x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Puma stray from the Volvo Ocean Race pack

The American crew head north looking for a wind to take them into the lead, as the rivals stay together.

Puma, the American team, in the Volvo Ocean Race has taken a different course from the rest of the crews in the competition.
Puma, the American team, in the Volvo Ocean Race has taken a different course from the rest of the crews in the competition.

Puma, the American team, gambled in the Volvo Ocean Race yesterday, sailing 250 nautical miles north of the leaders on a course taking them towards Japan rather than the Leg 4 destination of Auckland.

With the rest of the fleet - including Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing - bunched tightly together waiting for the weather system that will catapult them south to New Zealand, Puma decided to seek out the strong breeze expected far to the north.

If their hunch is right, they could find themselves in 20 knots of wind many hours before their rivals - a head start that could take them all the way to the finish line in first place.

If the breeze is not as strong as they hope, or is shifting in direction, their decision to head so far north could consign them to last place.

"We would have liked to do it differently but we see an opportunity in the north that could set us up for the long run south," said Tom Assis, the Puma navigator.

"For sure, we are apprehensive. Right now, it's expensive, painful, nerve-racking and all those negative things."

The ploy left their rivals open-mouthed.

"Phew!" said Andrew Cape, the navigator of Telefonica, the leading team. "They were next to us yesterday when we were in the light winds. They chose to go north to get the breeze and it's … interesting, shall we say.

"I mean, once they get the breeze they are looking for they will be on course and going quite well, but they have some catching up to do."

Puma certainly need the points a successful gamble would bring. The team that finished second in the last Volvo race suffered a broken mast on the first leg this time and are fourth in the standings, 48 points behind Telefonica.

Camper Team New Zealand, who are in second place overall, led the leg last night by around 13 nautical miles from the French team Groupama, with the Chinese team Sanya third and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing fourth.

The boats should arrive in Auckland around March 8. The race is scheduled to finish in Galway, Ireland, in July.