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Solomon judgement : East is east as west side story starts to play out

Navigator Jean-Luc Nelias in the navigation station onboard Groupama Sailing Team during leg 4 ©Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
Navigator Jean-Luc Nelias in the navigation station onboard Groupama Sailing Team during leg 4 ©Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race

PUMA skipper Ken Read says he can hardly believe how the final 2000 nautical miles of Leg 4 is starting to play out as the western trio Telefónica, CAMPER and Sanya all fall in line to pass through the middle of the Solomon Islands.

It’s amazing, a few days ago I would have said you’d be crazy to go through those gaps, but now there are three boats doing it and it might even work, too" Ken Read - skipper, PUMA


“There are three of us here and three of us there,” Read said. “It’s amazing, a few days ago I would have said you’d be crazy to go through those gaps, but now there are three boats doing it and it might even work, too.”

PUMA Media Crew Member (MCM) Amory Ross said there was now no going back as the fleet headed for an east versus west stand-off.

“It’s no longer about ‘risk versus reward’ or ‘rolling the dice’, or any of the other catchy ways to spin it; both sides are fully committed and there’s no trading places,” he said.

“The facts: we’re east with Groupama and Abu Dhabi. Telefónica is west with Camper and Sanya. From our perspective, their only play—other than sail upwind to our line and take a 200 mile loss with 2,000 miles to go—is to stay where they are and hope for favorable winds south of the Solomon Islands.

“Likewise, we’re fully east and to get to them would be an ill-advised run away from New Zealand.”

“It’s exciting. We’ve got a better angle to the finish and we’re closer. They’ve got stronger winds but are sailing towards unknown waters, including uncharted passages, mystery currents, and fluky winds.

“But that’s what ocean racing is all about -- weather, navigation, boat handling, and decision making are all paramount over the next week.

“Groupama is still 70 nm off the bow and we’re having trouble making our gains stick. Every good sked for us is followed by a good sked for them, and that’s been the seesaw life over the last few days.

“Ultimately, the goal is to stay within reach in the hopes that the Doldrums will offer the opportunity we’ve been waiting for.”

On fifth placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand MCM Hamish Hooper reported Chris Nicholson’s team were in good spirits having powered into the Southern Hemisphere yesterday on their way to Auckland one of the team’s two home ports.

“We had a wink from the Southern Cross and are charging south at about 20 knots toward the Solomon Islands,” he said. “Blasting along as we are right now, things are wet again, we had a brief respite yesterday afternoon where things settled down enough to open the back hatch and air the stench of the boat for a precious few hours, but now we are back to wetness, and bailing, lots of bailing.

“This leg now seems like it has been going for a lifetime, there is still 2300 miles to go to Auckland, another week probably until we lay eyes on the iconic Sky Tower.”


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