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Volvo Ocean Race: Telefónica take top spot as fleet gybes north

24/05/2012
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Leg 7 had a new frontrunner early on Thursday in the form of overall race leaders Telefónica, who snatched the top spot from French rivals Groupama as the teams were forced to head north to dodge a high pressure system blocking the direct path towards Lisbon.

Iker Martínez’s men were almost 10 nautical miles ahead of Franck Cammas’ team at the 0700 UTC position report and travelling more than a knot quicker after all six boats had gybed north in search of better breeze.

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand were the first of the chasing teams to gybe north on Wednesday, and this morning Sanya, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing followed suit.

Telefónica and Groupama were the last of the fleet to make the move, and at the latest position report all six teams were sailing north-easterly courses.

CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson said that while costly, the split was a necessary move to keep them in the game. At 0700 it seemed to be paying as they averaged 15.5 knots, the quickest boat in the fleet, pulling back more than six miles in three hours.

“The boats to the north of us were continuing gaining on us in more pressure, and we are going to have to take a loss to go there, but the future wasn’t looking good staying in the south,” Nicholson said.

“We are going to take some more losses to get back into pressure and try to get back in touch with these guys.”

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, this morning in third place almost 50 nm behind the leaders, were banking on a leaderboard reshuffle in their favour as they relished being in the thick of the action.

“For a few days we have clung to the hope that we could just about ride the southwesterly wind east and connect with the westerly flow round the Azores High that would deliver us to Lisbon,” skipper Ian Walker said. “It was a dream scenario – a very direct and downwind route that avoided the ice gates to the north.

“Sadly reality is now being faced by the fleet as we gybe north one by one. Ahead of us we face a very light wind high pressure zone to cross, a day of upwind sailing, much colder temperatures and a few more days at sea. At least it will feel like a ‘real’ Atlantic crossing.

“I suspect we could see a real shake up in the standings with some big gains and losses. After getting ourselves into a good position thus far our priority is to put ourselves in as safe a position as we can relative to the others.”