Monday, 23 April 2012

Who has the winning momentum?

Ryan Godfrey and Shannon Falconea board PUMA during leg six.
Credit: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)
In sport, we talk about momentum, and yacht racing is no different. Team Telefonica is leading overall with 149 points, 16 points clear of the French boat, Groupama.

There are four legs to go and 120 points up for grabs so it’s still anyone’s race. The unfortunate Team Sanya and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are out of the running, but will be looking for a leg win to prove a point.

So who has the winning momentum to pull them through these last few legs?

Coming back
Team Telefonica has not put a foot wrong off shore and has the ability to keep coming back from setbacks to always be in the hunt.

Groupama gets the most improved prize and is still getting better. Their hard work and tenacity won them a third place podium finish, even after breaking their mast in the final sprint to Itajai.

Camper crewed by Team New Zealand is the dark horse at this stage. It could go either way. Their epic struggle to sail into Itajai after major repairs on leg four has not given the team any time to rest between legs. Hamish Hooper reported that the crew were in the worst physical shape they had been in so far, but mentally they were strong and focused on the race.

Keep focused
“There is no point sweating about the stuff you can’t control or getting frustrated at things that can’t change. You just have to keep focused on doing as best as you possibly can every time there are points up for grabs,’’ Hooper said.

Will that fighting spirit that often defines the Kiwi off-shore sailor pull them back into the hunt? Or will they let the American giant Puma claw its way past them?

Puma is probably the most buoyant team at the moment as they have just claimed their first leg win by holding off a late attack from the Spanish team. As I type this she is leading leg six to Miami. Everything about this team has a strong momentum to win this leg. It will mean a lot to Puma and her American sponsor.

Great sailors
"Right now, we feel good about ourselves, and that says something. We're as confident as you can be sailing in a fleet like this against such great sailors and great boats,” said skipper Ken Read.

The leg itself is not a straightforward one with the last of those most random doldrum crossings promising to turn the fleet inside out again.

“We’re starting just behind a weather front that pushed through overnight, so we’ve got some good downwind sailing over the first day or so,” said navigator Tom Addis. “It won’t last that long though, and after a day of nice downwind, we’ll see a couple days of lighter stuff. We’ll battle through to the trade winds and once there we should have some nice, solid reaching almost all the way to the Bahamas.”

So who will win leg six, and keep that winning momentum rolling?

Mark Covell

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