Yachting: Flying Groupama grab lead off Team NZ

By Dana Johannsen

PUMA Ocean Racing, Groupama. Photo / VOR
PUMA Ocean Racing, Groupama. Photo / VOR

Team New Zealand have relinquished their controlling position on leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race to Auckland after French team Groupama pulled off a radical move to seize the advantage of the north.

Groupama, who had been nipping at the heels of Camper, broke away to the north late on Sunday - a move the Kiwi boat chose not to follow.

The boats to the north of Camper (Groupama, Puma and Abu Dhabi) have already begun to benefit from a wind shift to the right and are steering a more southerly course with better wind and boat speed than Team New Zealand.

This enabled Groupama to snare the lead off Camper, building a 22.6 nautical mile advantage in last night's position report. Camper were in second place, with Telefonica in third 35.1 miles off the pace.

However the leaderboard may be reshuffled again overnight as Puma, Groupama and Abu Dhabi look to take further advantage of their better conditions and roll over Camper and Telefonica before they pick up the full advantage of the new breeze.

Current models are suggesting Camper will not feel the full benefit of the new breeze until the early hours of this morning meaning a nervous few hours for the team as they try to fend off the advances of the fast-approaching northerly boats.

Late yesterday afternoon Groupama's average speed was more than 5 knots faster than Camper's and they, along with Puma, Sanya and Abu Dhabi, are heading several degrees further south than the New Zealand boat, who are still beating a path to the east.

Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said it was going to be a tough night on the nerves.

"The guys up north are looking really good at the moment and they've got the full advantage of the new breeze.

"Hopefully we pick it up sooner rather than later and can limit the damage they do to us," he said.

"I'll be much happier once we're in the northeast trades and out of this light stuff - it's nervous times."

The race village in Auckland is beginning to take shape following the arrival of containers from the Abu Dhabi stopover at the weekend. The 150 shipping containers hold the entire infrastructure for the race villages at the stopover ports, including the team bases and the set-up for race headquarters.

Once fully assembled the village will occupy 20,000sq m of the Viaduct.

- NZ Herald

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