Volvo Ocean Race - Puma’s Mar Mostro snatches the lead

Jono Swain on the helm and Brad Jackson on the traveler. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Volvo Ocean Race fleet left Alicante eight days ago, bound for Cape Town, on the first leg of the race. Eight days that the black cat, Puma’s Mar Mostro (Ken Read/USA) has been crouching, waiting to pounce and at 2200 UTC last night she bounded past Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas/FRA) and snatched the lead.

At 1000 UTC this morning, Puma’s Mar Mostro held a lead of 18.10 nautical miles (nm) over Telefónica (Iker Martinez/ESP), with Camper (Chris Nicholson/AUS) in third position, but 133.5 nm behind. Groupama 4 slipped a further 21 nm this morning and is 145.8 nm in arrears. Speeds are averaging 16 – 17 knots for the boats in the west, and a miserly 9.1 for Groupama 4.

However, being in the lead brings its own dangers and Puma’s Mar Mostro will be the first to hit the brick wall that is the Doldrums. A new Azores high-pressure system is moving behind the fleet and when this is in position, the trade winds will re-establish. As the boats furthest south sail into less wind, the chasing pack will continue their dive south until they compress in the ensuing parking lot.

Their gybe yesterday has set up the more westerly boats, Puma’s Mar Mostro, and Camper for their approach to the Doldrums. Camper’s navigator, Will Oxley says, 'We should now be able to point the bow towards Fernando de Noronha (an island off the coast of Brazil that the fleet must leave to port), whereas normally, at this stage, we would be worrying about how to get west and avoid the wind shadows of the Cape Verde Islands.' He says that barring the notorious wind clouds and squalls, which are commonplace in the Doldrums, the team will not have to gybe for another 1700 nm until they reach the island.

Groupama Sailing Team during leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12

Groupama 4, however is going to struggle. According to Oxley, the French team is in a difficult position. The low-pressure system to the north has completely disrupted the trade winds and the Cape Verde Islands lie in path of Groupama 4. He thinks the team will attempt to cross the Doldrums much further to the east than the rest of the fleet, which is always a high-risk option. 'As always,' he says, 'high risk options can pay big dividends, but also see big losses.'

Onboard Groupama 4, skipper Franck Cammas was taking a pragmatic view of their situation.

'The outcome won’t be very positive, that’s for sure. That’s the risk of our option. We knew it would be favourable in the short term. It was uncertain on the long term and it didn’t come out very good for us.

'We will fight to avoid losing too much compared with them. We certainly can lose 100 to 200 miles but it's still in a few days and many things can happen in the Doldrums. A few knots more and an interesting angle can help us. And in a few days we will get the same wind as our competitors.'

Positions on 13/11/2011 at 10:03:08 UTC
    DTLDTLCBSDTF
1  PUMA0.000.016.74679.4
2  TELE18.101.017.24697.5
3  CMPR133.503.016.34812.9
4  GPMA145.8021.09.14825.2
-  ADORRetired from Leg 1
-  SNYARetired from Leg 1

Volvo Ocean Race website