Yachting: Camper leading the way

Andy McLean grinding at sunset on the first day, onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Photo / Hamish Hooper
Andy McLean grinding at sunset on the first day, onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Photo / Hamish Hooper

Camper and Abu Dhabi are spearheading the fleet's northern climb to Miami despite a diversion around a massive oil rig overnight (NZT), but it is Puma who, with the blessing of the weather gods, appear to hold the upper hand in leg six of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The leading duo elected to hug the coast and split from the three Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed boats, who are near untouchable in the broad reaching conditions, in a bid to take a shorter course.

But their inshore shortcut was hindered overnight when an oil rig, laying eight kilometer cables, forced the pair on a detour that cost them about five miles on Puma, Telefnica and Groupama offshore.

Now it is nearing crunch time for the inshore pair as the fleet approach a pressure area between a high and a low, which could enable them to reach to an advantageous position offshore in a southerly tending breeze or stall.

Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker said whether the inshore or offshore option, or even Puma's middle road, would pay off was anyone's guess.

"I wouldn't like to call who's in the best position right now," he said.

"There's always decisions to be made, but for sure right now there's quite a big separation, quite a big difference in current and could quite easily be a big difference in breeze.

"There's two distinct groups of boats - three if you count Puma on their own - and we could easily see a break in the fleet."

To the southeast, Telefnica skipper Iker Martnez said he was confident in his team's positioning as they tried to take advantage of small gusts and squalls offshore.

While taking the coastal route was an option, Martnez said he and navigator Andrew Cape fancied the offshore route because of promising wind and angles, plus the absence of the Brazilian Current, which can run at about 1.5 knots.

"We didn't want to be too close to the coast, it was a choice, but we can see now that we are all in light airs," he said.

"We are confident. The boat is doing well, everything is fine here. It's just a matter of wind.

"I guess [Camper and Abu Dhabi] tried to do less miles, it's always interesting to try that. We try to always go a bit further, a bit faster. But I don't know the outcome, we shall see when it's finished."

Volvo meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said it was unclear if the east or west route would pay dividends, however Puma looked good in the middle lane.

Meanwhile, Team Sanya's Volvo Open 70 continues her voyage towards the US on board a cargo ship, as part of what the team have dubbed

"Operation Savannah" in honour of the American port where they expect to dock on April 27.

The team will then sail the boat 350 nm to Miami, ahead of the PortMiami In-Port race and Leg 7 start.

- APNZ

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