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Volvo Ocean Race: Groupama leads the fleet north on gulf stream conveyor belt

21/05/2012
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After a light airs start to Leg 7 yesterday, Groupama (Franck Cammas/FRA) has the lead today as northerly winds blowing against the Gulf Stream kick up a choppy sea in the opening stages of the transatlantic leg to Lisbon in Portugal.

The fleet’s progress north is being helped by three knots of positive current from the Gulf Stream conveyor belt, but has made for an unpleasant and bumpy start to the 3,590 nautical mile (nm) leg.

“There’s nothing like going upwind in the Gulf Stream and slamming into a big swell,” said PUMA watch captain Tony Mutter. Already the fleet has made good progress on what all crews expect to be an exhilarating and predominantly downwind ride back to European waters.

At 0700 GMT today Groupama led from Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) by 1.2 nm as the fleet passed Cape Canaveral on the east coast of the United States.

Meanwhile PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (Ken Read/USA), CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) are tightly bunched, while Mike Sanderson has chosen to take Team Sanya two miles to windward of the pack.

Ahead of the fleet to the north lies Tropical Storm Alberto, which will provide a big advantage for the team which finds the strong winds first.

According to Groupama navigator Jean-Luc Nélias, the tropical low could propel the fleet east almost as far as the Azores Islands.

“The storm is the source of pressure for us to get north and east on, so it’s important to try to feed into that pressure first,” explained PUMA navigator Tom Addis.

“You don’t want to be on the wrong side of that low, because the current against wind in the Gulf Stream would give quite a heinous sea state.”

Leg 7 is predicted to take the fleet 11 days to complete with the leaders expected to arrive in Lisbon on or around May 31.