Puma Ocean Racing separates itself from the fleet and cuts the distance on the leading boats in the chase to Auckland, New Zealand.
Different tack has Puma back in Volvo Ocean Race
SANYA, China // Puma's gamble in the Volvo Ocean Race appeared to be paying off Saturday night as the United States-based team enjoyed boat speeds up to twice as high as their rivals.
While their competitors crawled upwind at 11-15 knots, Puma were speeding with the wind in their favour at 22 knots.
Puma, tied for fourth and in desperate need of points after breaking their mast on Leg 1, bet everything on Leg 4 by pointing their boat towards Tokyo - the direction opposite from the finish line in Auckland, New Zealand.
While other teams, including Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, waited for the weather to come and push them south, Puma were well to the north and actively seeking out the wind.
The tactic saw Puma hit the breeze well before their rivals and cut a 250-nautical-mile deficit to 170 early this morning.
"This is a long-term strategy, not a short-term one," said Ken Read, the Puma skipper, in an interview from their boat, the Mar Mostro. "If we get close to the fleet on the remainder of this leg, we'll know we've failed … We'll do an arc and, hopefully, go around them."
Read made a similar decision to break from the pack in Leg 3, one which did not pay off, with them eventually finishing third.
"I'd be lying if I said that beat up north wasn't one of the most miserable day and a half of my life," he told the Volvo Ocean Race website.
"Knowing we'd left the fleet with a reef in our main No 4 jib, literally just airborne off of square waves, current with you and 25 knots of breeze against you and horrible seas, was tough. It was pretty much all we could do on board to keep the mood up there."
Team Telefonica of Spain won the first three offshore legs and is sailing safely in the main pack.
The Spain-New Zealand team Camper, in second place overall, are the leader on the current leg with a small advantage over the main group.
Leg 4 should finish around March 8 in Auckland, with the race continuing on to its finish at Galway, Ireland, in July.
Puma finished second in the last Volvo Ocean Race, in 2008/09, and were the favourite coming into the current edition before breaking their mast in three places in the opening leg out of Alicante, Spain.