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Speed test de la muerte

Martin Krite and Brad MArsh change sails onboard Groupama Sailing Team ©Yann Riou / Groupama Sailing Team / Volvo Ocean Race
Martin Krite and Brad MArsh change sails onboard Groupama Sailing Team ©Yann Riou / Groupama Sailing Team / Volvo Ocean Race

For the next 1,000 nautical miles, the Volvo Open 70 fleet will predominantly be on port tack in a drag race that is taking the fleet across the southern tip of Sri Lanka and into the Bay of Bengal towards the waypoint at Pulau We and the entrance of the Malacca Strait.

The landmass of Sri Lanka is continuing to produce a slight wind shadow, which has slowed the fleet, but once clear of the island and out across the Bay of Bengal, about 125 miles to east of the fleet, the breeze will pick up and the charge towards the barn door will begin in earnest.
There is little in the way of tactics that can be deployed at this stage of the game to gain an edge and the racing continues to be largely a drag race where boat handling and sail choice are the deciding components. However, late this afternoon Mike Sanderson's Team Sanya made a tactical decision to ditch the south, take a hitch to the north, and get back in the mix.

Sanderson had little to lose in crossing behind the fleet and clawing his way up for half an hour or so before tacking back onto port. When the fleet hardens up on to the wind again in the approach to Pulau We, the north will be the strong position. “We have a slight speed deficit on the new boats,” explained Sanderson today. His tactic is to stay in touch as best he can before the fleet reaches the Malacca Strait, where he hopes there will be a ‘restart’ of sorts.

CAMPER also made a brief move to the north and remains the most northerly of the fleet in a lateral split of some 12 nautical miles (nm), eight miles to weather of Franck Cammas' third-placed Groupama sailing team. Skipper Chris Nicholson is sailing CAMPER as if it were an Olympic dinghy, with a tweak here and a trim there. “You can hear our winches going non-stop on deck all the time, 24-hours a day,” he says.

Meanwhile, leg leader Ken Read's PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG had a lucky escape after a brief encounter with a boat fishing with a long net earlier today, fortunately during daylight hours.  “We probably lost a quarter mile to all the troops around us, but had that happened at night, we would still be floundering around inside the net,” Read explained. Mar Mostro leads CAMPER by 1.40 nm.

Three miles behind, the largely French crew of third-placed Groupama 4 are enjoying the contest. "We are not the fastest in these conditions and the fight is tough, said Cammas. "That being said, we are in the leading group so we cannot complain..."

In fifth place Ian Walker's Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are struggling to compete, or even to find the elusive fifth gear. According to Walker, the team has tried every possible sail configuration to try to match the performance of those around them, but is just not quite achieving it.

It is frustrating for the British skipper although the team is enjoying sparring with overall leader Iker Martínez's Team Telefónica who by 1900 UTC this evening had rolled over the black boat to take up fourth place.


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