Volvo Ocean Race – Groupama contend with high pressure

Martin Stromberg onboard Groupama Sailing Team during leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Volvo Ocean Race leg one victory is now guaranteed to Telefonica who are less than fifty miles from the finish in Cape Town. Indeed the Spanish boat, driven by Iker Martinez, is set to cross the line at around 1800 UTC this Saturday with a lead of over 200 miles in relation to Camper and 800 miles in relation to Groupama 4.

It will have taken the Spanish a little over three weeks to make Cape Town from Alicante and they've sailed a superb course over this 6,500-mile Atlantic course, virtually taking control from the Strait of Gibraltar in the company of Puma. Overtaken by the Americans six days after the start among a trio of boats favouring the westerly option, which finally hooked onto the front off Madeira, the Spanish took control again half a day prior to the Doldrums. Favouring an easterly option during this initial descent phase, Franck Cammas and his men also enjoyed a period of time in pole position before the favourable front out West gave their rivals the sought-after wind to truck down to the equator without them. Further down the track, the Spanish then rounded the Fernando de Noronha archipelago with a slight separation in relation to Puma. However, very intelligently, they managed to move up into the lead again in the South Atlantic, side-stepping a zone of high pressure which the Americans were diving headlong into.

Iker Martinez and his crew thus opened up a lead of fifty miles ahead of Ken Read and the Spanish didn't make a single mistake in their rounding of the Saint Helena High. Later on, with the Americans breaking their mast offshore of Tristan da Cunha, only the New Zealanders were still a threat. However, with a lead of over a hundred miles, Telefonica wasn't content with simply keeping them behind them and the crew managed to make good their escape, stretching further and further ahead in the solid breeze of the Forties, to round off the leg in South Africa with a lead of over 200 miles in relation to Camper. Last in the `In-port' race in Alicante, the Spanish will take thirty points from this win, as well as moving up into the lead in the overall standing. Meantime, the New Zealanders are likely to finish with a half-day deficit, which means they're due into Cape Town in the early hours of Sunday.

For Franck Cammas and his men, this final phase promises to be a lot more laborious than that of her two predecessors as they're having to contend with the high pressure which is settling into position ahead of them. Fortunately, the breeze will kick back in from the West and Groupama 4 will be able to home in on Cape Town from Saturday evening with less than 850 miles still to go. The wind should then stick with them all the way to the finish line, even though it will ease off a little near South Africa. The French boat is expected to take third place on Monday night.

Position at 1500 UTC on 26/11/2011
1. Telefonica - 52.7 miles from the finish
2. Camper - 266.2 miles from the leader
3. Groupama 4 - 878.8 miles from the leader
Puma - retirement
Abu Dhabi - retirement
Team Sanya – retirement

Groupama Sailing Team website