Sailing: Camper hits front in Volvo

AUCKLAND, March 23, 2012 (AFP) – – Camper rocketed to the front of the Volvo Ocean Race on Friday before the leading group were forced to rein in their speed for fear of joining stricken Chinese team Sanya on the leg five sidelines.

The Team New Zealand-crewed Camper boat surged past French pacesetters Groupama and stretched their lead over Telefonica to over 30 miles on the long leg to Itajai in Brazil as they pushed harder and for longer than their rivals in winds of 40 knots and waves as high as seven metres.

“It’s the classic question of how far you can keep pushing,” said Camper’s Australian skipper Chris Nicholson. “It’s a very fine line.”

That question was answered a few hours later as the boats all started to slow from an average speed of around 25 knots to closer to 20.

Groupama seemed almost content to give up their lead as the conditions threatened to cut the fleet back further, some 24 hours after a rudder sheared off Sanya and forced them to head back to New Zealand.

“Everyone has slowed down — but some more than others,” said Groupama’s French helmsman Charles Caudrelier.

“This is certainly the most beautiful leg to win but it’s also the one which can make you lose the Volvo Ocean Race. If you break the boat here, it’s over.”

Telefonica, the Spanish team who lead the race overall, were vying with American team Puma for third place on Friday.

Abu Dhabi were a long way back in fifth place, having been forced to return to Auckland for a brief pit stop on the first night, while Sanya were checking out shipping options following their latest problem.

“It’s a certainty that we can sail back to New Zealand with the emergency rudder but it’s out of the question to continue sailing to Itajai, which is still 5,000 miles away,” said Sanya’s Chinese crewmember Teng Jiang He.

Sanya, in last place overall after a series of major setbacks, are looking to see if it is possible to ship their boat to Itajai in time for leg six, which starts on April 22.

If that is not possible, they will have to miss that leg and ship all the way to Miami for leg seven to Lisbon starting May 20.

Overall standings after four legs:

1. Telefonica (Spain) 122 points; 2. Groupama 107; 3. Camper/ETNZ (Spain/New Zealand) 104; 4. Puma (United States) 83; 5. Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) 55; 6. Sanya (China) 25.


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