Byline: The Log Staff
MIAMI — With just three offshore legs left to go, the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 remains too close to call — and points have never been more crucial as the reunited fleet geared up to resume competitive action in in-port racing last weekend.
After more than six months and thousands of miles of extreme racing, just 17 points split race leader Telefónica from Team Puma, in fourth in the overall standings on May 18. In between sat Groupama and Camper, both also vying for the top spot.
With the quest for the Volvo Ocean Race trophy so open, tensions were running high as the crews prepared for May 19’s PORTMIAMI In-Port Race and the start of Leg 7 across the Atlantic to Lisbon on May 20.?Heading into the seventh of the 10 in-port races, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand was the team to beat inshore, having notched up 27 points in the In-Port series.
“At the end of the day, all this race is about is getting the most points possible — and people are going to extraordinary lengths to get any point they can,” said Camper skipper Chris Nicholson.
“We treat it amazingly seriously, and that’s what we’ve done right from the start,” he said. “It just so happens that it gets highlighted more because we’re getting closer to the finish.
“We’ve been doing well in in-port racing as a whole — and as regards a game plan, we’re still going to stick to what we have been doing so far,” Nicholson said.
Six points are on offer to the winners of each in-port race, with five for second, four for third and so on, down to one point for sixth place.
On May 18, Puma trailed Camper by just a point in the in-port series (at 26), with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (at 24).?Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker said his team enjoyed the in-port racing.
“We enjoy the in-ports and got to do a couple of days practice here,” Walker said. “One thing these in-port races have shown is it’s all about getting a good start, sailing in clear air and having clean boat handing. Every single boat is capable of doing that — it’s just a question of who has their day.”
Before the weekend races, inconsistency around the short inshore courses had left Telefónica and Groupama first and second on the overall leaderboard, with just 18 and 21 in-port points accrued, respectively.?Nevertheless, Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez said his team was going into the Miami race full of confidence after several days practicing their short course skills during the stopover.
The return of Team Sanya, forced out of Leg 5 and Leg 6 with boat damage, brings the six-boat fleet back up to full strength for the first time in more than six weeks.
After misfortune struck Puma in Leg 1 when it dismasted, Ken Read’s crew have now clawed their way back into overall contention and go into Leg 7 on the back of consecutive leg wins.
Read said the wave of confidence surging through the U.S. team had set them up well for Miami and in good stead for another strong result in the transatlantic Leg 7.
“Just to be back in the game is great,” Read said. “It’s no fun being an afterthought, and it’s taken a lot of work to get out of that status and back into the hunt.
“We have faith in the boat and faith in the crew,” Read said. “Good things usually happen for us. I think we just go out there and keep doing what we are doing.
“We are not focusing on anyone or trying to do anything special,” he added. “Let’s just get in the top couple in this race and just keep gaining points.”
The transatlantic Leg 7 — from Miami to Lisbon, Portugal — started at 1 p.m. May 20.?It is expected to take around 11 days to complete.
In the offshore legs, the winners receive 30 points, followed by 25 for second, 20 for third, down to five points for sixth.
For the latest course and weather information, go to volvooceanrace.com.
Overall Standings, After Leg 6
1st: Telefónica, 164 points
2nd: Groupama, 153
3rd: Camper, 149
4th: Puma, 147
5th: Abu Dhabi, 68
6th: Sanya, 25