Telefonica throws away points, as Groupama continues its climb up the slippery pole. Matthew Sheahan reports
Telefonica may still be leading overall and be the current overall favourites with solid offshore performances having finished second in Leg 5, but the in-port races frequently seem to cause them problems. Today in Itajai was no exception.
Despite having taken an early lead that Iker Martinez’ team quickly extended during the opening legs, rounding the wrong mark for leg five saw the team go from first to last in less than a minute. They never recovered and allowed Groupama, who is currently lying in second place in the overall rankings, to nimble away at Telefonica’s lead once again, reducing it by 4 points.
Against the odds, five out of the six boat fleet had made it to the start of the in port race today in Itajai. Last to arrive in Brazil was Abu Dhabi who only arrived two days ago after being shipped from Chile. To have made it to the start was a major achievement for Ian Walker’s team.
Given how much damage was sustained in the previous leg along with the effort that had gone into making sure the boats were ready for the in port and re-start, some may have found it surprising that the teams were so ready to lock horns at close quarters just minutes after re-launching.
But engage they did and as the fleet crossed the line on a downwind start there were protest flags flying left right and centre as Puma , Abu Dhabi and Groupama argued about who had and hadn’t given room on the approach to the line. The outcome was a penalty to Puma for failing to keep clear and was forced to perform a penalty turn after hoisting their kite, bouncing them from pole position to last.
As the rain that had dogged the start cleared, the breeze shifted, forcing the fleet to gybe onto the port lay for the first mark. But the boat that had kept her nose clean at the start was the one to capitalise on the shift on the first leg as Telefonica took the lead at the first mark.
From here Telefonica exploited her narrow advantage to extend her lead by mark 2. But the mistake came at leg 5 when Iker Martinez’ team rounded the wrong mark and failed to notice it until the entire fleet had passed.
With Groupama now in the lead the scrap was for second and for a brief moment towards the end of the race Puma slipped ahead of Camper for a few seconds. But in the end Chris Nicholson’s finely picked layline into the second to last mark secured Camper’s second position. Puma were forced to take third, certainly a comeback from last but having won the offshore leg and started their comeback, Ken Read and his team would have preferred a few more points.
Tomorrow (Sunday) sees the start of Leg 6 to Miami
1 – Groupama
2 – Camper
3 – Puma
4 – Abu Dhabi
5 – Telefonica
DNS – Team Sanya