Volvo Ocean Race - Groupama gybes to perfection

Erwan Israel helming Groupama Sailing Team as they beat upwind, during leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Miami, USA to Lisbon, Portugal.
In the Volvo Ocean Race, the North Atlantic is a playing field that Franck Cammas/FRA and Groupama sailing team know well and today, they played Tropical Storm Alberto to perfection, extending their lead by gybing at the critical time.

'We might actually be faster than this low,' said Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand navigator Will Oxley earlier today. 'If it is stationary and we move off it won’t be so good. If it moves with us we could see some fast 24-hour runs for sure. For now we’re concentrating on this particular system – there’s another low ridge at the end so there’s plenty of stuff going on. We don’t care how long the leg takes as long as we’re first.'

Earlier, Groupama and Puma set off down wind at high speeds while the chasing pack of four struggled with upwind conditions. By 1900 GMT tonight, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand had risen to second position as Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg paid heavily for an expensive hitch to the north, losing 24 nm in the past three hour period. Although speeds have settled at around 18 knots for the leaders, the chasing pack of five in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet have yet to engage in a really high-speed chase.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s skipper Ian Walker/GBR is looking for a break, although spirits on board are high after winning the Port Miami in-port race on Saturday.

'With a bit of luck we’ll be able to stay in the south east quadrant of it [the storm], and, as the depression moves northeast we can ride with it giving us a good angle up to the north east,' he said. 'It really then depends on whether we can stay with the depression up towards the ice exclusion zone or whether we try to hop across the Azores High. It’s all very uncertain at the moment.'

At 1900 GMT, Groupama led by 47.3 nm over Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand, while the rest of the fleet struggled to keep pace. Mike Sanderson’s Sanya suffered heavily, losing 35 nm and after just over 24 hours at sea, the fleet is now split by 87.20 nm from Groupama in first, to Sanya in sixth.

Volvo Ocean Race website