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PUMA swagger on as CAMPER face threats

PUMA's "Mar Mostro" finally hitting stride in the East China Sea after a week of upwind misery ©Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
PUMA's "Mar Mostro" finally hitting stride in the East China Sea after a week of upwind misery ©Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race

Leg 4 leaders CAMPER were fending off threats on three fronts on Sunday, with PUMA enjoying life in their northern groove, Telefónica speeding along in the south and Groupama heading the push to the east.

At 1000 UTC on Sunday CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand were averaging 10.5 knots and just managing to hold off second-placed Telefónica by 14.7 nautical miles.

The leaderboard may not tell the most accurate picture, however. Being further to the north and east could prove decisive in what is effectively a race to hit the trade winds and get the best sailing angle to Auckland and in that sense other teams may be better positioned.

The resurgent PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, still far to the north of CAMPER, averaged 14.9 knots in the three hours to 1000 UTC and are satisfied that their radical route has at least not cost them too dear.

Groupama sailing team tacked tack north to a position around 35 nautical miles to the south of PUMA at around 0100 UTC on Sunday, along with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in fourth. Team Sanya made the move later, around 0300, and remain fifth this morning.

Groupama, with helmsman Charles Caudrelier celebrating his 38th birthday on board, were the most easterly boat at 1000 UTC but despite gradually building speed since taking the northerly track, skipper Franck Cammas admitted it wasn’t likely to continue this way. Cammas reckons there are still plenty of lulls to encounter until the team can hook into the long awaited trade winds.

“We prefer to go away from this light wind area, but we won’t be able to entirely avoid it and we will have to go through calm areas before we reach the trades,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, the crew on board PUMA are revelling in the company on the “high road” and relieved to see that the detour north hasn’t “ended in self destruction”.

At 1000 UTC, PUMA were less than 100 nm behind the leaders and still managing the fastest average boat speed -- 14.9 knots.

“PUMA has some swagger back," said Media Crew Member Amory Ross. “The guys are smiling, spirits are high and we’ve mostly forgotten the last week of torture in favour of more recent reaching pleasantries.”

However relieved, the crew is also mindful of the challenges that lay ahead, including crossing the Doldrums.

“There are over 4,000 nm to New Zealand and we all have to transverse areas of little to no wind, and soon," he said. 

“There could be a race restart, or worse, a fleet reversal where our high road shuts down and Telefónica escape to the south, having then cut the corner. Given the way their race is going, that’s a very realistic possibility.’’

On board CAMPER, the crew nervously await each sked to see how they are faring.

"Each time a sked comes in reminds me of that nervous butterflies feeling I used to get when major school exam results would arrive in the post, and you just weren’t sure if you were going to pass or not," wrote CAMPER MCM Hamish Hooper.

"But as Nico describes it is very much ‘snakes and ladders’ from sked to sked at the moment. I guess that would mean we are floating around the 50% mark, which I was always comfortable with at school but not so sure about these days."


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