Volvo Ocean Race: Strong winds and heavy seas punctuate tactical war

Adam Minoprio working in the pit onboard Camper during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand. (
Hamish Hooper/Camper ETNZ/Volvo Ocean Race©

Three boats are battling for second place on Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race, as they lie under 200nm to the north of New Zealand heading for the finish line in Auckland.

While they are fighting each other for the prized second place, Mother Nature is almost proving to be a formidable competitor, with winds over 40kts and six metre high waves being thrown at the exhausted and starving competitors.

Margins between the boats have compressed over the last 24 hours and Ken Read’s Puma Ocean Racing clawed her way back past Iker Martínez’s Team Telefónica to claim a precarious second place as Franck Cammas' Groupama sailing team maintain their more than 140 nautical mile (nm) lead.

By 0700 UTC however Chris Nicholson’s Camper had also joined in the scrap, pushing further west to register as second in terms of distance to finish.

In a report from the boat this morning Telefónica Media Crew Member (MCM) Diego Fructuoso described how close the racing had become in the final stages of Leg 4:

'Right now we just saw Puma crossing in front of our bow and tacking. It’s the first boat we have seen for a long time. Hopefully we will see them behind in a little while,' he wrote.

'Camper is also strongly coming back, they want to get the best possible result at home. And on top of that Abu Dhabi and Sanya didn’t have to cross our (light winds) transition and got closer.

'It looks like, apart from Groupama, we are all very close and anything could happen.'

Late on Friday night (NZT), the second, third and fourth boats overall were covered by just over an hour, and the race down the coast of Northland, looked set to be a humdinger.

Latest: The projected finish time for expected leg winner, Groupama is between 8pm and midnight on Saturday night, NZT - being the range of finish times projected by the course routing and optimisation function of www.predictwind.com!Predictwind, using four independent weather feeds - each refined for local topography and other factors