Volvo Ocean Race - Groupama 4 in solid position

Groupama Sailing Team - Day 2 - Leg 5 - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Volvo Ocean Race team Groupama 4 are in second place, 4.4 miles astern of the leader, on the second day of leg five from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajal, Brazil at the 1300 UTC report today.

On a day which is synonymous with the autumn equinox in the southern hemisphere, the wind is beginning to be somewhat lacking, though the fleet has already reached the Roaring Forties! And these light airs could well last a while as the ice gates have been shifted North following iceberg sightings at some of the lower latitudes. Groupama 4 is in a solid position as she approaches the zone of high pressure.

'The boat's been going well since we managed to effect repairs last night. We're now going to be able to use all the sails. Conditions have been harsh with headwinds and very messy seas. It's very difficult to live aboard with the boat moving every which way and some very impressive wave slamming. We ended up breaking a piece attached to the storm jib and it was at the worst possible moment, since we had over 35 knots of breeze! We lost some ground and the whole crew had to come up on deck to lend a hand. We came away from that a bit exhausted: it was the hardest night since we set out from Alicante. And when you're tired, everything is done at a slower pace, the manœuvres are longer and at the helm, the reflex actions are dulled. However, we know that with every leg, even though we're more at ease on the boat, everything becomes harder', indicated Franck Cammas during the videoconference this Tuesday lunchtime.

In fact the first 36 hours have been especially violent. Beyond the technical issues, the men have also suffered, or even been injured, like Xabi Fernandez (Telefonica) who fell out of his bunk, Thomas Johanson struck by a wave which dislocated his shoulder and Casey Smith with a painful back on Puma. Franck Cammas and his men have come off quite lightly then after a day spent sailing upwind in over 35 knots of breeze and heavy seas, which have gradually become smoother as they approach the Roaring Forties.

'The whole fleet is grouped together for now and the separation is ridiculously small in relation to the distance to Cape Horn, which is still 4,500 miles in front of us. The wind is in the process of easing and it'll continue to drop away. We'll have to traverse a zone of calms before we hook onto the downwind conditions. The virtual waypoints (to protect us from the ice) will call for us to adopt a course which isn't very fast this week. There's going to be stuff happening over the coming hours, but I think that the options will be limited until we're clear of the ice gates. We're going to have to bide our time for a few days for the pace to really pick up. In the meantime, it will be more a case of the fleet concertinaing in and out of contention at the mercy of the wind variations…'

The main hurdle will involve traversing a zone of high pressure which is sprawled out from the South of New Zealand as far as the middle of the South Pacific. As such, light airs will reign over the coming hours, since it's impossible to get around this huge bean-shaped zone, which is pushing the austral depressions South of 50°S. The next 250 miles won't enable any significant options then, but the crews will have to be very careful, their eyes glued to the barometer, so as to avoid falling into a windless zone. It's only on Thursday that the first five VO-70s will finally hit the still moderate westerly breezes up to 45°S, at which point it's the cold which will colour life aboard Groupama 4…

'The temperature has really dropped since we're already 42° South. Fortunately, there isn't too much wind, but we're covering ourselves up with several fleeces and you have to wear gloves at the helm. Since the start of the race in Alicante, we've been suffering more from the heat than the cold! If we have southerly wind, it's going to be freezing… Over the coming days though, we're actually expecting westerly winds instead.'

Standings on 20 March 2012 at 1300 UTC
1. Telefonica 6,076.6 miles from the finish
2. Groupama 4.4 miles astern of the leader
3. Puma 7.7 miles astern of the leader
4. Camper 15.3 miles astern of the leader
5. Sanya 39.6 miles astern of the leader
6. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 418.7 miles astern of the leader

Groupama Sailing Team - Day 2 - Leg 5 - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12

Groupama Sailing Team - Day 2 - Leg 5 - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12

Groupama Sailing Team website