While PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG and Ken Read/USA headed northeast alone, with none of the fleet within 165 nautical miles (nm) and the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Tanega Shima as their nearest landmarks, the rest of the fleet was enjoying some fast sailing as speeds hit 18 knots earlier this evening.
Despite torrential downpours, Franck Cammas/FRA and Groupama 4 have the pedal right down and have kept up their relentless pursuit of CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS). The French team, part of the main pack of five boats that are keeping close company, is 24 nm to port of CAMPER, where until 1900 UTC tonight they had more wind and were sailing two knots faster than any of the other teams. But, at the 2200 UTC position report, Groupama’s speed had dropped and CAMPER was sailing fastest with the French boat lagging four miles.
“If I ever say I want to do this race again, you are allowed to kill me,” uttered Groupama 4’s bowman and boat captain Martin Krite, his face ravaged and his eyes dark with tiredness. He is only half-serious, but this leg just doesn’t seem to be getting any easier, nor is it getting much shorter.
The fickle wind is causing speeds to race up and down depending where on the ocean each boat is positioned. In the three hours to 2200 UTC third-placed Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson/NZL) averaged 13.2 knots, while fourth placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR), following a similar course to Groupama 4, only managed 9.2. Team Telefónica faired a little better at 11.9 and was the backmarker of the main pack having altered to an east southeast course between 1900 and 2200 tonight, while the ‘go it alone team’ on PUMA ‘s Mar Mostro were in a completely different weather pattern and making 15.2 knots.
It is still very possible that PUMA’s tactic will shake up the leader board and navigator Tom Addis and skipper Ken Read are working tirelessly to decode the forecasts, but at 2200 UTC tonight, CAMPER was still top of the table.
“It has been a sleepless couple of days, a tough leg, and even tougher race, and nobody has given up an inch of effort or enthusiasm. I am happy to slug it out up here along with these 10 guys, even if it is the Volvo Ocean Race in solidarity”, summed up PUMA’s media crewmember Amory Ross.