Volvo Ocean Race - Puma takes narrow lead

Groupama Sailing Team with PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG on the horizon, during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil.
In the Volvo Ocean Race, Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg have closed down Groupama to take the lead at 1900 GMT tonight by 0.10 nautical miles (nm). Telefónica is back in contention for the lead, but a secure third place on the podium in Itajaí, even if Groupama posts another win, would be enough to keep the Spanish team at the head of the overall table, if only by five points.

The dramatic gains of the past three days, which have seen Telefónica reduce a deficit of 412 nm to 88.20 nm at 1900 GMT tonight, ceased earlier today as the team are now almost sailing in the same weather system as the frontrunners, on the wind, but 98 nm to leeward.

This afternoon only moderate gains were achieved as Telefónica’s boat speed dropped in line with Groupama and Puma, but, during the past three hours, their boat speed has climbed to 13.3 knots, two knots faster than their rivals. The frontrunners are close-hauled, racing each other boat for boat, while Telefónica are 161 nm offshore, with nothing to lose and everything to play for.

At the head of the fleet, the tactical intensity deepens as Puma and Groupama race 61 nm off Argentina’s Mar del Plata.

'This kind of close contact racing is really enjoyable. However, the wind is due to shift round before Itajaí and we will be able to make the most of Groupama 4’s speed when sailing with sheets eased,' skipper Franck Cammas said.

The crew of Puma continue to watch Groupama, waiting to see how the crew react to shifts in wind angle. 'Even at night, they’re on the lookout and 10 minutes after our change of tack under the cover of darkness, they’ve mirrored our movements. They can keep an eye on us with both binoculars and radar. I don’t think we are going to leave each other’s sides until the finish,' the French skipper added.

Still in the Pacific, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) who suspended racing earlier, are due to arrive in Puerto Montt later tonight when repairs will begin. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) are also headed towards the coast of Chile, but were this evening still assessing their options.

Volvo Ocean Race website