Yachting: Groupama getting closer to Auckland

Andy McLean trimming onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Photo / Hamish Cooper
Andy McLean trimming onboard CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Photo / Hamish Cooper

The anxiety levels on Groupama went up a few notches today as they saw their commanding lead chopped by 50 miles in six hours, but the leading boat in the Volvo Ocean Race found some fresh breeze to maintain their strong position as they bear down on Auckland.

The French boat found themselves in light winds and travelling at just 10 knots as their main competition were sailing at 17 knots and saw their lead sliced by 50 knots. They have found some fresh breeze as the rest of the fleet slow down, and still remain clear favourites to reach Auckland first.

This afternoon they held a 92-mile lead over Telefonica in second with Puma in third 111 miles back and Camper fourth 140 miles behind.

Groupama are expected into Auckland in the early hours of Sunday morning with Camper due in mid-Sunday morning.

"We've now found some wind, which is a much better sign for us," Groupama watch captain Thomas Coville said.

"We are thinking about the victory a little bit ... but it's far from over. We will live in the moment, each hour and each watch, and we'll see at the end how that plays out. A race is only over once you have crossed the finish line."

Camper are approaching things in the same manner and their main focus is trying to secure a podium finish into Auckland. Time is running out but different weather models are predicting vastly different conditions from a 30-knot headwind to light breezes, giving hope to the Camper crew they can find a way through.

Camper co-skipper Stu Bannatyne said the closeness of home was also providing extra motivation for the crew.

"The guys are so eager to get home to Auckland that it is channelling their focus to reel in the leading boats ahead of us," he said. "Puma and Telefonica and even Groupama are firmly in the cross hairs. The sooner we get to them, the sooner we can get home to Auckland.

"Once we lay eyes on the first glimpse of New Zealand, it will give all of the guys a massive lift to make that final push down the coast to Auckland. Our aim is to be within striking distance of the leading boats for that last couple of hundred miles down into the Hauraki Gulf.

"Each passing hour takes us closer and closer with good speed - right now we are easing along at 16.5 knots towards the mark. Whether we can hold this speed will all depend on the conditions between now and home but we desperately want to deliver a good result into Auckland and will give it everything we can."

Adding to the anticipation is the fact Auckland is a stop on the round-the-world race for the first time in 10 years.

- APNZ

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