Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Yachting: Camper battling for second on home run

Volvo Ocean Race. Photo / PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race
Volvo Ocean Race. Photo / PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race

As Groupama powers towards the Auckland finish line with a seemingly unassailable lead, a battle is raging for second place between Team New Zealand, Puma and Telefonica.

With 140 nautical miles on the fleet, and conditions expected to favour the leading boat, the French team look assured of victory on leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Groupama is due to arrive in Auckland around 11pm tonight - at least 12 hours ahead of the chasing boats.

But organisers of the Auckland stopover will at least be pleased that the local heroes will come in to their hometown port in daylight hours, in what is likely to be a tense battle for podium spots.

Late last night Camper sneaked in to second place after heading higher in search of more wind, before tacking back down towards New Zealand late in the afternoon.

All three boats made the call to head north for a couple of hours as they tried to position themselves at a better angle for a faster ride down the coast.

In the latest position report Camper trailed Groupama by 141 miles, with Puma 14 miles back in third, and Telefonica a further 8 miles behind.

But with just 20 miles separating second from fourth, the chasing boats are expected to be jostling for position all the way down the east coast to Auckland.

Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said the podium places are still very much up for grabs. "It's game on right now with Puma and Telefonica and we just need to take every inch of advantage that we can."

The tactics approaching Cape Reinga will be key as the boats will be looking to avoid a costly tack out to the east, but need to lay the Cape with good boat speed and minimum distance travelled.

After navigating the rough conditions off the tip of the North Island, the boats will face a patch of soft and variable conditions off the Bay of Islands later tonight that Nicholson said is likely to open up further opportunities and potential passing lanes.

"The little park-up further down the coast should mix things up again so there's plenty going on and opportunities to take advantage of. We just can't get too greedy and we're going to need to sail very well to move up the fleet," he said.

"I know, though, that all the guys aboard will give it everything they can to ensure that happens. We have more motivation than anyone else to do well into Auckland and we want to give all our fans and people who have supported us from day one a good result."

Camper's latest estimated time of arrival in Auckland tomorrow is most likely between 2pm and 5pm.

The sail up the Hauraki Gulf tomorrow morning in a moderate northerly breeze should provide a great spectacle for the supporters who take to the water.

- NZ Herald

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