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Volvo Ocean Race: Torrid times for chasing pack as Abu Dhabi ocean racing are set free

27/05/2012
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After a frustrating night trapped by the high-pressure, at 0700 GMT Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) had sniffed the new breeze and while the chasing pack wallowed, Ian Walker and his men pulled out an advantage of 31 nautical miles (nm) over second-placed PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (Ken Read/USA). Meanwhile, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, Mike Sanderson has taken Sanya to with 60 nm of the ice limit in search of strong breeze.

It was a frustrating night for Walker and his men as the weather gods flirted with the team, first producing breeze and then taking it away as the high pressure moved east, leaving Abu Dhabi becalmed and sailing backwards in the current.

“The important thing is that we have negotiated a very tricky part of the race course and are still leading,” said a relieved Walker this morning. The team has begun the curve to the east as is 29 nm to leeward of second-placed PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, but sailing three knots faster.

But as Azzam picks up her skirts, the losses for the chasing pack have been significant. Third placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS) has had a particularly torrid time. With the exception of Sanya, Nicholson and is men are the furthest to the north, but suffered a loss of 25 miles in the past three hour period, leaving them 50 miles adrift of the lead.

“We have swapped sides with everyone, from being the southernmost boat, fighting to get back up here. Now they [the fleet] have all gone back down where we didn’t want to be. I don’t know what’s right, but it’s very interesting,” said CAMPER navigator Will Oxley.

From their position midway between CAMPER and Abu Dhabi, PUMA is in a good position to pounce on the new breeze, but for now they can only watch as the stern of Azzam disappears over the horizon.

“We’re committed to the north and there’s really not much to do other than keep the old girl going as best we can. Eventually the high will move on and we’ll get to punch our ticket for the fast ride east towards Lisbon,” explained Media Crew Member Amory Ross.

Although they are bringing up the rear, 112 miles behind the leaders, the crew of Sanya are enjoying the wildlife as they trek north in search of breeze. Turtles, whales and abound and the sunsets have been among the best ever seen by the crew. The northern course means more miles, but experienced Atlantic sailor and skipper Mike Sanderson, and his navigator Aksel Magdahl, have a plan up their sleeves, but it will take time for it to play out.

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