Volvo Ocean Race team Puma break away from rest of fleet to take strong lead

Puma (Ken Read/USA) broke away from the rest of the Volvo fleet today and headed for the open ocean. She gybed away from the shore and onto a westerly course at around 1040 GMT and has added over 20 nautical miles to her lead over the last 24 hours.

Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri) made the move west yesterday and is now 328 nautical miles offshore and the Spanish team’s position is not looking good. The black boat is now 221 nautical miles behind il Mostro, who snatched the lead from Ericsson 3 (Anders Lewander/SWE) at 0700 GMT yesterday.

Is the ‘cat’ afraid that the wind will be light off the coast of Mauritania and gybed west to avoid it? Ericsson 3, who has been faithfully latched onto PUMA’s track for the last 24 hours, has not followed the move to the west and is still screaming along the African coast. As PUMA started to draw away, the crew of Ericsson 3 piled on the pressure. “We are very close to a wipe-out,” wrote Norwegian navigator Aksel Magdahl today.

Their team mates, on Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA), are 74 nautical miles to the west of them and in third position. Meanwhile, cool, calm and very collected, at the head of the fleet, PUMA’s skipper Ken Read says it’s all in a day’s work. But, earlier today, he explained that actually it is a tactical a game of cat and mouse with the fleet, waiting to see who will break first for the west.

“We will certainly find out in a couple of days who is right, and who is wrong,” he said. “You never really know until the cards are dealt – sometimes days after the decisions are made, and this dash to the west is still starting for us all. It’s a relief I guess. Hopefully as we learn our strengths and weaknesses against the fleet, we will grow to love the ‘monster’.”

Over the last hour, it has been Delta Lloyd (Ger O’Rourke/IRL) who has averaged the highest boat speed of 22 knots over the last hour, but PUMA has the best 24-hour run of 390 nm. Both Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) and Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) have reached a top speed of 28 knots, while three other boats have recorded 27 knots.

“If you like speed, open oceans and the feeling of overwhelming power that surfing down a wave gives you, then a Volvo Open 70 is the boat to sail,” says Gustav Morin, the media crew member on Ericsson 3. “I asked our skipper how the boat feels to sail in comparison with Playstation/Cheyenne, the big record-breaking catamaran that he raced around the world. The answer came with a shout: ‘It’s like sailing a bus compared with this’.”

At the tail-end of the fleet, Telefónica Blue is still trying to claw back the miles after their pit-stop shortly after the start for repairs. Although the team is trying to be patient, it is proving hard. “Having to watch the rich get richer is never a nice thing,” says navigator Simon Fisher/GBR. “We are looking longingly at the position reports, wishing we were up there too – something that we know that we are more than capable of, but have not yet had the chance to show.”

Andreas Hanakamp/AUT in charge of Team Russia, currently on the hip of Delta Lloyd, is also trying to find a way to reel in the leaders. “We have the most pleasant sailing one can imagine,” he says, but, “the only thing that doesn’t make us happy is that we don’t find a way to close up to the leaders. As it looks at the moment, there are not too many opportunities until we get to the Doldrums. The key is, to stay in touch.”

Green Dragon came out of hiding yesterday afternoon at 1600 GMT after playing their Stealth card, the first time StealthPlay has been activated on this leg. The Dragons went into hiding in fourth place and secretly went straight through the Canary Islands before emerging at 1600 GMT still in fourth place.

Day 6: 1300 GMT Positions (boat/name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to leader)

PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) 5056 DTF
Ericsson 3 SWE (Anders Lewander/SWE) 24
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) 52
Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) 69
Delta Lloyd IRL (Ger O’Rourke/IRL) 95
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) 106
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) 148
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) 221