Volvo Ocean Race: A game of snakes and ladders in the light

Will Oxley and Chris Nicholson ponder the tactical challenges in leg six. Photo / ETNZ
Will Oxley and Chris Nicholson ponder the tactical challenges in leg six. Photo / ETNZ

There's unlikely to be much sleep on board the boats in the final 48 hours of racing into Miami in the Volvo Ocean Race with the race for line honours an intense one.

It has been a game of snakes and ladders for the fleet, with hard won miles often being eroded in the patchy conditions. Camper closed to within eight nautical miles of leaders Puma only to lose ground as they became virtually becalmed in a large patch of light airs.

This morning, Camper were 12.5 miles behind Puma but sailing at only 2.6 knots with about 400 miles to sail to the next pit stop. Groupama were third, 59 miles behind, but making up ground as they sailed at an average of 5.6 knots. Telefonica were in fourth, 79 miles behind Puma, and Abu Dhabi in fifth 93 miles off the pace.

FOLLOW THE RACE

The breeze is expected to build in the next few hours, giving Camper a good chance to not only protect their second placing but also challenge Puma at the front of the fleet. Downwind running conditions are forecast for the final stretch of the leg into Miami, which should favour Camper.

"An interesting game is being played out right now," Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said. "We are literally island hopping in the Bahamas picking up local sea breezes trying to get every morsel of breeze that is on hand.

"As predicted, the fleet is compressing in the light stuff and, while that helps the guys behind us, it also helps us in relation to Puma. In these conditions every bit of breeze counts and we're doing just what we can to keep the boat moving.

"We made a lot of progress overnight when the other boats were pretty quiet - now it's our turn to feel the pain. Hopefully, we can minimise the impact and escape without losing to many miles to Puma or Groupama. It's all on for these final few days."

The final positions on the sixth leg will have a significant bearing on the overall table. Telefonica would still lead overall if the current standings were maintained but the chasing pack would make up good ground leaving only 17 points between first and fourth.

Camper are presently third on the leaderboard, 25 points behind Telefonica.

The winners of each of the remaining four offshore legs pick up 30 points, with 25 for second, 20 for third and so on down to five points for sixth. The four remaining in-port races deliver six points for the winners, with five for second, four for third down to one point for sixth.

The tight racing has put even more strain than usual on the crews.

Nicholson and navigator Will Oxley have been getting as little as four hours' rest a day as they search for the smallest of opportunities.

"We have stayed with the normal watch systems and it is Chris and I that tend to get the least sleep in these situations - which is not a lot anyway," Oxley said. "I have had maybe eight hours in the last 48 hours."

The first boat is due into Miami tomorrow night (NZT).

- APNZ

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