Volvo Ocean Race: Leaders set to zigzag to Lisbon

Navigator Aksel Magdahl at the Nav Station onboard Team Sanya during leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Miami, USA to Lisbon, Portugal.
Andres Soriano/Team Sanya/Volvo Ocean Race

In a reshuffle of the leaderboard overnight, Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) lost the lead to Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing on Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Gybing CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Miami, USA to Lisbon, Portugal. (Credit: Hamish Hooper/CAMPER ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race)
Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race©
At 0100 GMT on Friday, Abu Dhabi took pole position when it became clear that the northerly course would pay as the six-boat fleet picked its way through the minefield of high pressure. Waiting on the other side is some exciting downwind sailing, more typical of North Atlantic conditions.

Walker’s lead may well be short-lived, as, at 0700 GMT Camper were just 0.9 nautical miles behind, pressing hard and sailing fractionally faster. Puma Ocean Racing were also putting up a fight and only 9.5 nm separated the top three. Hamish Hooper, Media Crew Member with Camper, reported that Abu Dhabi´s Azzam was in sight on the horizon in front and Puma in sight astern.

At the 1000GMT sked the margin between first and second under the Volvo Ocean race system of lead calculation was still showing 0.9nm between Abu Dhabi and Camper. But using the www.predictwind.com!Predictwind routing function the margin between the two is just five minutes with just under five days left to sail.

However it is not all plain sailing for any of the leading group - with frequent course changes required to maintain their lead. In terms of sailing time to the finish, Puma is about 30 minutes behind Camper and Abu Dhabi.

Predictwind route for Camper for the last five days of Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race
Big loser in the current scenario is overall race leader, Telefonica positioned to the east, which is last using one wind feed, and fourth using a second feed. The current on the water placings - if they hold at the finish line in five days time will cause a massive shake-up on the leaderboard, with Camper moving to within 3points of Telefonica.

Further down the pack, the original stars of the leg, Telefónica and Groupama (Franck Cammas/FRA) were suffering. Telefónica have paid a high price for staying south longer than the competition and were 22.8 nm off the lead, making a miserable 9.8 knots. Groupama were a further eight nm back. In the north the leading trio are achieving 12-plus knots, assisted by the Gulf Stream, which Camper navigator Will Oxley described as an ‘amazing oceanographic feature’.

According to Oxley, the Gulf Stream is continuing to play a key role in the leg. 'Being on the right or wrong side of an eddy can mean a speed differential of four or five knots,' he said.

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On board Groupama, the mood is improving as the wind fills in. After racing neck and neck with Telefónica for the lead, the team have slipped to fifth place but have now achieved their goal of re-joining the main pack, leaving Telefónica isolated and alone, and still 40 miles to the south.

This morning, Groupama skipper Franck Cammas reported a flat sea, no waves and no water on deck. 'We have the masthead code zero hoisted and the wind is increasing a bit – 10, 11, 12 knots now,' he said.

Furthest north is Mike Sanderson and Sanya. Although progress is slow for the team, morale has been boosted by glorious sailing conditions and the sight of whales and dolphins accompanying the boat. Thursday was a truly pleasant day of sailing according to skipper Mike Sanderson who said, 'It’s not very often you get this in the North Atlantic.'