Volvo Ocean Race - Drastic change of heart for Groupama 4

On board Groupama Sailing Team during leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Miami, USA to Lisbon, Portugal.
In Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race, the front ultimately rolled through faster than Groupama 4. As such, Franck Cammas and his men have had a drastic change of heart and are now gunning hard northwards, in the wake of the Spanish leaders. A way through to the East no longer seems to be a possibility and so it is that the French boat, like the rest of the fleet, is trying to escape the encroaching barometric marshland in a light to moderate breeze…

'We're in a difficult phase, even though it's not such a hard leg for the moment: we've just switched options because prior to today, we had thought we were in with of chance of heading straight to Lisbon. However, the door's closed on us and we've gybed to set a course to the North. The westerly wind is fairly light (10-12 knots) on flat seas and we're doing pretty well, even though it's not enough compared with some of our rivals. We're likely to have a rather longer distance to cover than scheduled!' indicated Charles Caudrelier during the lunchtime radio session this Thursday.

Basically, the front which the crew of Groupama 4 thought they would be able to hook onto further to their East, is now too far away for them to stand a chance of holding onto its slightly steadier south-westerly winds. Behind this system, the breeze has shifted round to the West and it proved necessary to choose between a northerly or a south-easterly course. The choice was made quickly since the entire fleet is now trying to reposition itself up near the banks of Newfoundland.

The Spanish have benefited from this reversal in the situation to reposition themselves ahead of Franck Cammas and his crew, whilst the chasing pack is already over twenty miles to their West. Once again, there aren't really any options to be had, aside from anticipating the arrival of a zone of high pressure, which will settle over the banks of Newfoundland.

onboard Groupama Sailing Team during leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Miami, USA to Lisbon, Portugal. (Credit: Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race)

'Since the start in Miami, there have always been two options, to the North and to the South, but the latter was linked to a high-speed schedule which nobody was able to keep up with in their bid to hook onto the front. As we didn't manage to join up with it (despite still believing we could do it yesterday), after falling into a patch of light airs and the phenomenon accelerating away, we've switched options and we're starting our attack from scratch again… Everyone is now seeking to gain ground to the North. We sailed a very good start to this course, and it's hard to accept that all our efforts have been wiped out in a matter of hours: Telefonica has had a little more wind than us, but they're also very quick on this point of sail and they're sailing very well.'

This change of course will cause the fleet to stall significantly and Lisbon will be further away than planned! The westerly wind is set to last for a good day before Groupama 4 sees herself forced to negotiate a zone of calms beneath the banks of Newfoundland: it's against the wind that the fleet will separate in around twenty knots of north-easterly breeze… and it won't be until after the ice exclusion zone that the pace will pick up again, once a north-westerly breeze slips into play as it shifts down from Labrador.

'The coming hours are forecast to be pretty light and as soon as we hit wind, we'll be sailing close-hauled! We won't head downwind again until we've side-stepped a zone of calms, but the breeze won't be very strong. We won't be making fast headway towards the goal within the next three days, but things may change again. We won't make Lisbon early next week as planned just 24 hours ago…', concluded Charles Caudrelier.

Position of the competitors at 1600 UTC on 24/05/2012:

1. Telefonica – 2,295 miles from the finish
2. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – 20.9 miles astern of the leader
3. Camper – 28.4 miles astern of the leader
4. Groupama 4 – 29.6 miles astern of the leader
5. Puma – 32.5 miles astern of the leader
6. Team Sanya – 68.2 miles astern of the leader

Groupama website
Volvo Ocean Race website