Having led the fleet for much of the first leg, PUMA slipped back to second on Friday and were then left to watch Telefónica clocking consistently higher speeds in better weather conditions on a more easterly route through the South Atlantic.
Iker Martínez´s team, having been neck and neck with PUMA for more than 4,000 nautical miles of the 6,500-nm first leg from Alicante to Cape Town, had a lead of over 50 nm on distance to finish at the 1300 UTC position report on Saturday, though the real world advantage was lower in the race for the south.
“We got our butts handed to us by Telefónica and by Mother Nature,” the straight-talking Read said overnight. “They put on their left blinker at Fernando (de Noronha) and never looked back. They committed to the high lane and by the time we wanted to start to lean in that direction as well we were headed and we simply could never get there.
“Bottom line, Telefónica were hauling tail all day and PUMA were trying desperately to tackle small squall after small squall which shifted the breeze through a 50 degree range and literally sucked all the wind off the ocean at times.
“Unfortunately we are still paying for this mistake. Although we are now to the east of the convergence there is clearly more wind up where Telefónica is and the rich keep getting richer. So we take our medicine, live to fight another day and don't let this get us down. Still over 2,500 miles to go -- you know the speech.”
Just over 169 nm behind the frontrunners, Chris Nicholson’s CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand made gains overnight, continuing to chip away at the leaders as the fleet prepares for conditions that should bring much faster speeds next week.
“Long term we are looking to catch a front that will pass under the high-pressure system,” said navigator Will Oxley. “We then have to try very hard to stay on the front of the front and teams will be pushing very hard to do this. It is going to get cold fairly quickly and there will be some fast and furious miles.
“At the moment it doesn’t look like anybody can ride that front all the way to Cape Town and there will be a final band of light winds to cross in the last 400 miles. This could open the race up at the very end as the fleet compresses into the light air ridge. Right now the boats ahead of us are sailing into slightly lighter winds and finally we have had some good news on the skeds taking miles out of both Telefonica and PUMA.”
At the 1300 UTC position report fourth-placed Groupama 4 were the fastest boat in the fleet, clocking an average of 16.5 knots as they tried to make up some of the 418 nm they trail the leaders by.
Media crew member Yann Riou said: “The crew is still hunting out an opportunity to make some gains in relation to our rivals.”
The fleet in Leg 1 is down to four with Team Sanya and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing shipping their boats to Cape Town for the re-start because of the damage they suffered inside the first 24 hours offshore.