Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Doldrums Dump On Groupama - Volvo Ocean Race Update

Groupama sailing team had to settle for fourth place in Leg 2, Stage 1 after disappointment in the Doldrums cost them a hard won lead.
Photo: Yann Roui/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race 
Franck Cammas and Groupama 4 began Leg 2 from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi with such promise, leading the fleet on day two. But they quickly descended into last place on day four after splitting from the fleet and heading south, following the old adage ‘if you don’t know where to go in the Atlantic, you have to go west; and if you don’t know where to go in the Southern Ocean, you have to south’. It was a move reminiscent of their Leg 1 strategy where they chose to plough a lonely furrow, away from the main body of the fleet.
Photo: Yann Roui/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race 
The five other teams watched intently as they herded east. Last place belonged to Groupama 4 until December 18, day eight, when the team at last started to make good progress and rose to second place, their southerly gamble placing them further east, giving them a more constant breeze and a better angle of sailing . “We have ended up in a different option for two legs now,” said an undeterred Cammas. “It certainly comes from our experience with multihulls in France,” he explained.
Photo: Yann Roui/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
On day 10, 0700 UTC December 20, Groupama 4 became the new leader, having a clear advantage over the rest of the fleet and enjoying true trade wind sailing at its best. Beam reaching at 20 knots, it was the French team’s easterly position that had paid dividends at last, while the rest of the fleet was battling uncomfortable headwinds. “We are leading at the moment and it’s great,” wrote Cammas. “There are lots of smiles on the faces when the reports come in now,” he said.
Photo: Yann Roui/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
But the Doldrums was fast approaching, and Cammas needed to put as many miles as he could between Groupama 4 and the chasing pack. On day 11, Cammas had just 24 hours to translate his 45 miles of lateral separation into distance ahead. The team was focused, teasing every ounce of speed out of the boat in order to give themselves the best shot possible at crossing the 300-mile belt of Doldrums in the lead.
Photo: Yann Roui/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
They continued to set a blistering pace, extending their lead at every opportunity. “The race is far from over,” Cammas said. “We will enter the light wind area and the fleet will compress,” he forewarned. But, for the moment, the French rocket ship was in first place and led the fleet into the stealth zone put in place to protect the boats from unwanted attention of pirates.
Photo: Yann Roui/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
Cammas took Groupama 4 into the Doldrums at the western end and her speed started to decrease and, on day 13, December 23, Cammas relinquished his lead to Telefónica. Groupama’s lead of 70 nm had slowly dissolved and by 1900 UTC that night, the team was in deficit by 62 nm. The team was disappointed, their hopes dashed by the minefield of clouds and squalls. “Offshore racing is like that,” wrote MCM Yann Riou. “One day you feel very strong, the next very miserable. You have to take it as it is, or do another job,” he said.
Photo: Yann Roui/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race
Groupama 4 had maintained third position on Christmas Day, but on Boxing Day, PUMA’s Mar Mostro had stolen her spot after a night of intense racing. Although it was down to the wire for the leading pair, Telefónica and CAMPER, PUMA’s Mar Mostro was now a safe 15 nm ahead and Groupama 4 finished outside the top three. Groupama finished at 0204:20 UTC, more than two hours behind PUMA, and eight hours behind Telefónica and CAMPER.

Volvo Ocean Race Media

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