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Teams gear up for 'best sailing in the world'

Runners going to the top of the mast with Roberto Bermudez De Castro on the helm onboard CAMPER ©Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race
Runners going to the top of the mast with Roberto Bermudez De Castro on the helm onboard CAMPER ©Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race

Speed and excitement are building as the five front-runners fast gain pace on the back of a low-pressure sling-shot that could propel them into 24-hour record breaking territory.

Team Sanya remain the southernmost boat and continue to hold the lead according to distance to finish, but it is third placed Groupama sailing team who hold the commanding position, furthest east.

At 0700 UTC the front five were relishing increasing westerly winds that ranged from 23 to 28 knots, which were building boat speeds to in excess of 24 knots in three to four metre waves.

It is the beginning of the pending Southern Ocean sleigh-ride, which has second-placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand’s Media Crew Member Hamish Hooper uncertain whether he is “electrified or petrified”.

Fortunately, CAMPER co-skipper Stu Bannatyne, this his sixth Volvo, has offered some reassuring words.

“Without a doubt the best sailing in the world is downwind sailing in the Southern Ocean, no question about that,'' he said. "We are about to get a bit of it. Our tactics for sailing from here to Cape Horn -- be safe and go fast.”

Groupama MCM Yann Riou reported that the team was loving the chance to stretch their legs with a bit of downwind sailing, scoring some “easy miles” under the power of their spinnaker in third place. 

“As surprising as it may look, it is one of the first times since the start of the Volvo that we have the opportunity to face our competitors in these conditions, after half a round-the-world trip,” he said.

The weather situation could spell bad news for sixth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, who were hopeful the fleet would be holed up for longer while they played catch up after being forced back to port with damage just hours after the start.

At 0700 UTC the leaderboard Sanya were leading CAMPER by 5.9 nautical miles. Groupama were third, just 2.5 nm behind CAMPER, followed by PUMA Ocean Racing Powered by BERG, 31 nm behind the leaders and Team Telefónica in fifth, 49 nm behind. Ian Walker´s Abu Dhabi trailed by 334 nm.

CAMPER have clocked up the most miles in the past 24-hours of the leading pack, with 367 nm and an average speed of 15.3. Abu Dhabi tops the tally so far with 413 nm, an average of 17.3 nm.

The distances are still shy of the existing record set by Ericsson 4 during the 2008-09 race, recording 596.6 nautical miles, but that could change over the coming days with the wind expected to build to more than 40 knots.



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