Posted Monday, April 23, 2012
PUMA Ocean Racing Powered by BERG (Ken Read/USA) hold a slim lead of three nautical miles (nm) over CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) at 0700 GMT today as the American team continue to show the way towards Miami, the sole American host port on this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race
In a complete contrast to the beginning of Leg 5, which many of the sailors described as the worst opening night ever, the start of the 4,800 nm Leg 6 which began on Sunday at 1700 GMT, has been a relative breeze.
After a ‘bubble bath’ of around 20 knots for the first few hours, conditions settled overnight to produce fast reaching conditions in flat seas and warm water, allowing more sail area to be hoisted.
Less than seven nm separate PUMA in first from Groupama (Franck Cammas/FRA) in fifth place and the fleet is making around 14.5 knots. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) in third place, whose shore team worked round the clock to repair the boat in time to start the DHL In-Port Race Itajaí on Saturday, are right in the mix and having a great race with second-placed CAMPER.
“It has been a pleasure to start a leg with some reaching – this is the first leg not to start with a beat,” reported skipper Ian Walker. According to the British skipper, earlier, when the breeze was blowing 20 knots or so, PUMA, Telefónica and Groupama were in a very different league, although CAMPER and Azzam seemed to be evenly matched.
Although this leg will be largely a coastal one, Will Oxley, navigator with CAMPER suggests it is will be more difficult that it looks. “It’s quite a tricky leg actually. The next four or five days will be very, very tricky -- light and shifty with potential for big changes on the leaderboard,” he says. He added that it could be a long time before any boat in the west looks better and that long term, it looks like an easterly setup should pay.
Heading north from Itajaí, the course follows the Brazilian coast, but how far will the teams sail offshore? The trade winds are less reliable here. Clouds constantly disrupt the wind and, from time to time, low pressure extends from the shore, killing the coastal wind. Evidence from earlier races supports the long held rule of "less than 50 miles inshore or more than 500 offshore”, which will provide some good opportunities for the pack to split and some exciting racing.