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Volvo Ocean Race: Fleet converges in approach to New Caledonia

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It is a question of playing the ‘waiting game’ for the six boats racing in Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race towards Auckland. Groupama controls the fleet, which is being hunted down by light air astern and all six teams are racing south as hard as they can in a bid to escape. “We are only just hanging on by the skin of our teeth,” reported Mike Sanderson, skipper of Team Sanya this morning.

Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas/FRA), PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (Ken Read/USA) and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) are trying to consolidate what has been a very strong position out to the east. They will hope to set up in front of a particularly hard charging Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP), currently in third place.

“To think that Telefónica has again converted an incredibly difficult position, starting 200 nautical miles (nm) to leeward, into being just 50 nm behind (in distance to finish) is agitatingly impressive,” wrote Amory Ross, media crew member with PUMA.

In a classic drag race south, today the fleet will reach New Caledonia, 227 nm ahead of Groupama 4’s position, where it will become clear whether west was ultimately best as the fleet converges to pass it to leeward.

“I can’t remember a race that I have been so unsure of the outcome. I don’t know what is going to happen. It’s strange because usually we have a pretty good idea how things are going to work out in the big game of chess long before it actually does happen,” said PUMA’s skipper, Ken Read.

The land shadow from passing to leeward will mean keeping well offshore. CAMPER’s skipper, Chris Nicholson, said today that even 60 nm offshore of Guadalcanal was near enough to feel the strong effects of the mountains.

At 0700 UTC today, the fleet had all made gains on Groupama whose speed had dropped to 8.5 knots reducing their lead to 63 nm.

At 1000 UTC, Groupama’s lead was down again to just 53.9 nm, her speed dropping to just 6.9 nm over the past three hours and PUMA had gained nine miles. CAMPER was involved in a fierce battle with Abu Dhabi, just six miles behind, but over 180 nm to the east and the entire fleet had all made gains as the convergence began.