Thursday, 3 May 2012

Hot pursuit of Puma in light winds

Going fast downwind onboard Camper, just
behind the leader Puma.
Photo: Hamish Hooper/Volvo Ocean Race
Look left, look right, they’re coming for you Kenny !

Puma skippered by Ken Read has been holding off the chasing fleet for most of this leg.

The lighter winds and the drag race nature of the trade winds have kept his crew on their toes.

You can defend when your enemy is to one side of you, but it’s much harder when they split and divide your attention.

The crews have been hooked on the three-hourly scheduled position reports for most of the race, but now the leaders are only a few miles from each other.

Prolonged battle 
If they need to know how they are doing, they can just use their eyes. At one point, Puma held the lead from Camper by only half a mile.

“After such a prolonged battle, the Puma Ocean Racing team is now getting used to living in such close company with their rivals,” explained Puma’s media crew member (MCM) Amory Ross.

He confessed that being under such pressure to perform added an extra thrill to leading the fleet on Leg 6.
Design changes
“As nice as it’s been out in front, there’s a certain excitement that comes from having other boats in clear sight,” he said.
When boats are sailing so close, the subtle design changes start to tell. Designing a boat is a game of compromise.
If you trade light wind performance for heavy wind speed,  you suffer when the wind drops and so on.
Different strengths
Design an all rounder and you will be punished if the race turns out to be lighter or stronger then average.
Amory agrees:“Every boat has design strengths and weaknesses that favor certain wind speeds, sailing angles and sea states.
“Mar Mostro tends to thrive in lighter conditions and now we’re moving away from that. Maybe towards a windier corner that suits the design of Camper or Telef√≥nica a little better.
Groupama struggles
“It’s impossible to know for sure though, so all we can do is focus on making our boat go as fast as possible in the building breeze.”
Abu Dhabi and Groupama are fighting it out with their own close quarter battle about 100nm behind.
The French look likely to lose their grip on second overall if they don’t catch up.
With 1600nm of Leg 6 still to sail, there is plenty of golf left in this hole.

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