x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Groupama seize the initiative for Leg 6 with in-port race win

Overall leader Telefonica lose their way during the in-port race, opening the door for the French boat to sail through to the win.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's "Azzam" had a good view of Groupama, the French entry, during the in-port race at Itajai. Unfortunately it was from a trailing position.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's "Azzam" had a good view of Groupama, the French entry, during the in-port race at Itajai. Unfortunately it was from a trailing position.

Team Telefonica blew their chance of increasing their overall lead in the Volvo Ocean Race when they sailed the wrong course on Saturday while heading the in-port race in Itajai, Brazil.

That opened the door for Groupama to move to within striking distance of the leaders as they scored six points with their maiden in-port victory taking them to 133 points, just 16 behind the Spanish boat, Telefonica.

Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand claimed second place and five points in Itajai, finishing just one minute and five seconds ahead of Puma Ocean Racing, who clawed their way back after a penalty in the opening minutes to finish third.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Azzam finished fourth, scoring three points, while Telefonica were unable to recover from their mid-race error to finish last, claiming just two points.

Team Sanya did not start and will rejoin the race in Miami.

The fact that Azzam was even able to race is an achievement in itself.

The yacht did not arrive in Brazil until Thursday when it was transported by a cargo ship, and the shore crew worked day and night to repair the hull damage which forced them out of Leg 5.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Rob Greenhalgh told the Volvo Ocean race website before the in-port race that the team had no worries about the structural repairs but expected there to be some niggles to get over given the super fast turnaround.

"I am sure there will be problems during the race but I am also sure we will overcome them," he said.

Storm clouds off the coast of Itajai unleashed rain and an unsteady southerly breeze that finally enabled the downwind start that was marred with two protests against Puma within seconds.

While Groupama sailing team and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were occupied with forcing Puma to do a penalty, a 360-degree turn, Camper took the lead.

But Telefonica had moved to first place at the top mark, having avoided all of the drama by racing a clear course from the pin end.

The overall race leaders were followed by Camper, who trailed by less than a second, then Groupama and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, with Puma in last place, but by no means written off, just 0.28 seconds behind the leaders.

Telefonica led at the second mark, but the remainder of the fleet reshuffled, with Groupama manoeuvring into second place, followed by Camper in third, while Puma jumped into fourth ahead of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

After a short two-sail reach to the third mark Telefonica made a terrible mistake that cost them the lead at the fourth buoy, rounding the wrong mark and giving Groupama control.

While Telefonica scrambled to return to the correct route, race officials shortened the course at the fifth-mark rounding to the advantage of Franck Cammas and his crew.

Groupama claimed victory in 46 minutes, 27 seconds.

Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand followed in second place 45 seconds behind, followed by Puma Ocean Racing, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Telefonica.

The sixth leg race to Miami starts on Sunday.

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