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Volvo Ocean Race: Groupama in adrenaline rush to cape reinga

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Overnight, runaway leaders in Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race Groupama sailing team (Franck Cammas/FRA) began their long beat up towards Cape Reinga on the northern tip of New Zealand’s North Island. As the tacking frenzy continued, Groupama’s lead was slowly eroded by the chasing pack, who were still reaching, although at 1000 UTC today, the French team had improved their margin to 108 nautical miles, creating a safe enough buffer to protect their lead from Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP).

The French team are now sailing in a building south-easterly breeze on the edge of an area of a high-pressure, which is slowly drifting east. This may play into the hands of the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) and Sanya (Mike Sanderson/NZL), who now may sail less distance upwind but with a more unsettled breeze. Cape Reinga is 315 nm upwind from Groupama’s current position and they are expected to make the turn in high winds later today or tonight.

On board Groupama, the crew is tired but still focussed on the finish. Soon they will be running on adrenaline alone as the daily food bags run out on Friday and the finish is not expected until Saturday morning UTC.

Telefónica, in second place, is around eight hours and 108 nm behind the leaders and will find themselves sailing upwind in the worst of the south-easterly breeze.

Meanwhile, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (Ken Read) and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing , the two easterly boats in the fleet, were badly affected by clouds and showers as they sailed closer to the low-pressure area. Their easterly position will allow them more straight-line sailing than Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS).

CAMPER is currently transitioning across a light section, trying to break out of the north-east trades and into the new established south-easterly breeze. Skipper Chris Nicholson has observed that PUMA has a lot of leverage over CAMPER, but it seems that it has been difficult for them to convert it into miles ahead. “Hopefully we will be in sight of each other once we get into new breeze, then it’s game on,” Nicholson said today.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is covering their lead over sixth placed Sanya  and hoping to take some miles out of CAMPER, but with 716 nm to run to the finish, the runway is shortening rapidly.