[Source: Groupama Sailing Team] By finishing second, a little over five minutes behind Abu Dhabi, Franck Cammas and his men sailed a superb seventh leg, which has enabled them to move up into the lead of the overall standing. Extremely intense throughout the 3,590-mile course between Miami and Lisbon, this leg confirms the determination of the crew of Groupama 4 who, in last place just two and a half days ago, finished just astern of the winning Emirati boat…
It’s the finest leg of the Volvo Ocean Race so far, even though the French didn’t secure a win! Indeed, Franck Cammas and his men have had everything thrown at them during this leg: leading as they exited a tropical storm shortly after the start, they saw the entire fleet close on them, then overtake them as they failed to hook onto a front which was escaping to Europe. After a climb against the wind at the back of the fleet, Groupama 4 latched onto some strong south-westerly wind offshore of Newfoundland and then began a fantastic comeback at an average of over 22 knots.
Confirming in Lorient
In conditions the French boat is particularly fond of, the crew put all its energy into this incredible charge of over 1,000 miles across the Atlantic. The upshot of this was that Groupama 4 managed to move back into second position, but the most difficult part of their journey still lay ahead them as the fleet was tightly bunched less than 400 miles from the finish. A zone of calms still needed to be traversed and Franck Cammas and his men managed to find a way out to the South, whilst keeping their rivals at a respectable distance. Solely Abu Dhabi managed to extract itself from this ridge of high pressure with them, albeit with a lead of just fifteen miles as the wind kicked round to the North. What ensued was a battle royal at the entrance to the Tagus River, since the two boats were sailing within sight of each other as night fell over Portugal.
The Portuguese crowds cheer Groupama Sailing Team, the current overall leaders of the Volvo Ocean Race. Lisbon, 31 May 2012. Photo copyright Ian Roman / Volvo Ocean Race
In a breeze, which was gradually dying the closer they got to the finish line, the two crews had a nerve-jangling climax to their race, less than 500 metres from one another. Ultimately the Emirati boat secured the win by just 5 minutes 27 seconds after 11 days 4 hours and 29 minutes of racing! Though the result comes as a great satisfaction for all the Groupama team, most important to them is their success in the overall standing, since the French have now taken control: the Spanish finished fourth behind the Americans, with a lead of just 1 minute 42 seconds over the New Zealanders…
Whilst there are still two offshore legs remaining (Lisbon-Lorient and Lorient-Galway), Franck Cammas and his men, newcomers to the round the world race, are well placed to set their sights on outright victory in Galway. After an eight-day stopover in Lisbon, four boats are still in with a chance of the big prize in this high-tension climax to the event. However, Groupama 4 has become a very serious contender, with one leg victory in Auckland, two second places in Sanya and Lisbon, and one victory in the Itajai In-Port race…
Quotes from the boat
“We may have done a very good job: it depends on where Telefonica finishes after this second place in Lisbon, though we still regret not having secured a win. We weren’t far behind Abu Dhabi and there was nothing in it at the end! We sailed a fine leg: we had our highs and lows and we finished on a positive note. We had some very varied weather conditions and the leaders put themselves in some difficult situations: it was at our expense at the start of the race and in our favour at the end of the leg. The standing is deserved because Abu Dhabi sailed a very fine leg: they weren’t used to being in such a favourable position and it’s very good for them. We fought our corner well with some fine options. There are two offshore legs remaining now and there’s likely to be a lot of jockeying for the top spots, but to be the leader in Lisbon is already a very positive thing! We’re feeling increasingly at ease on the water, but it’s a tough battle between the four pretenders for outright victory. Lorient is an opportunity to assert ourselves,” commented Franck Cammas on his arrival in Portugal.
“On arriving in the Tagus River, we had nothing to lose, just a few additional points to win. It was really good to round off a leg like that: we were surprised to see Abu Dhabi close-up just hours before the finish. It fired up the match again and we were flat out over the last few miles. Ian Walker and his crew sailed a very fine race and good for them, after all the troubles they’ve suffered prior to this. Our next mission is to make it into Lorient still at the top of the overall leaderboard: that would be even sweeter! Added to that, we’ve only won a single leg for now and we’re keen to bag some more… Indeed victory has a taste all of its own: it’s a magical moment!” confirmed Charles Caudrelier on the pontoons of Lisbon.
“We must remain unfazed because we know that the Volvo Ocean Race is capable of putting us in a perilous or even desperate position, but by playing it tight, making small gains, there are opportunities which are created to win the race on the last day of the leg! Here, we went from last to second place and that’s excellent news for the whole crew… Even though we were very frightened at one stage, we remain aggressive in the overall standing. We had the intelligence not to go out on a limb when we were in a bad situation and opportunity came knocking: three days of sailing with the wind on the beam and Groupama 4 is a fabulous boat on this point of sail!” explained the navigator on Groupama 4, Jean-Luc Nélias.
Arrivals in Lisbon:
1-Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker) Thursday 31 May at 21h 23′ 54 UTC: 11d 04h 23′ 53
2-Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas) Thursday 31 May at 21h 29′ 21: 11d 04h 29′ 20
3-Puma (Ken Read) Thursday 31 May at 23h 26′ 52: 11d 06h 26′ 51
4-Telefonica (Iker Martinez) Friday 1 June at 01h 28′ 27: 11d 08h 28′ 26
5-Camper (Chris Nicholson) Friday 1 June at 01h 30′ 09: 11d 08h 30′ 08
6-Sanya (Mike Sanderson) Friday 1 June at 01h 44′ 25: 11d 08h 44′ 24
Overall standing after seven offshore legs and seven In-Port races:
1-Groupama 4 (Franck Cammas) : 2+20+2+18+5+24+2+30+4+20+6+20+5+25 = 183 points
2-Telefonica (Iker Martinez) : 1+30+6+29+2+27+6+20+1+25+2+15+1+15 = 180 points
3-Puma (Ken Read) : 5+0+4+19+3+17+5+25+5+30+4+30+4+20 = 171 points
4-Camper (Chris Nicholson) : 4+25+5+24+4+18+3+15+6+15+5+25+3+10 = 162 points
5-Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker) : 6+0+3+10+6+14+4+10+2+0+3+10+6+30 = 104 points
6-Sanya (Mike Sanderson) : 3+0+1+5+2+5+1+5+3+0+0+0+2+5 = 27 points