Volvo Ocean Race - Puma holds off rivals

Skipper Ken Read PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
The crew on Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg may have been bashed around by the Southern Ocean but they held off two challengers in a tactical match race to win Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajaí, Brazil.

The 11-member crew onboard Puma’s Mar Mostro crossed the line at 16:09.51 local/19:09.51 UTC on Friday, April 6, finishing the leg in 19 days, 18 hours, 9 minutes and 50 seconds. It marked the first leg win of this year’s race for the Puma team.

'Unbelievable!' said skipper Ken Read after arrival. 'Nobody quit and the atmosphere on the boat today was really cool – laid back and everybody was ready to tackle the task at hand. I’m very proud of this team. It’s a great feeling.

'The shore team – along with the boat builders and design team – they’re the unsung heroes here. They deserve equal billing, especially in a leg like this,' Read continued. 'Before the leg started, we had a goal and a strategy as to how we were going to approach it and what our priorities were. We stayed true to that, and I’m very proud of that fact. And, my heart goes out to all of the teams with problems this leg – we know exactly how they feel.'

With the win, Puma added 30 points to bring the team’s overall race total to 113. Team Telefónica crossed the line a close second to Puma in Leg 5, finishing just 12 minutes behind and boosting their overall race total to 147. Two teams remain poised to complete the leg after suffering damage during the leg – the Groupama Sailing Team and Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand. The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team Sanya both retired from the leg after also suffering damage.

The team traveled approximately 7,500 nautical miles from Auckland to Itajaí. Following the relentless Southern Ocean stretch of more than 12 days, Puma rounded Cape Horn at 13:52 UTC on March 30. With most of the fleet suspended from racing due to damage, Puma and Groupama began the northerly journey to Brazil in a match race, sailing head-to-head until Groupama suffered an unfortunate dismasting. Telefónica soon resumed racing and caught up to within a mile of Puma by the final day.

'The leg went on and on,' described navigator Tom Addis. 'It was an all-around leg. There was the Southern Ocean, which of course is full-on preservation mode. Then, once you round the corner there was a lot of tactical racing, a lot of light air. We’ve got great experience on this boat – guys like Brad [Jackson] and Tony [Mutter] just knowing when to push and when not to push. Sometimes you’re not racing at anywhere near 100 percent, but that’s fine because you’re not very fast when you’re broken. It was a good leg to win.'

Racing resumes in Itajaí with the Pro Am Race on Friday, April 20, followed by the In-Port Race on Saturday, April 21, and the start of Leg 6 to the lone U.S. stop of Miami, Florida, on Sunday, April 22.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

'You have to get a little lucky' said skipper Ken Read. 'It’s easy to sit here and toot your horn as to how you sailed the boat. But, that one wave that we were almost airborne on, could have been 2 seconds later, and maybe we would have been airborne. We had a great dogfight going with Groupama and they were sailing really well. We felt horrible for them because we knew exactly how they felt.'

'Our intentions always have been to go out there and win. It’s been great that we’ve been on the podium quite often, but it’s been disappointing that we haven’t won a leg so far. We think we deserve this leg win, and we’re proud of it. We’re going to celebrate it for a bit, then get right back to work because there’s a lot more sailing to be done.'

Ken Read, Skipper - blog.

'I don't remember when I wrote my last blog. I don't really remember when I slept last. We started rationing food days ago and had our last meal this am. And I am really, really happy.

'This has been an epic leg. Like nothing any of us in the sailing world has ever seen. It seems like every leg we come in and say, 'This was the toughest leg ever.' But, this time we mean it. This was the toughest leg ever.

'Going around Cape Horn was amazing. Our duel with the incredibly unlucky Groupama. The remarkable fortune of Telefónica to get the weather window they did in order to eat up a 450 mile gap in the last 2,000 miles. And to be able to hold them of not once, but twice drifting to the finish when they closed the gap to within 100 yards. Just unreal.

'I am very proud of the boat building team, the shore team and all the engineers and designers that put this boat together. Your boat made it folks. It is in great shape and lord only knows we put her through the ringer. The sailing team salutes you all.

'And to the sailing team who hung in there through thick and thin, amazing work. As safe as we can be. All in great spirits. And we get to do it all over again in two weeks.

'This is a leg and a trip that I will remember forever. Probably my last foray into the Southern Ocean. An adventure within an adventure you might call it. Glad this one is behind us and the 'friendly' confines of the Atlantic Ocean await.'

Puma Ocean Racing website