Volvo Ocean Race - Puma Ocean Racing's lead evaporates

Jono Swain driving towards a brilliant post-frontal sunset. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Volvo Ocean Race, Day 19 of Leg 5. Amory Ross, MCM for Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg, reports on the crew's progress:

'If we run out of food I can always just make everyone peanut butter and jelly. I have a lot of wraps left over,' Ken Read.

Nervous times they are. We’re doing our absolute best but there’s something very disconcerting about watching your lead evaporate sched by sched to a boat thriving in conditions we can’t reach. But therein lies the 'bright side:' there is nothing we can really do about Telefónica, so we’ve been focusing on sailing our own boat as best we know how.

It’s not to say we haven’t tried to defend. The goal for all of last night was to get low, to work our way down to their line and position ourselves between them and the finish. But the 50-knot front we took a walloping from had other things in mind, and we were forced to slow the boat down with the mainsail on the deck. After a sleepless night of storm sailing we were back up to speed, and again we tried to dive low, though wind speeds steadily dropped leaving behind a rough sea state and little to power through it. Getting low was simply not going to be an option.

PUMA's Mar Mostro buries its bow in wave. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)

So we stayed high, and suffered all day because of it. At one point every third wave seemed like it would be the one to split the boat in half. Each violent slam was met with winces, oohs, ahhs, and a rig that flexed like wet spaghetti. It was scary…especially with Groupama’s dismasting fresh on our minds. There was nothing to do but cant the keel to leeward, try to land at an angle, and watch Telefónica tear into our lead every three hours while doing 22 knots as we struggled to exceed 10. Awful, painful, and stressful, but fortunately also finite.

All it took was one cloud line, maybe the trailing edge of the front, and we were gone – 20 knots, flatter seas, and a renewed sense of determination. We’re finally coming down, they’re finally coming up, and there’s a good chance sunrise tomorrow will bring some new company on the horizon. Our lead is down to 17 miles and while it’s not ideal, it’s going to make for a very exciting final day of racing!

Puma Ocean Racing website
Volvo Ocean Race website