x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Azzam plan last move in the Volvo Ocean Race

Groupama and Azzam will try a different course through a group of Caribbean islands to close the gap on Leg 6 leader Puma before the fleet reaches Miami.

Pointing towards Miami as navigator Jules Salter looks into the distance, onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA. Nick Dana / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / Volvo Ocean Race
Pointing towards Miami as navigator Jules Salter looks into the distance, onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing during leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Itajai, Brazil, to Miami, USA. Nick Dana / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / Volvo Ocean Race

The chasing boats in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet were preparing to risk everything on one last shot at overhauling the leaders Puma last night as Leg 6 reached its climax.

With just 800 miles left to sail to the finish line in Miami, fourth-placed Groupama were planning to weave through a series of Caribbean Islands in the hope of finding stronger winds, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing likely follow suit.

If the move pays off, it would put the two teams back in contention for a podium position.

"We've still got a lot of work to do to get back to the lead boats, but we're sailing a slightly different course to the others and you might see a split in the boats in the next 24 hours," said Damian Foxall, the Groupama watch captain.

"Us and Abu Dhabi are lining up to go inside the Turks and Caicos Islands."

Groupama and Azzam were last night more than 100 nautical miles behind the race leaders.

"For us to be a bit farther back it makes it all that harder to get back into the race, but then, of course, it does open up potential options," Foxall said. "We'll give it one last shot at that over the next 48 hours and we'll just have to see how we do."

Gonzalo Infante, the race meteorologist, said the high will dissipate over the next 48 hours but before that the teams will need to choose between diving inside the Turks and Caicos Islands or crossing the centre of the light wind area by taking a more northerly track.

"Which route is better will depend on how fast the high pressure dissipates," Infante said. "The race is much more open than 24 hours ago and there are a world of opportunities for everyone."

The crew of Telefonica, who are battling for second place with Camper, were mindful of becoming trapped in light winds.

"The whole race could easily turn inside out overnight," Neal McDonald, the Telefonica watch captain, said. "Within hours the gaps that we have at the moment could be closed down. We have to be very careful, it's a very tricky situation coming up over the next few days."

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