Yachting: Groupama closing in on Auckland

Groupama are 875 miles away from Auckland. Photo / Yann Riou
Groupama are 875 miles away from Auckland. Photo / Yann Riou

Groupama have opened a decisive gap on the rest of the fleet in the Volvo Ocean Race as they close on Auckland as Camper struggle to find the speed to match their rivals.

The French boat are 120 miles ahead of Puma in second, with Telefonica (145 miles) and Camper (200 miles) battling for the minor placings.

Although the wind looks unstable heading into Auckland, with light winds forecast near the top of the North Island, Groupama have only 875 miles to race and could reach Auckland as early as Saturday.

Camper, who are expected to arrive mid-Sunday morning, will keep pushing but will be bitterly disappointed if they don't sail into Auckland first.

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton virtually demanded success on the leg but, since damaging a sail and losing ground last week, have made little headway. They have not enjoyed tight reaching conditions and had hoped for more down-wind racing and it leaves their chances of overall success looking bleak.

Camper navigator Will Oxley said they were following a more westerly approach to New Zealand in the hope of pulling back some miles as the wind could lighten in the east.

"It looks like there's low above New Zealand, to the west of that low extends a finger of quite light air, so the boats in the east will end up having to come down to our line to get around that and we hope to see some compression at that point,'' he said.

"I don't think there's any secret in the fact that this sort of reaching we're doing at the moment is not our strong point against the three Juan K boats (Puma, Groupama and Telefonica).

"It's very hard for us to go the same speed in equal conditions, so we hope that we have a little more lifting breeze being a little more west than them which enables us to match their speed.

"This weather situation for the next few days is so fluid that any of the top four boats are still in the game and, as we've seen a number of times, the final stage of the leg into Auckland can often deliver upsets.''

- APNZ

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