Friday, June 15, 2012

Groupama 4 Team News - On Winning Leg 8 - Volvo Ocean Race

Groupama 4 has secured an impressive victory in the eighth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race between Lisbon and Lorient.
Photo: © Yvan Zedda
A 1,950-mile course, which proved to be one of the most bracing of this round the world race, with a violent depression adding to the already highly charged atmosphere last night. In this way Franck Cammas and his men have consolidated their lead in the overall standing, but there's still everything to play for until the final showdown in Ireland.
Photo: © Yvan Zedda
On crossing the finish line in the channel forming the entrance to the port of Lorient at 11h 31' 02 UTC this Friday, Franck Cammas and his crew have killed two birds with one stone: not only have they confirmed that they're on a roll, after taking the lead in the overall standing back in Lisbon, but they've also gained some room for manoeuvre some twenty points or so ahead of their three closest pursuers. Though the game is still wide open prior to the end of the competition in Galway in three weeks' time, this victory on home waters has really left them with every chance of finishing the event on a high, coloured by the fact that they were first across the finish line today, which was laid just offshore of Groupama's technical base!

Coming Out Unscathed

And yet the negotiation of the Atlantic depression, which proved extremely violent last night, certainly wasn't the easiest part of this leg. Indeed this eighth offshore race was very varied in terms of the weather conditions, but fairly simple in terms of strategy, as there weren't really any tactical openings up for grabs. The only exception was last night's gybe, which took on a rather important role as timing it right would be crucial in the bid to break away from the fleet. However, on Thursday evening, the Spanish leaders were in an unfavourable position when their starboard rudder broke. By the time they'd installed an emergency steering system, Groupama 4 had got in front of Telefonica again. However, the Iberians weren't about to let this move go unchallenged and they hoisted even more sail aloft. In so doing they snatched back the lead thanks to their positioning to leeward of the fleet and were the first to gybe onto a direct course to Lorient.

The final sprint in the worst of the storm (up to 45 knots of breeze with six metre waves) was very tense then, as Franck Cammas and his men lamented a two-mile deficit in relation to the Spanish, whilst the New Zealanders were going for broke by shifting across to leeward. Unfortunately, at around midnight, Telefonica suffered breakage on a second rudder (port) and with just the emergency tiller still operational, Iker Martinez and his crew could no longer push their machine to the limit... Groupama 4 moved up into the lead at that point and even managed to extend away from her pursuers by slipping along under gennaker in the breeze, which was becoming increasingly manageable the closer they got to the shores of Brittany. Camper took second place a little less than an hour later, with Puma completing the podium quarter of an hour afterwards.

Room For Manoeuvre In The Overall Standings

This second leg victory after that in Auckland has given Groupama 4 (219 points) a twenty-three point lead over her new direct rival, Puma (196 points), which was the third boat to make it into Lorient. As the Spanish limp into port, in a bid to preserve their final rudder, they could still take fifth place in Brittany, which would see them tied on points with the New Zealanders (second into Lorient - 191 points) in third place overall! However, there are still 42 points to be awarded to the winners of the three remaining legs: two In-Port races (Lorient and Galway) and one offshore leg (Lorient-Galway)... Franck Cammas and his men just have to assert themselves now and avoid technical issues, whilst their three pursuers will have to settle it out among themselves as the scores are very bunched in Lorient ...

Quotes from the boat

Franck Cammas

"I'd dreamt about this, the whole crew had dreamt of it! On a short leg like this, the slightest error cost dearly. With our mainsail issue nearly two days ago, we all told ourselves it was over... However, when we were able to effect repairs, we came back fighting: last night was bordering on the edge but it came off. We took risks like the others and it turned into a competition to see who was going to be the first to bail... It was a very fine last night of racing. To have such a violent depression in June wasn't on the cards! That means that Lorient is a good training base. Groupama 4 really is a good boat in the breeze and the whole crew has progressed well. We're going to be able to relax now and party on home soil: it's nice to be back amongst old friends after an eight-month circumnavigation of the globe."

Jean-Luc Nélias

"There were two tricky points: knowing where to gybe and how. Franck and I formed a pretty close bond and the decision was made quickly: we had the timing, but the remaining tricky element was the manoeuvre itself. We were able to choose between gybing with the current sail configuration or reducing down big time by dumping the sail and putting in a tack change... We had 45 knots of breeze at that point! It's the kind of manoeuvre where it's make or break. We opted for the aggressive version... We took risks because we were within sight of Telefonica, which gybed at the same point. So we had to take risks. In these extreme conditions, you can't go up onto the foredeck and you need to slow the boat down. We could clearly see from the wakes that everyone had a few little issues. We've scored full marks here with second place going to Camper! It's the "Monsieur Plus" leg..."

Charles Caudrelier

"It was hard because when we wanted to reduce the sail area with Puma and calm things down a bit in the worst of the storm, Telefonica got past us again carrying a big sail wardrobe! We were forced to respond so we too were on the attack for twelve hours... It was bordering on the edge, but it was impressive and the boat handles very well. Given that Groupama 4 is fond of breezy conditions and we haven't had much downwind stuff since the start in Alicante, this was our moment to shine! There's everything to play for, as the fleet is a very similar level and it's easy to finish fourth or worse: we still have three races to go and anything could happen. Right now we're feeling euphoric, but in two weeks time we'll be back in the ring. In terms of nerves, it was the toughest leg of my career, as there was a lot of pressure!"

Thomas Coville

"Last night was a classic! We pushed really hard: at the helm, we were frequently taking it in turns because the bow was burying into the waves and we didn't really know how it could come up again... In this massive battle, we came off well by scoring some very important points. It was an exceptional night. It was a short leg, but there was no downtime and it was incredibly intense. And there was so much emotion at the finish: my trimaran Sodebo came out to welcome us in: it was great! We've looped a loop now and when I look back at the moments we've shared over the past eight months, there have been some fantastic moments and some difficult ones too... But it's a fine voyage which is coming to an end."

Laurent Pagès

"It was fantastic to discover Groix this morning! It's especially nice when you've circumnavigated the globe... You're never completely confident when you're ahead: we've already dismasted when leading the fleet before Brazil, so you don't let yourself get swept up by it all... We began to relax once we were around the Glénan Islands with a twenty-mile lead... Home smelt good!"

Finishers in Lorient
1-Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas) Friday 15 June at 11h 31' 02 UTC
2-Camper (Chris Nicholson) at 12h 30' 09
3-Puma (Ken Read) at 12h 43' 04

(Provisional) overall standing after eight oceanic legs and eight In-Port races

1-Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas) : 2+20+2+18+5+24+2+30+4+20+6+20+5+25+6+30 = 219 points
2-Puma (Ken Read) : 5+0+4+19+3+17+5+25+5+30+4+30+4+20+5+20 = 196 points
3-Telefonica (Iker Martinez) : 1+30+6+29+2+27+6+20+1+25+2+15+1+15+1+10 = 191 points *
tieds on 3rd -Camper (Chris Nicholson) : 4+25+5+24+4+18+3+15+6+15+5+25+3+10+4+25 = 191 points
5-Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker) : 6+0+3+10+6+14+4+10+2+0+3+10+6+30+3+15 = 122 points *
6-Sanya (Mike Sanderson) : 3+0+1+5+2+5+1+5+3+0+0+0+2+5+2+5 = 39 points *

*subject to her holding onto her current 5th place

Groupama Media Team

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