x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Puma surge ahead as Groupama blow lead in Volvo Ocean Race

The first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race turned on its head today, with Groupama slipping from first to last as their three racing rivals surged south at breakneck speed.

ALICANTE, SPAIN // The first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race turned on its head today, with Groupama slipping from first to last as their three racing rivals surged south at breakneck speed.

Groupama are the first French team to enter the race in 18 years and they took an unusual route at the start of leg one from Alicante to Cape Town.

While Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Sanya were forced out of the 7,500 mile leg because of boat damage and three others followed the traditional route to the west, Groupama built a lead of 350 miles as they hugged the African coast.

Puma, Telefonica and Camper finally got the wind they had been searching for on Friday night and by Sunday morning, still with over 5,000 miles to go, they had overhauled and dropped Groupama.

Puma, skippered by the American Ken Read, are the new leaders, with Spain's Telefonica just behind them.

Camper, the Spanish-New Zealand entry, were around 100 miles behind the two leaders and just ahead of Groupama.

"This is the reward for beating our brains out for almost a week," said Read after the team passed 20 knots of boat speed.

The problem for the French team, skippered by Franck Cammas, is that they now face having to go through the windless zone of the Doldrums at a much wider point than the others. That could mean heavier losses to come.

"The outcome won't be very positive, that's for sure." Cammas said. "That's the risk of our option. We knew it would be favourable in the short term but it was uncertain in the long term and it didn't come out very well for us."

At the moment, all four teams are converging on Fernando de Noronha, the archipelago off the Brazilian coast that they must round before they start the sprint to Cape Town.

That will open up the quickest part of the course and the next week should see the teams launch attacks on the monohull 24-hour distance record, set at 596.6 nautical miles by Ericsson 4 on their way to winning the last race in 2008/09.