Volvo Ocean Race - Hurtling towards Leg 5’s major milestone

The crew on watch get a constant pounding of spray from the Southern Ocean, onboard Groupama Sailing Team during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil.
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 5 leaders Groupama Sailing Team were within 700 nautical miles of the infamous Cape Horn on Tuesday evening as the fleet hurtled east towards Leg 5’s major milestone.

With boat speeds averaging around 20 knots, the southernmost tip of South America should be less than two days sailing away for the French frontrunners, who were tonight pushing hard under a reefed mainsail, staysail and heavy gennaker.

Refusing to be shaken off, Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg (Ken Read/USA) kept the delta between his Mar Mostro and Groupama 4 hovering around 50 nm back in second.

However for overall leaders Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP), a more conservative approach to preserve their damaged boat saw them slip 383 nm behind. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) continued their progress towards Puerto Montt in Chile where they will repair structural damage to their boat.

Despite being almost 1,400 nm adrift of the leaders, fifth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) were working hard to reel in their rivals, hitting speeds of up to 40 knots down the Southern Ocean swells.

'With the wind finally getting above 25 knots and then gusting 30, it feels like dropping down a gear in an Aston Martin,' helmsman/trimmer Simon Fisher said in call to race headquarters today.

The team is hoping for some close quarters racing with Telefónica, who will pull into the Argentine port of Ushuaia to make repairs, for a podium position in the closing stages of the race to Itajaí next week.

Volvo Ocean Race website