Volvo Ocean Race headed to Portugal
MIAMI, May 21, 2012 (Menafn - Sun Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Conditions were beautiful but far from ideal for the re-start of the Volvo Ocean Race Sunday afternoon.
The six Volvo Open 70 sailboats competing in the 39,270-mile around-the-world race had nearly flat seas and southeast winds of 8 knots, which is like having NASCAR stock cars racing in a 15 mph school speed zone.
More than 100 spectator boats were out for the start of Leg 7, which has the fleet racing 3,590 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Lisbon, Portugal. The race, which is held every three years, began in November in Alicante, Spain, and finishes in July in Galway, Ireland.
The fleet raced on an Olympic triangle-type course, doing three laps off South Beach before heading out to sea.
Abu Dhabi Racing led the way, followed closely by Groupama. Overall race leader Telefonica was next, followed by CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG and Sanya.
That order was soon shuffled, with Groupama and Telefonica in a virtual tie for first and PUMA, Abu Dhabi and CAMPER tied for third. Race officials are predicting it will take 11 days to complete the leg.
The top four boats in the overall standings are separated by 14 points, so the Volvo is still anybody's race. Telefonica has 165 points, followed by Groupama with 158, CAMPER with 152 and PUMA with 151.
The wind and the seas are going to pick up with Tropical Storm Alberto waiting for the boats in the Atlantic. The strategy is to play the storm just right, getting close enough to benefit from the winds on the outer edge of Alberto, but not so close that boats end up near the center of the storm, where the winds are 45 mph and the conditions are dangerous.
"In some ways it's quite good," Abu Dhabi navigator Jules Salter said of Alberto. "It's giving us some downwind conditions once we get up past Cape Canaveral and up toward Cape Hatteras, so we're kind of cutting the corner and probably sailing a more direct route that we would have done if the storm wasn't there."
Many of the Volvo skippers have been hoping for more challenging conditions than they encountered during Leg 6 from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami. Winds were generally light and the fleet could not make up any ground on PUMA, which led wire to wire.
PUMA, the lone American entry, also won Leg 5 from New Zealand to Brazil, which featured winds of 45 mph and 30-foot seas.
"We won the windiest leg maybe in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race and then won maybe the lightest leg in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race," PUMA skipper Ken Read said. "It's all just a tactical boat race whether it's blowing 50 or blowing 3."
PUMA hopes to continue its winning streak and make history in the process. The boat broke its mast on the first leg from Alicante to Cape Town, South Africa, and had to drop out, which meant it got no points.
"Why not us?" Read said. "Why can't we be the first boat to ever win this race without finishing a leg?"
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