25 points

3. Team Telefónica / 20 days, 4 hours, 45 minutes, 22 seconds / 20 pints

4. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand / 20 days, 4 hours, 46 minutes, 55 seconds / 15 points

5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / 20 days, 5 hours, 20 minutes, 35 seconds / 10 points

6. Team Sanya / 20 days, 5 hours, 55 minutes, 43 seconds / 5 points

A delayed start, an epic finish and a pitiless upwind pounding along the way. Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 was a bruising one for the sailors but for the fans who welcomed the boats into Auckland, and for everyone connected to Groupama sailing team, it will live long in the memory.

Groupama survived a terrible late scare on their way to victory, with bow damage on the way in prompting Media Crew Member Yann Riou to write memorably, "If we don't sink, we win!" They were followed home the following day by PUMA, who surged in for second place, and Telefónica, who just managed to fend off an attack from local favourites CAMPER to claim the final podium place, as hundreds of spectator boats welcomed them in.

Franck Cammas's first taste of victory in the race came after they finished third in the short Stage 1 race, devised by race management to keep the fleet out of the worst of some appalling conditions -- with waves like liquid mountain ranges, according to Race CEO Knut Frostad -- on the way out of Sanya in southern China.

Stage 2 was billed as 5,220 nautical miles but by the time Groupama had crossed the line after more than 19 days at sea they had sailed much further, with all the crews having to head a long way north before they could even think about going south after finally leaving the clutches of the South China Sea.

Despite the delayed start, conditions were still extremely demanding coming out of Sanya, with upwind slamming the norm for the first few days.

After starting behind everyone else, PUMA gambled all with what they called their boomerang strategy -- a bid to go up and round the fleet. It worked up to a point, reviving their hopes in what might have been another lost leg, but it was Groupama who took control as they moved into a strong easterly position on day seven.

As speeds rocketed in classic trade winds conditions, it became more and more about a battle for second place.

CAMPER hopes of taking that honour suffered a devastating blow when they tore their vital J2 headsail, losing 60 miles to Groupama in the process.

Groupama led across the equator before the fleet split down the middle crossing the sparsely populated Solomon Islands, with Telefónica, CAMPER and Sanya choosing to go west.

Telefónica's speedy passage through the Solomons re-established them as a threat to the podium places but it was becoming increasingly clear that Groupama, sailing flawlessly according to their rivals, were not about to be caught.

PUMA dropped to third, and looked to be struggling to hold on to that position as a series of windless clouds slowed Ken Read's team, causing them to lose 30 miles and cede second spot to Telefónica.

The three boats behind Groupama stayed neck and neck all the way through to the finish, as behind them Abu Dhabi and Sanya close the gap significantly.

Sanya, stranded 393 nm off the pace on day 17, were within 30 nm of PUMA by the final morning -- not quite close enough to challenge for a podium place but satisfied to have been part of a terrific scrap.


- Leg 4 start course map


5,220 nautical miles (6,007 miles, 9,667 kilometres)

With little historical data to call on, Leg 4 from Sanya to Auckland is cited by many of the skippers and navigators as potentially the most difficult tactical leg of the entire race. Amongst many other challenges, the fleet will yet again have to negotiate the Doldrums -- this time at their widest point on the planet.

The early stage of this leg takes the fleet on a long fast reaching course past the northern tip of the Philippines and then south towards Auckland. Straightforward enough on the face of it, but conditions in the South China Sea and the Philippine Sea at that time of year can be harsh and the skippers will be all too aware of the catastrophic losses caused by a destroyed sail so early in the leg.

Once they reach the Philippines the crews will be faced with the now familiar choice of either pushing straight on with the promise of stronger winds to the east, or turning hard right and heading south in the direction of the finish in Auckland. This final stage of the leg could offer the chance for huge gains and losses on the way to the finish but will require the teams to bet the house early on either easterly or the westerly routes.

Leg split over safety concerns

The decision was taken by the race organisers to split the start of Leg 4 into two stages and hold the six boats in Sanya after Sunday 19 february leg start to allow enough time for dangerous conditions to clear, with fears that waves of up to eight metres could wreak havoc with the fleet.

Race director Jack Lloyd informed the teams on Saturday 18 that Leg 4 to Auckland would be split for reasons of safety after forecasts of unsailable conditions in the South China Sea.

The first stage started as scheduled at 1400 local time (0600 GMT/UTC) on Sunday 19 and the boats completed an inshore course in Sanya Bay before sailing past the famous Guanyin Buddha of South China Sea statue and finishing at Sanya Bay lighthouse which marks the entrance to Sanya Marina.

The second stage started on Monday 20 february from 0700 local (2300 UTC on 19th) with a staggered start depending on elapsed times for stage 1.


- Leg 4 start course map

Secondary Content


Groupama sailing team
CAMPER with Emirates Team NZ
PUMA Ocean Racing by BERG
Team Telefónica
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
Team Sanya