Groupama lead fleet across equator

© Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
© Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race

The temperature is rising as Groupama lead the fleet across the equator and into the Southern Hemisphere’s den of islands, currents and rapidly changing weather.

Leg 4 leaders Groupama sailing team crossed the equator at about 0710 UTG, shifting their focus firmly to the upcoming Doldrums.

Second placed PUMA are starting to sweat, with the approach to the Doldrums stirring up nightmare similarities to Leg 2, when they trailed only Groupama but Team Telefónica and CAMPER overtook the pair.

Bringing some relief to the crew is the knowledge that at 0630 UTC Team Telefónica had dropped from third to fourth, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing edging ahead by just three nautical miles.

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand remain fifth, followed by Sanya in sixth.

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG Media Crew Member Amory Ross said the team, trailing Groupama by just over 60 nm, was in search of redemption- - especially “given the eerie resemblance”.

“Tom Addis (navigator) is happy with our easterly position and the time has come to see it pay its dividends,’’ Ross reported. 

“The guys to our west will either have to stay low and fast, a risky route taking them through the Solomon Islands, or they’ll need to sheet in and sail far slower angles back up to our line, safely to the east of any geographic interference.

“Whatever they decide, our relative progress is less reliant on straight-line boat speed and more on sail management and boat handling, especially in the varied conditions.”

Feeling the heat more than anyone is the most recent addition to fifth placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s newest crew member Paul Willcox, an equatorial virgin who is about to endure the wrath of King Neptune.

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