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Volvo Ocean Race: Team SANYA is new leader in northerly gamble

18/12/2011
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Overnight Mike Sanderson/NZL and crew on Sanya Lan have jumped into the lead as all but one of the turn north towards the virtual waypoint used to calculate the distance to finish.

Team Sanya’s early move north is one that skipper Mike Sanderson and his Norwegian navigator Aksel Magdahl deliberated over for several days before finally making the call yesterday.

As a boat that has raced around the world in the previous Volvo Ocean Race, there is always the danger that Sanya Lan (Telefónica Blue in the previous race) will not be able to match the pace of the brand new boats in a drag race.

Their attempt to squeeze between the eastern coast of Madagascar and a tropical cyclone that is forming off its southeast coast could go one of two ways. Either a stunning victory, or a very definite last place finish is on the cards for this team.

“It’s quite a risky move, but if it comes off right they will probably end up two or three hundred miles ahead,” explains Azzam’s navigator Jules Salter. But, according to Salter, there could be a big problem if the cyclone forms too close to the coast for Team Sanya to slip through. “All they will get is the strongest headwinds in the dangerous part of the tropical storm,” he warns.

After seven days of racing but only a measly 1700 nautical miles covered since the start from Cape Town now over a week ago, Team Sanya spotted the black hull of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam (Ian Walker/GBR), which crossed about a mile behind. “It was as if we had just rounded the bottom mark a few minutes ahead of them,” said skipper Mike Sanderson, looking at the puzzled faces around him.

Meanwhile, PUMA’s Mar Mostro (Ken Read/USA), CAMPER (Chris Nicholson/AUS) and overall race leader Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) have taken a hitch north up to latitude 35 degrees south, while Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is still heading resolutely east at 36 degrees south.

This group appears to have now broken through the front which has been trapping them for days and now the race can begin again.

Further south again, at 37 degrees south, Franck Cammas/FRA and the second-placed Groupama 4 is making good progress to the northeast.

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