Volvo Ocean Race: Fourth leader in a week as Groupama hits the wall

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG takes on on board during Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12

For the first time since leaving the Mediterranean Ken Read’s crew on PUMA Ocean Racing lead the fleet on the 6,500 nautical mile first leg to Cape Town South Africa.

The US flagged entry is the fourth leader on the first leg, which has been running for just over a week

Surging along in north-easterly winds at speeds averaging over 20-knots, the American team blew past long-time leader Franck Cammas’ Groupama sailing team during the night and at the 0400 UTC position report held an almost 16 nautical mile advantage over second placed Iker Martínez on Team Telefónica.

Despite losing 47 nautical miles in three hours to PUMA, Groupama had held on to third place at that point, but with the French only drifting along at less than 5-knots, it seems inevitable that they will soon be overtaken by currently fourth placed CAMPER who are closing fast an an average speed of over 15-knots.

Tracks of the western group (Puma, Telefonica and Camper) compared to Groupama’s coastal route.

On board PUMA the mood is understandably upbeat, but as Media Crew Member Amory Ross explains, there is also an element of caution about leading the fleet into the capricious winds of the Doldrums, a zone which potentially could turn the standings upside down.

'We are absolutely trucking south. Each new sched brings good progress on Groupama far to the east and we’ve been ever-so-slowly edging out on Telefónica and CAMPER to our north.

'But it’s a dangerous game being the lead dog as we’re the ones to encounter new weather first. Unfortunately in this case that new weather is what we all call the Doldrums and it’s a land of fickle wind.

'So while we’re happy going fast and leading the charge to Cape Town, everyone’s aware that in a few days time this ride comes to an end. It’s still anyone’s guess as to what happens then!'

Groupama is running a much slower boatspeed than the other three, and has slipped from first to be almost fourth on the water.

The western group led by Puma has substantially more breeze than Groupama.



PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG's "Mar Mostro" sails towards a squall line. during leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12

Brad Jackson and Ken Read at the nav station. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12