Blog from the Volvo Ocean Race – PUMA OCEAN RACING

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Updated: July 3, 2012
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We have a daily blog form Amory Ross in the Volvo Ocean Race, MCM, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG

PUMA OCEAN RACING POWERED BY BERG THIRD IN LEG 9, THIRD OVERALL IN VOLVO OCEAN RACE

GALWAY, IRELAND (July 3, 2012) – The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team set out on the around-the-world Volvo Ocean Race on November 5, 2011, from Alicante, Spain, and early Tuesday morning they completed the journey they started. PUMA’s Mar Mostro crossed the line in Galway, Ireland – the final port of 10 stops across the globe – in third place, finishing Leg 9 from Lorient, France, at 00:55:01 UTC/01:55:01 local on July 3. The 550 nautical mile sprint took PUMA 1 day, 13 hours, 51 minutes and 1 second to complete. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand won the final leg followed by the Groupama Sailing Team in second.

With the results of Leg 9, the final standings of this year’s Volvo Ocean Race are set. Groupama takes home the overall race trophy (currently with 250 points), CAMPER finishes second (226) and PUMA captures third place (220). Team Telefónica ends in fourth place, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team Sanya fifth and sixth, respectively. One more scoring opportunity remains – the In-Port Race on Saturday, July 7 in Galway.

“This leg basically sums up our whole regatta,” said skipper Ken Read. “We’re kind of the tough luck kids. We had a nice little lead with about four hours to go. We knew we would be sailing into lighter air, and sure enough that’s what we did. As soon as we parked, everyone came zipping up from behind. It’s happened so many times in this race. Yes it’s a shame, but we give CAMPER and Groupama credit – they should be very proud and this is a time to congratulate them.”

Leg 9 departed Lorient on Sunday, July 1, with PUMA 30 seconds back from leading Telefónica after the completion of the inshore loop. The fleet spread out, and on Monday morning, PUMA’s Mar Mostro pulled ahead. The PUMA crew led the fleet around Fastnet Rock and up the southern coast of Ireland before hitting lighter air.

“At the end of the day, we’re ending up third overall. But, that’s pretty good considering we were sitting in the middle of the ocean without a mast,” Read said. “This is something we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives.”

PUMA has been on the podium the last 12 scoring opportunities in this year’s race, including offshore legs and In-Port racing. Overall, PUMA has finished among the top three 16 times.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante. The crews have now traveled 39,270 nautical miles around the world, stopping in 10 countries along the way.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman & Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Casey Smith, Bowman (Brisbane, Australia); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

Navigator Tom Addis on Leg 9: “We were in a good position, but just got light today and the guys came up with better pressure. From there, any one of the four boats could have won.”

Skipper Ken Read on Groupama’s overall race win: “They’re fast, they’re smart and that’s a pretty deadly combination. They started off this race pretty far behind, especially in light air. And they made up ground, got better in their weaker areas. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know their team and I really like them as both people and competitors. Congratulations to them.”

Leg 9

POS TEAM TOTAL FINISH UTC ELAPSED
1 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 30 00:42:13 1d, 13h, 40m, 13s
2 Groupama Sailing Team 25 00:49:11 1d, 13h, 47m, 11s
3 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 20 00:55:01 1d, 13h, 53m, 01s
4 Team Telefónica 15 00:59:33 1d, 13h, 57m, 33s
5 Team Sanya 10 1d, 16h, 12m, 27s
6 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 5 1d, 16h, 21m, 29s

Overall Standings:

POS TEAM OVERALL
1 Groupama Sailing Team 250
2 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 226
3 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 220
4 Team Telefónica 209
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 129
6 Team Sanya 50

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG scoring:

POS RACE/LEG PTS TOTAL
2 Alicante In-Port Race 5 5
– Leg 1* — 5
3 Cape Town In-Port Race 4 9
3 Leg 2, Stage 1 16 25
4 Leg 2, Stage 2 (3rd in Leg 2 overall) 3 28
4 Abu Dhabi In-Port Race 3 31
2 Leg 3, Stage 1 5 36
4 Leg 3, Stage 2 12 48
2 Sanya In-Port Race 5 53
2 Leg 4 25 78
2 Auckland In-Port Race 5 83
1 Leg 5 30 113
3 Itajaí In-Port Race 4 117
1 Leg 6 30 147
3 Miami In-Port Race 4 151
3 Leg 7 20 171
2 Lisbon In-Port Race 5 176
3 Leg 8 20 196
3 Lorient In-Port Race 4 200
3 Leg 9 20 220

I feel the need to apologize before I write any further: sleep has not been a component of Leg 9 thus far and it’s hard to do anything at the moment that doesn’t start with keeping the eyes open.

So he we are… last full day of the Volvo Ocean Race [offshore scoring]. We knew full good and well on the dock in Lorient that it was going to be a tough leg for a number of reasons, and it has lived up to each and every one of them. Close sailing, rough weather, short duration, and high intensity…

With the top four positions still to be determined, each point remains crucial. Consequently, this legs’ 30 points are valuable enough to make all of us spend last night sitting (or lying) on the rail. That would be alright if we were passing the Bahamas, or Fiji, but we’re close-reaching through the English Channel in 25 knots of wind, rain squalls, and shivering-cold temperatures. It’s just another lovely July day on the way to the Irish Sea. Ugh! One final bashing for us and the old girl.

Following a solo split from the fleet before sundown in search of better winds and more favorable angles to the west, we found ourselves back in the game through the worst of it and we even managed to catch up with the leading pack. Out of the fog cane Groupama to leeward, and we slowly worked our way over the top of them before fading towards Fastnet in the fog. We shall see how things pan out, but we haven’t felt particularly fast as of yet, just overworked. Only 24 hours to go! And yes, we are counting.

Living is fairly uncomfortable at the moment, and it could be confirmed that everyone is wearing everything they packed. It’s damp, cold, wet, and nobody has slept but for a few winks on the rail. Our bunks are full of spares, food, and gear to keep what weight we have as far outboard as possible. As much as we’d like to focus on the significance of this being the end and all, there is far too much to endure for the time being to allow any reflection on the previous 39,000 miles. Focusing my eyes on the words I’m trying to type is proving hard enough, and it is on that note that I must conclude this here report. Plenty more to come, so wish us luck… And rest! There is a lot at stake.

FINAL LEG UNDERWAY FOR PUMA OCEAN RACING POWERED BY BERG CREW IN VOLVO OCEAN RACE 2011-12

LORIENT, FRANCE (July 1, 2012) – The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team set out on the final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 on Sunday afternoon, departing Lorient, France, for the 550 nautical mile sprint to Galway, Ireland. PUMA’s Mar Mostro completed the 6.5 nautical mile inshore loop in second position, 30 seconds behind Team Telefónica, before heading out on the bulk of Leg 9.

Leg 9 first takes the fleet 25 miles around the island of Belle Ile off the coast of France before sailing up the coast of Brittany, past the Fastnet Rock landmark and on to Galway. The leg will take the fleet approximately a day and a half to complete with arrival expected early Tuesday morning.

“As we got ready this morning, you start thinking, ‘Hey, I may never put these boots on again, I may never put this foul weather gear on again, I may never do this again,’” said skipper Ken Read. “This is an emotional leg for everybody. To complete a race like this is a big deal, and we’re about to accomplish something pretty incredible. This is a great team, a great group of people. Win, lose or draw, I’m really proud of what we’ve done.

“In all likelihood we’re fighting for second, third or fourth at this stage. Groupama would have to make a pretty spectacular mistake, and I don’t expect that, but if they do, we will be there to capitalize,” Read said. “It will be a tight-reaching drag race. In a leg of this length, there won’t be a lot of stretching out, maybe 2-3 miles and in essence it looks to be a rhumb line race. Straight to Fastnet Rock.”

The fleet can be followed live online at www.volvooceanrace.com through the live tracker. Photos and video from onboard and aerial shots will be updated during the leg and can be viewed via the Livestream tab or at new.livestream.com/volvooceanrace/Leg9. Three live video calls to PUMA’s Mar Mostro are scheduled during the leg and can be viewed on Livestream: one today, July 1 at 20:00 UTC; and tomorrow, July 2 at 09:30 UTC and 18:00 UTC.

PUMA is second in the overall race standings, 25 points behind the leading Groupama Sailing Team – 225 points to 220. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand is four points back in third place (196). After the completion of this final leg, one In-Port Race remains on the schedule: Saturday, July 7 in Galway.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante. When the fleet arrives in the final port of Galway, the crews will have traveled approximately 39,270 nautical miles around the world, stopping at 10 ports along the way.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman & Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Casey Smith, Bowman (Brisbane, Australia); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

RESULTS

Overall Standings:

POS TEAM OVERALL
1 Groupama Sailing Team 225
2 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 200
3 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 196
4 Team Telefónica 194
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 124
6 Team Sanya 40

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG scoring:

POS RACE/LEG PTS TOTAL
2 Alicante In-Port Race 5 5
– Leg 1* — 5
3 Cape Town In-Port Race 4 9
3 Leg 2, Stage 1 16 25
4 Leg 2, Stage 2 (3rd in Leg 2 overall) 3 28
4 Abu Dhabi In-Port Race 3 31
2 Leg 3, Stage 1 5 36
4 Leg 3, Stage 2 12 48
2 Sanya In-Port Race 5 53
2 Leg 4 25 78
2 Auckland In-Port Race 5 83
1 Leg 5 30 113
3 Itajaí In-Port Race 4 117
1 Leg 6 30 147
3 Miami In-Port Race 4 151
3 Leg 7 20 171
2 Lisbon In-Port Race 5 176
3 Leg 8 20 196
3 Lorient In-Port Race 4 200

* Retired from leg

For more information on the race, team and crew visit www.puma.com/sailing. Find photos, video and additional content at www.pumasailingnewsroom.com.

PUMA OCEAN RACING POWERED BY BERG SECOND OVERALL WITH THIRD-PLACE FINISH IN LEG 8

LORIENT, FRANCE (JUNE 15, 2012) – With a third-place finish in Leg 8, the PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team improved to second in the overall standings of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. PUMA crossed the line at 12:43:04 UTC/14:43:04 local in Lorient, France, on Friday to finish the penultimate leg from Lisbon, Portugal, in 5 days, 43 minutes and 4 seconds. The Groupama Sailing Team won the leg into their home port with CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand in second.

“It’s bittersweet,” said skipper Ken Read. “We didn’t sail our best leg and we made a few mistakes at the wrong time in this race. We did keep it close, like we always do, and getting on the podium is always a great result. We also gained one place in the standings. But we may have seen the opportunity to win this race start to slip away. Groupama sailed fast and smart, and that’s a deadly combination – they deserve a lot of credit and have continued to get better each leg.”

The 1,900 nautical mile leg from Lisbon to Lorient first took the fleet northwest into the Atlantic Ocean. PUMA traveled through the waypoint and around the archipelago of the Azores where they were greeted in the early morning hours by dedicated fans. After making the turn, the downwind stretch saw wet, windy conditions and record 24-hour distance marks for this year’s race. The fleet remained in a tight race to the finish, and PUMA crossed the line only 13 minutes back from CAMPER.

“It wasn’t a very tactical leg – it was basically a one tack, one gybe race in 2,000 miles – and just a drag race. But it was tough, and our wheels just weren’t quite big enough,” said navigator Tom Addis. “We were always struggling with speed, but we kept in there with consistency and not breaking down. We’re happy with third.”

With the third-place finish, PUMA collected 20 points and moved ahead of Team Telefónica into second place in the overall race standings. The Groupama Sailing Team holds the top spot with 219 points. Two In-Port Races and one leg remain in this year’s Volvo Ocean Race. The boats return to racing with the Pro-Am Race in Lorient on June 29, the In-Port Race on June 30 and the start of the final leg to Galway, Ireland, on July 1.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman & Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Casey Smith, Bowman (Brisbane, Australia); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

IMAGES
Credit: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing

RESULTS

Leg 8 (racing still underway):

POS TEAM TOTAL FINISH UTC ELAPSED
1 Groupama Sailing Team 30 11:31:04 4d, 23h, 31m, 2s
2 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 25 12:30:09 5d, 00h, 30m, 9s
3 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 20 12:43:04 5d, 00h, 43m, 4s
4 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 15 14:17:25 5d, 2h, 17m, 25s
TBD Team Telefónica —
TBD Team Sanya —

Overall Standings:

POS TEAM OVERALL
1 Groupama Sailing Team 219
2 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 196
3 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 191
4 Team Telefónica —
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 122
6 Team Sanya —

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG scoring:

POS RACE/LEG PTS TOTAL
2 Alicante In-Port Race 5 5
– Leg 1* — 5
3 Cape Town In-Port Race 4 9
3 Leg 2, Stage 1 16 25
4 Leg 2, Stage 2 (3rd in Leg 2 overall) 3 28
4 Abu Dhabi In-Port Race 3 31
2 Leg 3, Stage 1 5 36
4 Leg 3, Stage 2 12 48
2 Sanya In-Port Race 5 53
2 Leg 4 25 78
2 Auckland In-Port Race 5 83
1 Leg 5 30 113
3 Itajaí In-Port Race 4 117
1 Leg 6 30 147
3 Miami In-Port Race 4 151
3 Leg 7 20 171
2 Lisbon In-Port Race 5 176
3 Leg 8 20 196

* Retired from leg

Barring a disaster of epic proportions we are going to be third on this leg to Lorient. On the podium again. Becoming a familiar theme. But it isn’t good enough at this stage. We have bled more points to the race leader on the second-to-last leg and we’re not very pleased about it. But, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Sailing in the ocean can be rewarding and frustrating and typically the two emotions can happen within minutes of each other. We raced this leg in what has been a familiar theme for us. Keep it close and keep sailing smart and hopefully someone makes a mistake. It looks like in the case of Telefónica this strategy worked but with CAMPER and Groupama it certainly didn’t.

Groupama is fast. It’s that simple. CAMPER is fast as well, especially upwind and downwind. CAMPER caught a bit of a break after the long reach out to the Azores, having the fleet park up to let the guys who had fallen behind on the reach reel in the leaders. Don’t let them back in the game because they will make you pay for it. When it got windy we made a couple of mistakes and they pounced. We aren’t very happy with ourselves.

So where do we go from here? Despite being less than pleased we have moved into second overall for the race, but we have lost valuable points to the race leader Groupama. Time is of the essence. We have to start gaining ground now, and the In-Port Race in Lorient becomes that much more critical. We aren’t mathematically out of it, but we have certainly made it hard on ourselves. As has everyone but that bloody green boat.

- Kenny

HEADING: 013-degrees
WINDSPEED: 14 ktsBOATSPEED: 14.7 kts
DISTANCE TO AZORES: 0 miles
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 1200 miles

The things you see and the places you go. We just keep adding to the list! At around 5 AM local time we cleared Sao Miguel and the Azores in total darkness after making just one tack near sundown (our only manoeuvre so far since leaving Lisbon). Thank you to all of the supporters that shook off the early-morning cobwebs to come out and cheer us on; your enthusiasm was greatly appreciated!

Telefónica and Groupama are not far in front, just over a mile or two, but our options from here to Lorient are limited. The routing software has all models sailing us along a relatively identical line into the approaching low, which means it will more or less be a drag race to France. A drag race is okay if you’re fast, but not if you’re slow, and we haven’t spent much time racing downwind against the fleet so to be honest we’re not completely sure how these next few days will treat us.

Of course there’s the “other” element too, the risk management factor: the forecast is calling for a steady build in breeze – by lunch time we should have 25 knots – and within 36 hours as we approach the center of the looming low-pressure system, winds could increase well into the 40’s. There’s a lot than can happen between here and there, and everyone’s aware of the potential risks and dangers that kind of weather creates; managing those changing conditions could be key to the remaining miles. After a Southern Ocean leg where we were the only boat to finish without stopping for repairs, we well understand the value in sailing conservatively through possibly breaking conditions.

Either way, everyone’s getting ready for one last push. We know it’ll be tough, tiring, wet, and wild, but it’s only for a few days and they’ll be some of our last, so bring it on! What would a leg of this race be without some extremely uncomfortable sailing…

- Amory

It’s game time. And we started about as well as we could have.

Lisbon, Portugal, was a fantastic stopover. Lots and lots of fans. An amazing and historic city that gave the Read family a lot to do outside of sailing. All in all it was about as much rest as I have had since this adventure began. I feel pretty good starting this leg, which is a pretty rare feeling at this time in this young boy’s life.

And I guess it showed these past couple days. A come-from-behind, second-place finish in the In-Port Race was a big one for us. We nipped CAMPER and Abu Dhabi at the finish. Telefónica managed to do their typical “first or last” routine in the In-Port Races – this time finishing last which resulted in some needed points for the rest of us. Only drawback for us, Groupama won the race and are sailing well. We lost one point to them in the standings, and we need to start reeling them in if we are to have a chance.

We then nailed a somewhat risky port tack Leg Start and led the fleet out the river back into the Atlantic Ocean. Doesn’t mean much in the big picture other than it was a few moments of glory for our fans, I would imagine. It was a bit scary on that start line, though. Volvo race officials seem to be putting the start lines in riskier positions every start. This one was dicey for sure. A downwind start. You could barely cross the line on starboard, and if you started on port there was a chance you would run aground soon after the start. But, we got a sharp right-hand shift about 2 minutes before the start and bailed out on our starboard tack lineup only to cross the fleet on port tack by about a boat length. If we hadn’t crossed we would still probably be there trying to pull the boats apart. I guess it is the time in the race for us to take a chance or two. We really have nothing to lose.

And, it is all about the points now. Two legs to go. Two In-Ports to go. A maximum of 70 points up for grabs. We are close but will still need Telefónica and Groupama to make a few mistakes. That is the price you pay for comebacks. The people ahead need to help.

We are heading to another place where sailing is king: Lorient, France. Actually the home and training base for Groupama. Will they have an advantage? Maybe. But if Miami was any example, Franck Cammas might have a lot on in Lorient. I was pretty overwhelmed in Miami with all of the extracurricular activities that had to be done. Of course you could always say no, but that isn’t what this is all about. When you can speak for the race and your sport and your sponsors you simply do it. We can all sleep next year. And knowing how much France, and especially the area we are going to, is into sailing, Franck might have a bit on!

It’s off to the Azores prior to heading to Lorient. Just making this entire trip a bit longer, if it is possible. It would have been too easy just to go directly from Lisbon to Lorient. So, lets send the fleet 2,000 miles out around a remote island and then back into a fairly large developing storm that should beat us up for the last couple days of this six-day leg. Yup, sounds pretty standard. Knock on wood the old black boat is still up to it. And it’s crew for that matter.

- Kenny

HEADING: 275-degrees
WINDSPEED: 12 ktsBOATSPEED: 13 kts
DISTANCE TO AZORES: 150 miles
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 1250 miles

We’re all in agreement: there’s something strange about sailing west. The last time we saw the sun setting in front of us was during the first week of Leg 1 while leaving the Med. After seven months of going south, east, north, south again, east again, and north again (everywhere but west), heading away from the mark towards the Azores is toying with the psyche a bit!

Fortunately, at some point today we turn north towards France, albeit straight into a nasty low-pressure storm that seems to build with each forecast (nothing unfamiliar about that, either…). But for now, it’s back to playing keep-up with Telefónica and Groupama still just three miles off the bow. We have tried like hell to hang on in reaching conditions that we’ve always struggled with, because when the winds ease up like they’re supposed to, it will be our time to make up ground on the two boats that we need to beat.

Onboard life has drastically improved during the last few hours; the difference between 13 knots of wind and 19 is substantial. Our boat has been re-stacked, bailed, and powered up, and in general it’s much calmer, drier, and quieter. Even with some proper time off in Lisbon, the wear and tear of this race is catching up with a lot of us, and it is a pleasant change for sure – to get some rest before the difficult and taxing downwind ride home to Lorient.

As the aptly-named “Azores High” settles in we’ll have some light air tacking to do in order to get us around the islands – never fun – but then it’s “breeze on” again and we’re off on port tack towards the finish. A couple of 500-mile days and one jibe later, and we should be there in time for a proper weekend in France!

- Amory

HEADING: 241-degrees
WINDSPEED: 18 ktsBOATSPEED: 19 kts
DISTANCE TO AZORES WAYPOINT: 570 miles
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 1720 miles

This whole race restart thing is getting easier and easier with every leg. The routine begins with the In-Port Race’s finish on Saturday, and it ends the second we leave the dock on Sunday; there is a lot that has to happen in between those two times. For example, there are six or seven days of food to pack, personal gear to sort, air freight and race-ending logistics to organize, families to see, and of course, a Volvo 70 named MAR MOSTRO to fill with a complete offshore inventory of spares, maintenance equipment, toilet paper, “foulies,” and sails.

Thanks to an amazing shore team, some well-rehearsed preparation, and a little bit of luck, things yesterday went smoothly enough to allow us to relax a little on the way out to the course. I cannot overstate the value of a clear and calm conscience when you’re about to leave for weeks at sea; it makes an enormous difference.

We went out on the river, did our reconnaissance, ate our lunch, and nailed the start. It was as simple as that, and while the Lisbon lap was more or less a procession from there, the guys hit every manoeuvre with the kind of efficiency and effectiveness you’d expect from a team that has been racing together for over a year. Great chemistry and a positive attitude go a long way too.

So here we go. Leg 8 of 9, the last 1,000-plus leg on the table. There’s no hiding the significance… We haven’t missed the podium since China and knock on wood that consistency continues, because the remaining points are in short supply. We’re trying not to get too caught up in the “how many points to who” game – it would be too easy to do – because in an ocean race covering isn’t always an option and thinking that way is more distracting than anything else. The rational thing to do is sail the boat as fast as we know how, be tactically aggressive while minimizing risks, and hope for success.

Right now we’ve got all of the players in play; CAMPER and Groupama are close to leeward, Telefónica even closer to windward. It’s a sight we better get used to, day and night. Boatspeed kills and sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t. Survival will be about shortening the downs and lengthening the ups, and on the short trip out to the Azores that’ll be key. Once there and the expected high-pressure slow-up begins, who knows what will happen, but that has nothing to do with what we’re doing now!

It’s time to go hike a little harder, sleep a little less, and enjoy each and every day out here. They too are numbered, and in all of this competitiveness, having fun still remains a top priority for all.

- Amory

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew won the start and led the fleet around the inshore course for the start of the penultimate leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 on Sunday. Leg 8 will take the fleet approximately 1,900 miles, out from Lisbon, Portugal, around the Azores and in to Lorient, France.

“It looks like we’re going to have some good conditions over the next few days and get to Lorient pretty quick,” said skipper Ken Read. “This is the time in the race you have to get a little lucky with what conditions suit your boat best. So, we’re probably going to need a little bit of help in the tight reaching stuff ahead, and hopefully in the power running after the Azores we can do some damage.”

PUMA led off the line down the first leg of the inshore portion of Leg 8 and sailed along the city side of the Tagus River, under the 25th of April Bridge to the first mark. PUMA’s Mar Mostro remained in front of the fleet around Mark 1 and 1:08 ahead of CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand. The crew stayed out front as they went back down river, past the final two turning marks and headed out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Based on the current forecast, the leg could take around six days to complete. The route will send the fleet northwest into the Atlantic around the archipelago of the Azores and on to Lorient.

“We’re just concentrating on the leg out at the moment,” said navigator Tom Addis. “We’ve got a pretty big uncertainty around the Azores where it could get quite light. So, we expect some good reaching out there, light around the corner and then it’s looking like a really fast trip home.”

PUMA has 176 overall points in the race and is currently in third place in the standings with two legs and two In-Port Races remaining on the schedule. The Groupama Sailing Team holds the top spot with 189 points, while Team Telefónica is second at 181.

On Monday, June 11, the Volvo Ocean Race will host live video calls to each boat in the fleet. The call to PUMA is scheduled for 13:00 UTC and can be viewed online at new.livestream.com/volvooceanrace/Leg8. Additional calls are scheduled for June 13 and 15.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman & Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Casey Smith, Bowman (Brisbane, Australia); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

IMAGES
For editorial use only. Credit Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race. Additional editorial images available at images.volvooceanrace.com.

RESULTS

Overall Standings:

POS TEAM OVERALL
1 Groupama Sailing Team 189
2 Team Telefónica 181
3 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 176
4 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 166
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 107
6 Team Sanya 34

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG scoring:

POS RACE/LEG PTS TOTAL
2 Alicante In-Port Race 5 5
– Leg 1* — 5
3 Cape Town In-Port Race 4 9
3 Leg 2, Stage 1 16 25
4 Leg 2, Stage 2 (3rd in Leg 2 overall) 3 28
4 Abu Dhabi In-Port Race 3 31
2 Leg 3, Stage 1 5 36
4 Leg 3, Stage 2 12 48
2 Sanya In-Port Race 5 53
2 Leg 4 25 78
2 Auckland In-Port Race 5 83
1 Leg 5 30 113
3 Itajaí In-Port Race 4 117
1 Leg 6 30 147
3 Miami In-Port Race 4 151
3 Leg 7 20 171
2 Lisbon In-Port Race 5 176

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew returned to the podium with a third-place finish into Lisbon, Portugal, early Friday morning to complete Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. The PUMA crew made the more than 3,500 nautical mile transatlantic crossing from Miami, Florida, to Lisbon in 11 days, 6 hours, 26 minutes and 51 seconds. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing captured their first leg win, crossing the line into Lisbon less than 6 minutes ahead of second-place Groupama Sailing Team, with PUMA 2 hours back.

“We’re very, very happy with third place. To beat two of our closest competitors, we’ll take it and run,” said skipper Ken Read. “Physically it wasn’t that hard of a leg, but mentally it was difficult. This was a battle of a race. It seemed like every time somebody would make a good move, the fleet would invert, and someone else would be on top. There were so many lead changes, and the finish was a perfect example of how hard this leg was for the entire fleet. We’ll take this, keep racking up points and keep moving forward.”

PUMA departed Miami on May 20 for the start of the shortest leg of the race to date. Traveling up the Atlantic coastline and battling the Gulf Stream, the crew encountered the outskirts of Tropical Storm Alberto in the move east. The journey took them to the northern Atlantic Ocean toward the ice gate, before beginning the press to Lisbon. PUMA’s Mar Mostro crossed the line in Lisbon at 23:26:22 UTC/00:26:22 local.

“It was a tricky race, full of transitions which were very hard for lead boats to deal with,” said navigator Tom Addis. “Nobody could every really get ahead and stay ahead, and the fleet could never relax into a rhythm. There were always opportunities for the boats behind to catch up. In a race like this, especially with a park-up so close to the finish, you’re happy with any podium position.”

With the third-place finish in the leg, PUMA now moves into third place in the overall standings with 171 total points. Groupama took over the top slot with 183 points, while Team Telefónica dropped to second at 181, leaving 12 points separating the top three boats. The entire fleet finished the leg within 5 hours of each other.

Leg 7 marked the second transatlantic crossing for PUMA’s Mar Mostro. The team first departed U.S. waters on July 3, 2011, with the start of the Transatlantic Race 2011 from Newport, Rhode Island, to Lizard Point, Cornwall, U.K. Their first trip across the Atlantic Ocean was successful as they notched wins in both IRC Class 1 and IRC Overall of the race.

The original PUMA crew was back in tact for the first time since Leg 4. Casey Smith (Brisbane, Australia), who missed Leg 6 due to a lower back injury, returned for Leg 7.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman & Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).


HEADING: 142 degrees
WINDSPEED: 8.7 kts
BOATSPEED: 9.2 kts
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 250 miles

The power of the jinx is a dangerous thing. There are things I might normally say, progress updates and enthusiastic hunches I might ideally give, but I don’t want to jinx this thing, not even a little but. All that I’ll offer is that our boatspeed is up to 9 knots, from 5, and the wind is still swinging through 80-degree shifts. Life looks a little better, but by no means are we out of the woods just yet.

With just 250 short miles left in play, gains and losses are going to be significantly amplified over the next 24 hours, and while conditions are still very much out of our control – we are where we are – we have to be able to make the most of what we are given. Also of importance is the axis of this trough; it is not perfectly oriented north-to-south, but slightly deflected, extending farther east to the north, and farther west to the south. We are hoping we can break through a few hours ahead of the southern trio, thereby making up for their better angle of approach to Lisbon.

Really though, we just don’t know. It’s a helpless feeling, sitting here staring at the computers and their tortuous routing models. Our very meaningful fate is in the hands of the weather gods and that’s never a comforting circumstance. There is only so much we can do… If anything, it has almost eased some of the stress and pressure riding on this leg. At some point you just say, “Well, we’ve done what we can and now we have to cross our fingers and hope like hell.”

So here we are, all 11 of us, just hoping like hell. Never in a million years did we expect to be here, fighting for an honest share of the lead, so in many ways that’s enough to be excited about, but man, wouldn’t it be cool!?

- Amory

HEADING: 092-degrees
WINDSPEED: 16.5 kts
BOATSPEED: 17.2 kts
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 550 miles

Five hundred miles to go and this race is only getting closer. Not exactly a surprise – we knew everyone was going to compress again – but what is a surprise is the kind of day we had yesterday: it was slow, sloww, slowww. After a few consecutive days of feeling fast, a humbling 24 hours brings us all back to reality, and maybe for the better.

You might think performance on these boats is formulaic – at a given wind speed, point of sail, and sea state the boat is tuned to a certain preset and that’s kind of that, right? But the truth is that confidence plays a big part in boat setup and boat speed, and having or not having the confidence to know when to change, to admit you’re slow and not just blame it on the conditions, that’s going to be a big part of anyone’s success. And thankfully, after a tough day that would shake anyone’s confidence in setup and speed, we closed out the night with a winning sched. The guys went back to the books and made some small but significant-in-summation changes…put the board down further, put the water back in the stern ballast, changed staysail combinations. Thankfully the boat responded. Not always the case, but happy to have a good one in there, as we sure needed it!

So now we again look east, only with much less room to breathe. Abu Dhabi has always been in our sights but we’re clearly more invested in the guys nibbling at our tail; there is more to lose against them than there is to gain against Abu Dhabi. So the question remains: do we approach the remaining miles on the defensive or the offensive? Some of the trailing boats appear to be cutting the corner to Lisbon – sailing fewer miles certainly has its merits – but Tom is confident in our approach to this windless ridge now just a day away, and that deserves proper consideration, too.

The weather routing has us drifting by midnight tonight, and it will be interesting to see how everyone handles this final obstacle, turn No. 4 before the sprint down the homestretch to the finish. As much as it’s important to be in the right place, as we learned yesterday, it can be equally as important to have the confidence to make it work. We’ll spend today trying to build on last night’s small victories in hopes of carrying some good momentum into the tougher times ahead!

LOCATION: 750 miles W of the Azore Islands
HEADING: 093-degrees
WINDSPEED: 19 kts
BOATSPEED: 21 kts
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 1,550 miles

It’s always fun waking up to the sound of water rushing by your head at 20 knots, especially when it indicates the forecast and actual conditions have agreed for a change. The boat is swerving erratically and while living conditions are again tough, our bow is finally pointed at Portugal – maybe the first time in days that has been the case – and we are finally devouring the remaining miles to Lisbon.

We’re also seeing some early rewards for our setup to the north. Having more runway to the south means we can choose to sail higher with bigger sails for longer, gaining valuable leverage on all but Abu Dhabi to our east, or we can choose to stay low and hold our northerly lane – the more likely scenario. While everyone will essentially be lining up on the leading edge of this overtaking front, its angle is such that it extends farther east to the north, and with more pressure, too, so staying north will allow us to best exploit those features on the long run to the finish.

But there is no sugarcoating it: the implications of the next four days are huge. If you had told us we’d eventually be in contention for the overall lead while pulling our rig from the ocean, 2,000 miles from continental coastline, or while taking 37 jerry jugs of fuel from a passing freighter, or hiking a volcano on Tristan, or waiting five days there for another five of piggy-backing to Cape Town, we probably would have passed it off as lunacy. But here we are, fighting tooth and nail to make that a reality, and with both Abu Dhabi and Sanya in play there is a very serious opportunity to put some places between us and the current podium-possessors.

We still have everything to gain and nothing to lose, and we’re all hoping that proves to be a dangerous combination down the stretch! These are exciting times onboard PUMA’s Mar Mostro…

LOCATION: 1,000 miles W of the Azores
WINDSPEED: 12.7 kts
BOATSPEED: 7.4 kts
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 1,950 miles

I distinctly remember looking at the routing computer in the nav station two days out of Miami and seeing 6 days and 20 hours remaining. That was a mistake… I never should have looked, or gotten my hopes up that it might actually be that quick (no leg this race has gone according to plan, other than the ones we were supposed to dread in the first place!).

I don’t want to make it sound like all we do out here is count down the hours until an arrival, but there’s a certain degree of mental preparation that goes into each leg, and then and there I prepared myself for a relatively simple and direct route of around nine or 10 days, and I know I wasn’t alone. So, sitting here on my bunk in fleece pants, wool socks, a sleeping bag, winter hat, and a PUMA pullover – looking at a leg of 12 days, maybe more – I wonder…what went so wrong!?!

In the beginning it looked like we’d never come this far north, certainly not within 200 miles of the VOR mandated ice gate, because there was little way through a ridge of high pressure clogging the middle of the Eastern seaboard. But along comes a rare tropical storm to shake everything up, and now we’re slamming upwind, short-tacking through the northern Gulf Stream, just south of Nova Scotia waters. Not exactly ideal, but definitely in line with more “traditional” transatlantic crossings, a route that some of us weren’t necessarily prepared to endure.

Nonetheless, it’s uncomfortable and cold, and we’re stuck bashing into a big seaway while looking for an escape around the top of this high. Everyone’s criss-crossing around out here and the first boat free will likely have a large advantage as forecasts are calling for fast downwind conditions, but the weather isn’t going according to schedule and we’re still searching for a sign of the system’s northern boundary. Until we find it life will remain busy, bumpy, cold, and slow, and I’ll continue to feel wronged by the world of weather routing!

LOCATION: 150 miles NE of Bermuda
HEADING: 026 degrees
WINDSPEED: 14.6 knots
BOATSPEED: 14.7 knots

To expand on yesterday’s horse race analogy, this part of the track was like turn 2 – the setup before the backstretch. Well, turn 2 was unkind and we got trampled. We were caught on the outside in a corner with less wind and we were locked out: we’ve had to jibe north in search of more pressure. So our setup is such that we’ll be staring firmly at the fleet’s derriere during the long drag race east. Fortunately, there are plenty of miles left to run and ample opportunity for making up on lost ground!

It’s not that we were out of phase, or wrong in being where we were, it’s just that maybe we were a bit too patient in waiting for our shift to bail out. We knew being south was riskier than being north, and sure enough we were a bit too far south. But rather than concede immediately, we tried to find a good shift to gybe north with and that took a while in coming. Now that we’ve finally got it, we’re running up in light winds and almost two knots of adverse current. Ugh.

Moving on. Everyone’s still positive and more than anything, we’re having a lot of fun. We saw the sun for the first time in a few days and the cooler temperatures have made life a little more comfortable. Put on a layer or two during the day and cozy up in a sleeping bag at night. It’s the first time we’ve done that since leaving the Southern Ocean! I’m taking some good-natured flak for publicly humiliating the gang and their food-fuss at awards night in Miami. Our meals this leg are a collection of leftovers from the Miami container set, slim pickings for sure, but last night’s concoction of beef bourguignon and rice caused particular misery… In all fairness, it tasted almost as bad as it looked.

Only 18 days or so left of cooking for these clowns!

PUMA’s Mar Mostro is off across the Atlantic Ocean with the start of Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 from Miami, Florida, USA to Lisbon, Portugal. The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew rounded the buoys in Miami to complete the six-leg inshore loop and headed out for the offshore portion of the leg in the fifth position, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing leading the fleet.

“It’s very emotional leaving,” said skipper Ken Read. “It’s not often you get to come to North America and put on a good show and promote our sport. And it wasn’t just people from around South Florida, I’ve met people from all over this country here. It’s tough to leave, but at the same time we have a job to do.”

The 3,590 nautical mile Leg 7 is expected to take the boats approximately 11 days to complete. The fleet will travel up the Florida coastline before heading east.

“It will be quite light this first afternoon and into tonight, but I think the first boat into the pressure from this tropical storm could have quite a big advantage,” said navigator Tom Addis. “Tropical Storm Alberto is the source of pressure to get us north, so it is important to try to feed into that pressure first. We’ll be playing around the edge of that system – it’s quite small and slow moving, so it should be fairly easy to manage. Overall, it looks like pretty good downwind sailing and a reasonably fast leg, which we always enjoy on these boats. There’s a good chance we won’t be extreme north as well, so hopefully it won’t be too cold.”

Leg 7 marks the second transatlantic crossing for PUMA’s Mar Mostro. The team first departed U.S. waters on July 3, 2011, with the start of the Transatlantic Race 2011 from Newport, Rhode Island, to Lizard Point, Cornwall, U.K. Their first trip across the Atlantic Ocean was successful as they notched wins in both IRC Class 1 and IRC Overall of the race.

The original PUMA crew is back in tact for the first time since Leg 4. Casey Smith (Brisbane, Australia), who missed Leg 6 due to a lower back injury, returned for Saturday’s PORTMIAMI In-Port Race and is ready for Leg 7. Kelvin Harrap (Napier, New Zealand) was back onboard for Leg 6 after missing the Southern Ocean journey with carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms as well as bursitis in his elbow.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman & Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

IMAGES:

Leg 7 departure in Miami. Credit: Jennifer Langille

RESULTS:

Overall Standings

POS TEAM OVERALL
1 Team Telefónica 165
2 Groupama Sailing Team 158
3 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 152
4 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 151
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 74
6 Team Sanya 27

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG scoring:

POS RACE/LEG PTS TOTAL
2 Alicante In-Port Race 5 5
– Leg 1* — 5
3 Cape Town In-Port Race 4 9
3 Leg 2, Stage 1 16 25
4 Leg 2, Stage 2 (3rd in Leg 2 overall) 3 28
4 Abu Dhabi In-Port Race 3 31
2 Leg 3, Stage 1 5 36
4 Leg 3, Stage 2 12 48
2 Sanya In-Port Race 5 53
2 Leg 4 25 78
2 Auckland In-Port Race 5 83
1 Leg 5 30 113
3 Itajaí In-Port Race 4 117
1 Leg 6 30 147
3 Miami In-Port Race 4 151

Ken Read, Skipper, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG

Wow. The only word that comes to mind.

The last couple days were so stressful that I completely forgot to give you my wrap-up. Sorry about that, but please understand…CAMPER was relentlessly breathing down our necks right to the very end – and they are a complete pain in the ass!!!!! And also please understand that I say that as a compliment with the highest regard for how they sailed this leg.

There are legs that are physically grueling. This was not one of those legs. But it certainly made up for it in the mentally grueling category. Tom Addis was really on top of his game this leg. I think he and I are working better together each leg, and it shows with confident placement on the race track, and certainly there’s faith in the team and the boat to win a type of race that is such a grind.

I can only equate what I am trying to say to an American football analogy. Some teams like to play shootout style games, trying to score a million points by throwing the ball all over the field to win. A pretty risky strategy, but when it works you sure look good. Other teams don’t mind playing defensive-minded games – they’re always close but you think you have the horses to win, the “keep it close to the vest” type games. We certainly played this last leg in the latter. Defensive when we could be, and rely on the boys and the boat to win the close game.

What is the drawback of this style? Well, by keeping it close we are clearly giving our friends, family and fans anxiety beyond belief. Some of the emails I get after legs are amazing. One said, “Please don’t continue racing like this as you almost gave my 77-year-old mother heart failure…who is a massive PUMA fan btw.” Another elegantly proclaimed, “Holy #%!@…what a great job. I am &^#$-ing speechless.” And, that was from a friend who is never speechless. Some friends claim they pray daily to wind gods such as Pele, others claim we have forced them to simply become religious in general terms. Finally, a common theme also appears to be the fact that the stress and strain we put on our friends has pushed many towards being alcoholics.

Quite an influence we appear to have, eh?

We are home for a bit. Back in the USA. It is meaningful to finish in to our home country in first. A short flight home now for a few days to watch my daughter play tennis, and actually be a dad, a husband and a friend to a shedding golden retriever. Then back at it next week with a renewed energy and a hopeful focus that we can keep this momentum rolling and make this race closer by the minute.

Confidence is a wonderful thing when you have it, but we all understand that it can be fleeting. Got to figure out how to bottle it. And continue to keep our fans on the edge of their seats.

Sorry, but its the only way we know how.

Ken Read, Skipper, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG

Battles on the ocean are hard. Especially in super light air like what we have had out here the last few days. The chess match is long and painful and very often has stops and starts that stretch out the agony.

We are amongst it with CAMPER at this stage and there is a lot of runway left and tons of potholes along the way.

First of all, this could not be more unlike every other leg we have had in this race. Dry, cool nights and warm days. T-shirts and shorts always. No hint of a need for foul weather gear. A huge full moon making it closer to needing sunglasses at night rather than headlamps.

This game of chess probably has been a bit more like a tug-of-war if you are watching at home. We stretch out to what seems like a “comfortable” lead only to hit the next light air patch and watch the troops coming reeling us in. CAMPER is within sight almost always, making things a bit more tense with constant bearing checks with the handheld compass.

To be honest, these are conditions that suit CAMPER a bit better than us. They have always excelled in the light air and this is no exception. So for this we are pretty pleased we have held them off to date. And as we approach a left turn at Harbour Island in the Bahamas, we are stressing out a bit because overnight we lost sight of them and in these fickle conditions that could mean disaster. When we see them, we have a better chance of defending effectively. When we don’t see them, we rely on the 3 hour position reports to tell us what the next move should be in the chess match.

The danger always is being too defensive, or too offensive. There has to be a balance and we have to remain fortunate that we simply don’t sail into another wind hole that they don’t sail into. A little further back are Groupama and Telefónica, neither out of this by any means.

So that is a bit of a play-by-play to date, typically not my style for a blog but necessary nonetheless. On board we have the typical banter, to which Shannon Falcone has certainly added a few interesting stories with his non-stop chatter. Probably a nice change of pace, as was Thomas Johansson who sailed with us on the last leg, for a group that has been together a lot over the last two years! For sure we have all heard the same stories a few times, and a new mix is certainly welcome.

So as we come down to the final miles, we will attempt to apply the basketball adage of keeping ourselves between our opponent and the hoop. Sure it sounds easy, but when you can’t see your opponent anymore it is like playing basketball in the pitch black and trying to stay with your man. Keep playing the odds, and if they are going to pass us make them sail around us. Not easy to do, but you never know.

LOCATION: 100 miles SE of Eleuthera, Bahamas
WINDSPEED: 6.1 kts
BOATSPEED: 7.9 kts
HEADING: 320-degrees
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 350 miles

There was very little about yesterday that was easy, except maybe the sunburn. As forecasted, the winds quickly perished after sunrise making life more difficult than not, and we spent almost all day drifting around a small chain of Bahamian islands under the spell of high pressure. Complete and utter driftoff, zero point zero knots of wind, and three donuts on the instrument. At one point the current was carrying us towards a reef we couldn’t avoid, but thankfully anchoring wasn’t necessary and we instead went for a swim. Hot, hot, hot… who’s idea was it to make a black boat with a black deck and black sails, anyway!?

The good news: our wind returned – slowly – and we’ve managed to make an escape, barely hanging on to a small but meaningful 10-mile lead over CAMPER in the race to the Eleuthera waypoint. It’s hard to know whether we’ve seen the worst though as weather systems like this can evolve quickly. According to Tom, so far so good, but we’re not out of the woods just yet. We’ll gradually lift around to the north until we gybe onto port and lay the northern tip of the island. From there it’s through the Gulf Stream and across to the finish line, hopefully as first horse back to the stable.

But the winds are still light and variable and the potential for big losses to trailing boats still exist; they likely will until the end. With just 350 miles to go it would be easy to overlook the remaining distance, but nobody seems to be making that mistake. The proper mindset, and one we’re all emphasizing, is that each mile is just as important as the next. Don’t look too far beyond the horizon because this race is far from over!

LOCATION: 150 miles E of Turks and Caicos islands
WINDSPEED: 11.1 kts
BOATSPEED: 13.3 kts
HEADING: 293-degrees
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 750 miles

I’m not going to say much about the weather…it’s more than cooperating and I don’t want to jinx it. We have one more area of projected drifting on our way to Miami, and I worry that if I go off talking about how nice of a surprise yesterday was, how incredibly perfect the sailing was – especially when the early outlook looked so bleak – I worry I might eliminate the chance of it happening again when we hit the final hurdle of high-pressure tomorrow.

Instead, I’ll mention a few finer observations from Mar Mostro life on our way west.

1. The so-called SuperMoon is, in fact, super. Man was it big and bright coming up over the horizon! Blinding. Sailing last night was no different than sailing during the day: you could see waves and wind on the water, and the sails were lit well enough for strobe-free trimming. We wondered what affect, good or bad, it might have on the tides and currents through the countless Caribbean and Bahamian islands we’ll be passing over the next couple of days.

2. Numero uno is casual. We’ve arguably been leading this leg since it started, and most would assume that creates an environment of high stress; there is always more to lose than gain. But to the contrary, these have been some of the most relaxing and enjoyable 14 days of this race. Maybe that’s because it’s warm and we’re sailing a Volvo 70 without shirts or shoes, but I think it’s because we’re confident and comfortable, happy and loose. Team chemistry has always been great but our performance so far this leg has helped to affirm our abilities. Time on deck is flying by while preoccupied with stories, debates, and lengthy laughs, and sometimes it’s hard to believe we’re in the middle of a race.

3. Rationing for a Wednesday night or Thursday morning finish is finished. Yesterday I split our large chicken tikka meal in half and made up the difference with leftover mashed potato powder. The day before that we had leftover protein bars for lunch. So now we have two extra meals, plus lots of extra cereal and bars to fill the un-provisioned time at sea. Not that we purposefully pack light or consistently misread the routing, but arriving late has been a bit of normality this race. Rationing like this gets easier every time and it all feels very under control now. No panic whatsoever. Even managed to squirrel away a few extra savoury snacks for the guys, too, but that’s a surprise! Closely monitoring coffee consumption…might be tight on that one.

4. Where’s all the wildlife? We’ve seen almost nothing out here. One whale, a few dolphins, and one jumping mahi. Are flying fish top dog?? They running the show? Seems like those little guys are all we see…

5. Sick of Sargasso. The weed’s still everywhere and it seems we spend most of our time trying to keep it off the rudders.

6. iPods. They’re changing hands faster than we can keep track of, and I haven’t seen mine in a few days. Tony woke up to three or four in his bunk-side holder the other day. It’s hard to imagine what this race would have been like without them.

Anyways, today should be another great one and hopefully our good fortune continues! The boat’s going fast, everyone’s happy, and we’re privileged enough to be sailing through some of the nicest waters in the world. Life is good

- Amory

LOCATION: 200 miles E of Barbados
WINDSPEED: 18.5 kts
BOATSPEED: 21.6 kts
HEADING: 318-degrees
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 1,500 miles

Our daily routines are predictable enough. Each day is more or less the same and at some point day 17 begins to feel like day 12, which very much felt like day 6. One variable of inconsistent kind though, and one of great interest to everyone onboard, is Tom’s ETA, or estimated finishing date. Our predicted arrival is something we all want to know and for a variety of reasons, but it’s a figure that is also in continuous flux.

It can be amazingly difficult to predict when you’re going to arrive at a destination 3,000 miles away in a landscape of geographic uncertainty, but today’s software, weather files, and boat performance profiles combine to give it an honest try. There are family flights to book, boat repairs to schedule, food and fuel to manage, and the high hopes of the 11 of us waiting for a burger, beer, and a proper shower, and they all hinge on a very simple process.

Somewhere in the world somebody begins by analysing the weather. Their findings are digitized into “grib” models, a virtual record of predicted winds spanning up to several weeks out for the entire globe. These files are loaded into the onboard routing software that use our current location and our boat’s performance polars (tables that suggest what speeds Mar Mostro should attain at any combination of wind speed and wind angle) to best map our course to the next waypoint.

Obviously, there is more than one way to decipher the weather, so there are multiple models to choose from. With each update (several times a day) Tom downloads either the “EC,” (short for…ECWF), or the “GFS,” (…God Forged Scheduling?), loads it into the software, and out comes an ETA. Routing doesn’t take certain things into consideration, things like a rough sea state that would prevent us from reaching our predicted polar speeds, so there’s a certain degree of human interpretation for Tom before he decides on a route and a date, but eventually a day is picked. The closer we get, the more accurate the prediction power is, but one thing that’s for sure is that we can never be sure.

In the context of this leg, it looks like we’ll be one or two days late, so it’s time to start squirreling away some food again, just like we did on the last leg. Extra bars for lunch instead of a meal when the wind is light, split the chicken tikka – a notoriously large serving – into two meals, things like that. It’s not the models’ fault, or the forecasters that make them, because weather is weather and it changes. You can’t suggest that conditions are “supposed” to be anything, because they’re unpredictable by nature. All we can do is hope the models are more accurate than not!

LOCATION: 450 miles N of Amazon River delta outlet
WINDSPEED: 19.4 kts
BOATSPEED: 20.8 kts
HEADING: 325-degrees
DISTANCE TO CARIBBEAN: 1,000 miles

At least today we were ready for it! Sunrise this morning brought the familiar sight of CAMPER on the horizon, and sure enough, they only got bigger. Then came Telefónica just before sundown. So here we sit, three’s company, all lined up after 10 days of great racing. And as nice as it’s been out in front, there’s a certain excitement that comes with having other boats in clear sight. Not that this leg has been boring, but more than a week on the same tack in similar conditions gets extremely repetitive. It’s fun to have something to disrupt the monotony and it sure helps to pass the time too.

But we haven’t felt particularly fast all day so it’s back to the chalkboard again, as [explained a few days ago] lining up against competitors can still prove extremely valuable. More than likely our lack of pace stems from something we’re not doing, at least not as well as the other two, so this is yet another opportunity to learn and improve.

Our relative sluggishness could also be due to the changing conditions. Every boat has design strengths and weaknesses that favor certain wind speeds, sailing angles, and sea states, and today marked a clear transition from one to another. Finally gone (knock on wood) are the dismal doldrums and the volatile conditions that they can create, and arrived are the first hints of true trade wind sailing and 20-plus knot winds. But Mar Mostro tends to thrive in lighter conditions, particularly upwind like we’ve had, and now we’re moving away from that, maybe towards a windier corner that suits the design of CAMPER or Telefónica a little better.

It’s impossible to know for sure though, so all we can do is focus on making our boat go as fast as possible in the building breeze. With our two rivals in sight – even at night we can track their lights – we’re more or less back to the starting gates. Knowing that, it would be easy for us to change our strategy to defend against them, but it’s important to remember that we’re only just over halfway through this leg and we still need to sail our own race, plot our own course. There’s still a very long way to go until Miami!

CAMPER first appeared on the horizon two days ago and we managed to keep them there. But yesterday they kept coming, they kept getting bigger, and it seemed like there was nothing we could do to stop them. We were hemorrhaging miles and we knew it, losing bearing and range all the time.

So what do you do to stop the bleeding? You hit reset. We went back to pre-race training mentality and established a baseline setting for the boat, began treating our speed in relative terms, using CAMPER’s close proximity as anyone in a two-boat testing program would. We’d make a small change here, another there, and we’d monitor their vitals on our radar. If results were positive, we’d adjust our “base,” and if they showed no improvement, we’d advance to the next variable on the list.

This kind of testing is simple in theory but complex in execution. Boats are changing speeds all the time and it’s impossible to know if differences in performance are due to setup changes or things like wind and waves, conditions one might have that another does not. It can be hard to realize the effectiveness of modifications when you can’t regulate certain parameters, like weather.

But we needed to try, and try we did. We started with simple mode changes: high and slow, low and fast, then somewhere in between. Nothing helped; they were always gaining. So we turned to our downwind sails and their trim. We compared our A5/GS (genoa staysail) combination to our A5/J4 (small jib) setup. Small gain found. Next we tried over-sheeting, then we tried over-easing, we tried a narrow slot, we tried a super-twisted setup. We played with daggerboard settings. We played with ballast location. If we could move it, it was moved. If we could adjust it, it was adjusted. And gradually, over the course of a day, we lessened the losses.

Finally, by the time they were abeam of us at a range of about five miles, we matched their speed. Coincidentally, about this time, wind speeds grew substantially. Whether our successes were the by-product of many small alterations or whether it was something as simple as getting the stronger winds they enjoyed all day…well, we’ll never know. But we do know that on day six of Leg 6, after more than a year of sailing Mar Mostro, we continue to learn about our boat. The education process never ends!

This doesn’t seem like the Volvo Ocean Race – not one single bit! It is comfortable on deck, the water is warm, amazing temperature, starry night, heading reasonably toward the next mark.
What is up with all of this!?!?!

I can’t get used to it. No thrashing, bashing, soaking, freezing, boiling, upwind hate mission. Maybe I am just dreaming.

So I pinch myself, and sure enough this is reality. And we are doing all right as well. Extra bonus for being with the lead pack.

I can talk about the race anytime, and I need to elaborate on an amazing coincidence that I believe Amory may have touched upon. I can’t get it out of my head.

Out in the ocean there are what seem to be a million ships. Not so many on the path we took last leg, but for sure we are in the civilized world now and ships are everywhere. You remember all the ships as we passed through the Malacca Strait.

Certainly two ships stand out in my life these days. The TEAM BREMEN was the ship that came out to Tristan da Cunha and picked us up to get to Cape Town for Leg 2. But prior to TEAM BREMEN there was the ZIM MONACO – a massive container ship owned by a Greek company with a Russian captain named Borys Bondar. It was the ship that went way out of the way to deliver us much-needed diesel fuel when our mast (and world) came crashing down on Leg 1. We tied up alongside in the middle of the ocean and took on about 30 canisters of our boat’s lifeblood. In the middle of the ocean, we need our Volvo Penta engine to charge batteries and make water and saturate our freeze-dried food. The ZIM MONACO was the only ship that came to the call of Pan-Pan from the Portuguese Coast Guard. A pure act of seamanship. We owe more than we could ever repay to Captain Bondar.

So what are the chances of ever seeing the ZIM MONACO again? Pretty slim, I would say. A container ship that travels the globe. Not a chance right? Last time I looked it was a pretty big ocean with a lot of ports of call.

How about tripping over the ZIM MONACO in the port of Itajaí, Brazil? The morning of the send-off. Crazy amounts of people everywhere, and up walks a short, thin Russian who says to me, “Hello Captain Read (strange to be called captain anything). My name is Valery Bezlepkin and I am the new captain of the ZIM MONACO. We are parked right over there.” He points to the ship berthed about three-quarters of a mile up the harbor from where the race village is in Itajaí.

There it was in all her glory. The ZIM MONACO.

I stood there aghast. Lisa Ramsperger, our PR head honcho, was standing next to him and almost couldn’t contain herself. What are the odds we would trip over each other again? Both after traveling/sailing around the world.

Captain Bezlepkin had taken the place of our friend Captain Bondar, who was taking his normally scheduled vacation leave. Captain Bezlepkin passed on his regards, said the ship’s crew followed the race and have watched a bunch of Volvo videos on board after seeing our crazy looking little boat in the middle of the Atlantic. He also brought us a gift – bottle of whiskey and a carton of cigarettes. What else would a ship’s crew offer for a gift!?! We quickly replied with a PUMA shirt and jacket. Probably less likely to cause cancer than the cigarettes, but the gesture was real nonetheless.

One thing that will always stick with me is the comment that Captain Bondar made when we wrote to each other following our diesel loading. Of course, I thanked him profusely after the incredible act of kindness that he displayed, for sure something that cost his company money to do. His response…”In as much as we are all seamen, we should all help each other at unforeseen situations that arise at sea.” A pretty amazing attitude in today’s world of corporate profits and time management. I can tell you one thing for sure. We contacted about five other ships via VHF those fateful days, looking for diesel and some help. Once we explained our situation to each ship, each one of them mysteriously had trouble speaking English or had radio trouble all of a sudden. Not the ZIM MONACO.

So the ZIM MONACO is alive and well. It turns out they have been to Singapore, China, South Korea and here to Brazil since we saw them last. They are off to Argentina and Uruguay next. Their own little Volvo race.

I bet it isn’t as much upwind work as ours has been.

PUMA’s Mar Mostro powered to the front of the fleet to lead the departure from Itajai, Brazil, for the start of Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew completed the in-port loop in 42 minutes, 32 seconds, heading out for the offshore portion of the leg about a half mile ahead of Team Telefónica. Next stop: Miami, Florida, USA.

“Right now, we feel good about ourselves, and that says something. We’re as confident as you can be sailing in a fleet like this against such great sailors and great boats,” said skipper Ken Read. “I don’t want to jinx the fleet right now, but it looks like we could have really nice sailing. This is potentially the first leg of this race that anybody can say that. We might have some downwind sailing out of here, it looks like we might have some nice trade wind sailing, maybe some consistent wave patterns. I’ve probably just completely ruined it. But, I think everybody is really psyched to do some nice sailing.”

Leg 6 will take the fleet 4,800 nautical miles from Itajaí to Miami – the lone U.S. stop in this year’s race – and span approximately 14 days. The fleet will arrive into the Downtown Miami Volvo Ocean Race Village at Bicentennial Park, which officially opens on May 6.

“We’re starting just behind a front that pushed through overnight, so we’ve got some good downwind sailing over the first day or so,” said navigator Tom Addis. “It won’t last that long though, and after a day of nice downwind, we’ll see a couple days of lighter stuff. We’ll battle through to the trade winds, and once there we should have some nice, solid reaching almost all the way to the Bahamas.”

PUMA’s Mar Mostro, built and launched in Newport, Rhode Island, departed U.S. waters on July 3, 2011, with the start of the Transatlantic Race 2011 from Newport to Lizard Point, Cornwall, U.K. The crew made a training run to Miami and visited the city on May 13, 2011.

PUMA holds on in fourth in the overall standings with 117 points after finishing third in Saturday’s In-Port Race. Telefónica maintains the top slot with 149 points, while Groupama closed the gap, sitting in second at 133. CAMPER is in third at 124.

Shannon Falcone (Falmouth Harbor, Antigua) is on board for this leg, taking the place of Casey Smith (Brisbane, Australia) who injured his back during Leg 5. Kelvin Harrap (Napier, New Zealand) returns to the crew after missing Leg 5 due to injury.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Shannon Falcone (Falmouth Harbour, Antigua); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman & Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

RESULTS

Overall standings:

POS TEAM OVERALL
1 Team Telefónica 149
2 Groupama Sailing Team 133
3 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 124
4 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 117
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 58
6 Team Sanya 25

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG scoring:

POS RACE/LEG PTS TOTAL
2 Alicante In-Port Race 5 5
– Leg 1* — 5
3 Cape Town In-Port Race 4 9
3 Leg 2, Stage 1 16 25
4 Leg 2, Stage 2 (3rd in Leg 2 overall) 3 28
4 Abu Dhabi In-Port Race 3 31
2 Leg 3, Stage 1 5 36
4 Leg 3, Stage 2 12 48
2 Sanya In-Port Race 5 53
2 Leg 4 25 78
2 Auckland In-Port Race 5 83
1 Leg 5 30 113
3 Itajaí In-Port Race 6 119

FALCONE JOINS PUMA OCEAN RACING POWERED BY BERG CREW FOR LEG 6 OF VOLVO OCEAN RACE
Harrap returns to team for upcoming leg to Miami

ITAJAÍ, BRAZIL (APRIL 18, 2012) – PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG announced today that Shannon Falcone will sail on board PUMA’s Mar Mostro for Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 from Itajaí, Brazil, to Miami, Florida, USA. Falcone takes the place of bowman Casey Smith who injured his back during the last leg of the race from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajaí. Helmsman Kelvin Harrap also rejoins the team, returning from injury after missing Leg 5.

“We were really lucky to have Shannon on ‘stand by’ specifically for a situation like this one,” said PUMA skipper Ken Read. “Losing Casey is a tough situation for our team, eased only by the fact that Shannon has a lot of experience with us – both in the last race and training this past summer. We are really happy that he is ready to go.”

Falcone, 30 from Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, will sail in his second Volvo Ocean Race with PUMA Ocean Racing beginning with Saturday’s In-Port Race in Itajaí. He was part of the PUMA team for the 2008-09 edition of the race, serving as trimmer and pitman for eight legs. Falcone is currently a member of the ORACLE Racing team training for the 34th America’s Cup. In 2010, he was on BMW ORACLE Racing’s extended crew, winner of the 33rd America’s Cup, and he has been a part of the Mascalzone Latino (2000) and Luna Rossa (2007) America’s Cup campaigns.

“The pressure is on,” said Falcone. “It’s always difficult joining a crew after a win, and I have some big shoes to fill in Casey’s absence. The guys did a great job the last leg, and we want to follow up with the same on this next leg to Miami.”

Smith (Brisbane, Australia) injured his lower back just before the start of the grueling Leg 5, and he stayed on board through the team’s first-place finish in the leg. He will remain at home in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, during the upcoming leg for treatment and rehab. He is expected to rejoin the team in Miami.

Harrap, who missed Leg 5 due to carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms as well as bursitis in his elbow, resumes his role with the PUMA crew this week.

Racing gets underway in Itajaí with the Pro Am Race on Friday, April 20, followed by the In-Port Race on Saturday, April 21, and the start of Leg 6 to the lone U.S. stop of Miami, Florida, on Sunday, April 22.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Shannon Falcone (Falmouth Harbour, Antigua); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman & Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

RESULTS

Overall standings:

POS TEAM OVERALL
1 Team Telefónica 147
2 Groupama Sailing Team 127
3 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 119
4 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 113
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 55
6 Team Sanya 25

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG scoring:

POS RACE/LEG PTS TOTAL
2 Alicante In-Port Race 5 5
– Leg 1* — 5
3 Cape Town In-Port Race 4 9
3 Leg 2, Stage 1 16 25
4 Leg 2, Stage 2 (3rd in Leg 2 overall) 3 28
4 Abu Dhabi In-Port Race 3 31
2 Leg 3, Stage 1 5 36
4 Leg 3, Stage 2 12 48
2 Sanya In-Port Race 5 53
2 Leg 4 25 78
2 Auckland In-Port Race 5 83
1 Leg 5 30 113

PUMA OCEAN RACING POWERED BY BERG WINS LEG 5 OF VOLVO OCEAN RACE
The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew was bashed around by the Southern Ocean and held off two challengers in a tactical match race to win Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, sailing from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajaí, Brazil. The 11-member crew onboard PUMA’s Mar Mostro crossed the line at 16:09.51 local/19:09.51 UTC on Friday, April 6, finishing the leg in 19 days, 18 hours, 9 minutes and 50 seconds. It marked the first leg win of this year’s race for the PUMA team.

“Unbelievable!” said skipper Ken Read after arrival. “Nobody quit and the atmosphere on the boat today was really cool – laid back and everybody was ready to tackle the task at hand. I’m very proud of this team. It’s a great feeling.

“The shore team – along with the boat builders and design team – they’re the unsung heroes here. They deserve equal billing, especially in a leg like this,” Read continued. “Before the leg started, we had a goal and a strategy as to how we were going to approach it and what our priorities were. We stayed true to that, and I’m very proud of that fact. And, my heart goes out to all of the teams with problems this leg – we know exactly how they feel.”

With the win, PUMA added 30 points to bring the team’s overall race total to 113. Team Telefónica crossed the line a close second to PUMA in Leg 5, finishing just 12 minutes behind and boosting their overall race total to 147. Two teams remain poised to complete the leg after suffering damage during the leg – the Groupama Sailing Team and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand. The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team Sanya both retired from the leg after also suffering damage.

The team traveled approximately 7,500 nautical miles from Auckland to Itajaí. Following the relentless Southern Ocean stretch of more than 12 days, PUMA rounded Cape Horn at 13:52 UTC on March 30. With most of the fleet suspended from racing due to damage, PUMA and Groupama began the northerly journey to Brazil in a match race, sailing head-to-head until Groupama suffered an unfortunate dismasting. Telefónica soon resumed racing and caught up to within a mile of PUMA by the final day.

“The leg went on and on,” described navigator Tom Addis. “It was an all-around leg. There was the Southern Ocean, which of course is full-on preservation mode. Then, once you round the corner there was a lot of tactical racing, a lot of light air. We’ve got great experience on this boat – guys like Brad [Jackson] and Tony [Mutter] just knowing when to push and when not to push. Sometimes you’re not racing at anywhere near 100 percent, but that’s fine because you’re not very fast when you’re broken. It was a good leg to win.”

Racing resumes in Itajaí with the Pro Am Race on Friday, April 20, followed by the In-Port Race on Saturday, April 21, and the start of Leg 6 to the lone U.S. stop of Miami, Florida, on Sunday, April 22.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Thomas Johanson, Helmsman (Espoo, Finland); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Casey Smith, Systems Manager & Bowman (Brisbane, Australia); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

QUOTING KEN READ:

“You have to get a little lucky. It’s easy to sit here and toot your horn as to how you sailed the boat. But, that one wave that we were almost airborne on, could have been 2 seconds later, and maybe we would have been airborne. We had a great dogfight going with Groupama and they were sailing really well. We felt horrible for them because we knew exactly how they felt.”

“Our intentions always have been to go out there and win. It’s been great that we’ve been on the podium quite often, but it’s been disappointing that we haven’t won a leg so far. We think we deserve this leg win, and we’re proud of it. We’re going to celebrate it for a bit, then get right back to work because there’s a lot more sailing to be done.”

BOATSPEED: 25 KTS
WINDSPEED: 27 KTS
HEADING: 034-degrees
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 150 miles

Nervous times they are. We’re doing our absolute best but there’s something very disconcerting about watching your lead evaporate sched by sched to a boat thriving in conditions we can’t reach. But therein lies the “bright side:” there is nothing we can really do about Telefónica, so we’ve been focusing on sailing our own boat as best we know how.

It’s not to say we haven’t tried to defend. The goal for all of last night was to get low, to work our way down to their line and position ourselves between them and the finish. But the 50-knot front we took a walloping from had other things in mind, and we were forced to slow the boat down with the mainsail on the deck. After a sleepless night of storm sailing we were back up to speed, and again we tried to dive low, though wind speeds steadily dropped leaving behind a rough sea state and little to power through it. Getting low was simply not going to be an option.

So we stayed high, and suffered all day because of it. At one point every third wave seemed like it would be the one to split the boat in half. Each violent slam was met with winces, oohs, ahhs, and a rig that flexed like wet spaghetti. It was scary…especially with Groupama’s dismasting fresh on our minds. There was nothing to do but cant the keel to leeward, try to land at an angle, and watch Telefónica tear into our lead every three hours while doing 22 knots as we struggled to exceed 10. Awful, painful, and stressful, but fortunately also finite.

All it took was one cloud line, maybe the trailing edge of the front, and we were gone – 20 knots, flatter seas, and a renewed sense of determination. We’re finally coming down, they’re finally coming up, and there’s a good chance sunrise tomorrow will bring some new company on the horizon. Our lead is down to 17 miles and while it’s not ideal, it’s going to make for a very exciting final day of racing!

LOCATION: 180 miles E of Punta Medanosa
BOATSPEED: 3 KTS
WINDSPEED: 5 KTS
HEADING: 302-degrees
DISTANCE TO FINISH: 1,450 miles

Today our race began. Almost simultaneously with daylight’s first sched, the focus clearly became Groupama and the remaining miles to Itajai. Not to discount the last 13 days of this leg, but things have almost started anew out here. With just 12 miles separating us, an elusive first place is well within our reach, and the current fleet circumstances make things even more interesting.

With four of the teams missing in action there is almost no threat from a trailing boat; we can take all the risks in the world during these final 1,400 miles and not have to worry too much about losing anything to anyone but Groupama. The weather forecasts show plenty of passing lanes to the east and west, dodging through (or around) several windless high-pressure systems and a doldrums like feature to the north. If we wanted to take a flyer and gain some leverage, to put some distance between us and find our own weather, we easily could.

That could fail massively, too, and is that the way we want to approach this? We’ve had a few days of good relative boat speed, and we’re happy with our light-air downwind performance – a point of sail we’ll have more of on the way to Brazil. One train of thought has us being conservative and following them around the ocean, trying to stay in the same body of water, sailing in the same winds, grinding them down by being faster. But the French are tough to predict. Leg 1 and 2 they made bold decisions, legs 3 and 4 they played it safe; it’s hard to know what they’re thinking, and that in turn makes our decision making process tougher.

The facts:
1) We have very little to lose with Telefónica 350 miles behind.
2) There are two distinct routes north, one inshore and one offshore.
3) Groupama is fast and unpredictable, but we don’t feel slow.

So do we:
4) Trust our speed, aim at their stern, and wave as we go by?
5) Strike out on our own and pass them with better winds?

It’ll be a busy few days of trying to find the right answer!

“I’m going to bring my survival suit home and live in it, it’s that comfy and warm.” – Tony Mutter

Blog from the Seas
Leg 5, Day 7
25 March 2012

By: Amory Ross, MCM, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG

LOCATION: Middle of nowhere, deep south, day 3
BOATSPEED: 17 KTS
WINDSPEED: 29 KTS
HEADING: 113-degrees
DISTANCE TO CAPE HORN: 2,300 miles

I don’t know how it happened, but on a boat laden with fancy doodads, gizmos, and thingamabobs, somebody forgot to put on a thermometer. Consequently, the only way to tangibly see the temperature is through the rigidity of our chocolate. The current batch of 11 Mars bars – one for each of us – is frozen solid, so it must be cold (this, in stark contrast to the last two legs, where chocolate was more or less liquefied in high heat), and we can now all see our breath in the air.

The water temperature is showing 11-degrees Celsius (that’s 50-degrees Fahrenheit), and I’d put the air below that, maybe around 40? 35? Doing the dishes is chillingly painful, and it takes a ton of soap just to get anything off the silverware. Today I saw Ryan come down, light a burner, and hold his glove-covered hands over it for a minute or two. But it could be worse I guess: we haven’t yet seen snow or ice, though we still have a lot of south left in our course. We’ve just passed the second to last ice gate, around latitude 47, and the final one lies at latitude 53, an additional six degrees south.

Getting down there presents the first tactical decision we’ve had to make in a while, but rationalism and safety in these strong Southern Ocean conditions is still our first priority. It’s far more prudent to keep the boat together than it would be to aim for every shift. Ideally, we’d set a bigger sail and just sail lower, but it’s still too windy and too risky for that. So, for the time being we’re stuck with a smaller sail and higher angles taking us to the east…

Safe and conservative thinking is never wrong though, so it’s an easy situation to live with. And plus, the more time we have in “warmer” latitudes the better!

Blog from the Seas
Leg 5, Day 2
20 March 2012

By: Amory Ross, MCM, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG

LOCATION: 250-miles NW of Chatham Islands
WINDSPEED: 19 KTS
BOATSPEED: 17 KTS
HEADING: 140-degrees
DISTANCE TO CAPE HORN: 3,900 miles

I can’t believe I actually told people on the dock I was excited for this. Naivety, in a nutshell. What I should have said, and the way I feel now, is I’m excited to get this OVER with! Like a bunch of little kids in the backseat, the question everyone has been asking is how much more? Unfortunately the answer remains unchanged. We have a long way to go.

The feeling is not dissimilar to a rough Sunday morning’s headache. You find yourself just sitting there trying to do something, but you can’t because you lack the coordination, motivation, or energy. Sleep has been elusive, eating has been undesirable, and most everything is already wet. We’ve been in windier, we’ve been in wetter, and we’ve been in rougher, but it’s the combination of it all that makes doing anything effectively hopeless. I can’t speak for the 10 other guys on the boat, but I wasn’t prepared for that kind of a start and it’s taken me a while to get up to speed. Casey’s still down with his bad back and Thomas has returned to the helm after recovering from his dislocated shoulder. Everyone’s showing a bit of wear for the worse, though it looks like the first batch of nasty weather is now behind us.

To be honest, I don’t know much about how we’re going against the fleet. I think we’re all relatively close and headed for the same spot of high-pressure transit, about 150 miles away to the southeast. The big winds and waves should ease, and we’ll likely be going upwind by nightfall (shocking!). The ridge of lighter winds connecting the two highs will present some calmer conditions and a chance to recuperate before the strong westerlies on the opposite side that will take us down and east through the Southern Ocean. Supposedly, that’s where the “fun” begins!

I think our speeds have been just average, perhaps a result of sailing two men short for a few days of difficult sailing, but scheds haven’t carried the same weight and it doesn’t yet feel like we’re racing the others so much as it does like we’ve been racing ourselves. Trying to keep the boat together and trying to keep each other in good spirits and good health has taken total precedence. Once we settle in I suspect that will change, though normal routines are still far away. At least not as far as Cape Horn or Brazil.

- Amory

IMAGES

No. 238: Tony Mutter lowers his shoulders against a giant wave over the deck. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)

No. 344: Michi Mueller carries a spare wand and wind instrument to the top of the rig after losing the one already there in a big squall. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Amory Ross/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)

PUMA OCEAN RACING POWERED BY BERG CREW HEALING AFTER INJURIES ONBOARD

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (MARCH 20, 2012) – On Monday, March 19, the PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew suffered two injuries during Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. Bowman Casey Smith (Brisbane, Australia) injured his lower back and helmsman Thomas Johanson (Espoo, Finland) dislocated his right shoulder. Both crewmembers are safe and recovering onboard as the team continues to sail from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajaí, Brazil.

“Casey and Thomas are both improving,” said skipper Ken Read. “We’ve been communicating with our team doctors and Volvo medical staff to work through both injuries onboard, and this is why we have crew who go through intense medical training – they were able to pop Thomas’ shoulder back into place. These are rough conditions we’ve been sailing in. We’re hoping it eases soon so we can get these guys back healthy and up to full speed for the rest of the leg.”

“Casey has been battling back issues for a couple of legs now and his injury happened hours after the start, doing something he has done a million times and that is simply moving a sail,” Read described. “Thomas was hit by a large, unexpected wave when going on watch and slid through the cockpit, hitting his shoulder and upper lip on the leeward side of the cockpit. He had a helmet on at the time, which was lucky. Jono Swain did a great job getting advice then popping Thomas’ shoulder back in. Immediately he was in no pain and is recovering quickly.”

PUMA’s Mar Mostro departed Auckland on Sunday, March 18, for Leg 5. The leg is taking the fleet more than 6,500 nautical miles through the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn with the trip to Itajaí, Brazil, expected to last around 17-18 days. Gale-force winds were recorded during the first two days, regularly blowing 30-40 knots with big seas. The final distance to finish was adjusted on Monday by Volvo Ocean Race organizers who issued new coordinates for the ice exclusion zone, moving the fleet’s path north to avoid icebergs.

Johanson joined the PUMA crew for this leg, sailing in place of helmsman Kelvin Harrap (Napier, New Zealand) who is taking a break due to carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms as well as bursitis in his elbow. Johanson sailed as a member of the Ericsson 3 crew during the 2008-09 edition of the race and won the leg through the Southern Ocean.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Thomas Johanson, Helmsman (Espoo, Finland); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Casey Smith, Systems Manager & Bowman (Brisbane, Australia); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

RESULTS

Overall standings:

POS TEAM OVERALL
1 Team Telefónica 122
2 Groupama Sailing Team 107
3 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 104
4 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 83
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 55
6 Team Sanya 25

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG scoring:

POS RACE/LEG PTS TOTAL
2 Alicante In-Port Race 5 5
– Leg 1* — 5
3 Cape Town In-Port Race 4 9
3 Leg 2, Stage 1 16 25
4 Leg 2, Stage 2 (3rd in Leg 2 overall) 3 28
4 Abu Dhabi In-Port Race 3 31
2 Leg 3, Stage 1 5 36
4 Leg 3, Stage 2 12 48
2 Sanya In-Port Race 5 53
2 Leg 4 25 78
2 Auckland In-Port Race 5 83

* Retired from leg

Blog from the Seas
Leg 5, Day 1
19 March 2012

By: Amory Ross, MCM, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG

LOCATION: 200 miles northwest of Auckland
WINDSPEED: 25 KTS
BOATSPEED: 18 KTS
HEADING: 121-degrees
DISTANCE TO CAPE HORN: 4,400 miles

It feels like I was just here on this laptop writing one of these reports, like Auckland was one more vivid dream, the result of another long day’s exhaustive efforts. The familiarity with the schedule, the boat, the struggles, they now seem so standard that it’s hard to believe we actually got off somewhere. But it’s true: New Zealand did happen, and after just a few days rest we were hardly more refreshed when we left then we were when we arrived.

But even in it’s briefness, it was a stopover well worth the trip. The massive welcome, the gigantic sendoff, and everything in between, it far exceeded expectations. I had heard so much about “En-Zed,” so many good things about the people, the islands, and their passion for sailing, and it was all correct. The only problem I have is that we didn’t get to stay longer! So thank you Auckland, I look forward to returning one day soon.

Nonetheless, we are excited for Leg 5 and what lies ahead. The fleet is suffering a pretty heavy beating here in the early going, but it was expected and we were mentally prepared for the pasting (physically, not so much…). Fortunately, it is easy to get motivated for the Southern Ocean, Cape Horn, and hopeful continued momentum.

From the onset it’s obvious this is a “different” leg. It is a step up for sure, and we spent a lot of time talking about the seriousness of our destination. The Southern Ocean is a place of awesome power and beautiful isolation, but potential dangers too. I felt nervous for the first time this race while standing on the dock before leaving. We will be pushing a fast boat 100% day and night through the world’s coldest ocean. But, it was being nervous in a good way – the kind that makes you appreciate what you’re doing, realize how lucky you are to do it, and respect the way it’s done.

The guys say the Southern Ocean is life-changing, and while I don’t yet know what that means, I’m anxious to find out for myself.

PUMA OCEAN RACING POWERED BY BERG SECOND IN AUCKLAND IN-PORT RACE

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (MARCH 17, 2012) – The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew outdueled the Groupama Sailing Team to finish second in the In-Port Race on Saturday, March 17, in Auckland, New Zealand. PUMA crossed the line 0:54 seconds behind race winner CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand and picked up five points to total 83 in the overall standings.

“We knew it was going to be a fun day, and it proved to be a great boat race,” said skipper Ken Read. “It was racing in tight quarters – exactly what we expected – and we’re comfortable in those situations. The race was tight and physical, lots of tacks, lots of jibes. We had a good start, then CAMPER got the first shift and that’s all they needed today – congrats to them, they sailed well.”

Sailing along the Auckland shoreline to the first mark, PUMA rounded in third, less than a minute behind leading CAMPER. PUMA and Groupama traded places twice as they sailed through the second mark. Neck-in-neck with Groupama to the third buoy, PUMA rolled past and moved into second around the fourth and final mark. CAMPER led from start to finish, and Groupama finished third.

“It’s always been a goal of ours to be consistent and not make big errors, so that’s going to continue to be our focus as we set out on this next leg into the Southern Ocean,” Read said. “We’re looking at quite a forecast right now, and it’s going to be full-on for the first few days. So, we’re going to treat it with a lot of respect.”

On Sunday, the fleet begins the 6,705 nautical mile journey from Auckland to Itajaí, Brazil, for Leg 5. The leg takes the fleet through the formidable Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn. Race Start is at 14:00 local/01:00 UTC. Racing will be streamed live online at www.volvooceanrace.com and on the live section of the Volvo Ocean Race YouTube channel: youtube.com/volvooceanracevideos. Streaming begins five minutes before the 10-minute warning signal. Also visit www.volvooceanrace.com for complete television broadcast information in local markets.

Thomas Johanson (Espoo, Finland) will sail in place of helmsman Kelvin Harrap (Napier, New Zealand) onboard PUMA’s Mar Mostro for the leg from Auckland to Itajaí. Harrap will take a break due to carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms as well as bursitis in his elbow.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman, Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Casey Smith, Systems Manager & Bowman (Brisbane, Australia); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

NOTES
* Honorary 12th crew member Laird Hamilton joined the team today as a guest onboard PUMA’s Mar Mostro. He also jumped onboard a PUMA/Laird Board to do some stand-up paddling in the Auckland Viaduct Harbor.

* PUMA’s second-place finish in the Auckland In-Port Race creates a three-way tie with Camper and Abu Dhabi as the top overall inshore boats in the event to date. The crew also finished second in the Alicante and Sanya In-Port Races.

RESULTS

Auckland In-Port Race:

POS TEAM TOTAL TIME

1 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 6 60min, 38sec
2 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 5 +0:54
3 Groupama Sailing Team 4 +1:26
4 Team Sanya 3 +2:20
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 2 +2:52
6 Team Telefónica 1 +3:27

Overall standings:

POS TEAM OVERALL
1 Team Telefónica 122
2 Groupama Sailing Team 107
3 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 104
4 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 83
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 55
6 Team Sanya 25

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG scoring:

POS RACE/LEG PTS TOTAL
2 Alicante In-Port Race 5 5
– Leg 1* — 5
3 Cape Town In-Port Race 4 9
3 Leg 2, Stage 1 16 25
4 Leg 2, Stage 2 (3rd in Leg 2 overall) 3 28
4 Abu Dhabi In-Port Race 3 31
2 Leg 3, Stage 1 5 36
4 Leg 3, Stage 2 12 48
2 Sanya In-Port Race 5 53
2 Leg 4 25 78
2 Auckland In-Port Race 5 83

* Retired from leg

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (MARCH 14, 2012) –
The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team has announced that Thomas Johanson will join the crew for Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. Johanson, from Espoo, Finland, will take the place of helmsman Kelvin Harrap (Napier, New Zealand) onboard PUMA’s Mar Mostro for the journey from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajaí, Brazil, which gets underway on Sunday, March 18. Harrap, who will take a break due to carpal tunnel syndrome in both arms as well as bursitis in his elbow, will remain part of the crew through the In-Port Race on Saturday, March 17.

“Kelvin is a huge part of our crew, and it’s tough to lose him at this stage in the game,” said PUMA skipper Ken Read. “We’re facing what is always a tough and daunting leg in the race – the Southern Ocean. So, we’re incredibly lucky Thomas is able to bring his knowledge and experience to this team for a stretch of sailing he honestly enjoys. The Southern Ocean is no place to sail with injuries that impact your ability to be fast and safe. Its a good time to try and get Kelvin healthy again.”

Johanson, age 42, returns to the Volvo Ocean Race after sailing onboard Ericsson 3 and finishing fourth during the 2008-09 edition of the race. A three-time Olympian (1996, 2000, 2004), he captured the gold medal in the 49er class at the 2000 Olympic Games along with teammate Jyrki Jarvi – Finland’s first medal in sailing in 20 years. Johanson won bronze at the 2000 World Championships, he is also a two-time Laser European Champion (1991, 1992) and captured the Laser World Championship in 1993 – a regatta held in Auckland. He recently served as skipper of the 60-foot trimaran TietoEnator from 2004-06.

“I’m excited to be joining the PUMA crew, and this is the best leg in the Volvo Ocean Race,” Johanson said. “The last time I sailed through the Southern Ocean we won the leg, so it brings good memories. The Southern Ocean is both scary and rewarding at the same time. I’m already focused on getting ready for the night sailing, the risks of icebergs as you go so far south, and all that the leg involves. And, the last time I was in Auckland was in 1993 when I won the Laser World Championship – it was also a big moment for me.”

Harrap will begin treatment immediately in New Zealand. If the treatment is successful he is expected to rejoin the crew at the conclusion of Leg 5 in Brazil. He is facing post-race surgery regardless. Harrap, who is in the midst of his third round the world race, was named to the PUMA team in March 2011. He has served as helmsman and inshore tactician since the start of this year’s race.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012. PUMA is currently in fourth place in the overall standings with 78 points after finishing second in Leg 4 from Sanya, China, to Auckland, while Team Telefónica leads with 121 points.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Thomas Johanson, Helmsman (Espoo, Finland); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Casey Smith, Systems Manager & Bowman (Brisbane, Australia); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

RESULTS

Overall standings:

POS TEAM OVERALL
1 Team Telefónica 121
2 Groupama Sailing Team 103
3 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 98
4 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 78
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 53
6 Team Sanya 22

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG scoring:

POS RACE/LEG PTS TOTAL
2 Alicante In-Port Race 5 5
– Leg 1* — 5
3 Cape Town In-Port Race 4 9
3 Leg 2, Stage 1 16 25
4 Leg 2, Stage 2 (3rd in Leg 2 overall) 3 28
4 Abu Dhabi In-Port Race 3 31
2 Leg 3, Stage 1 5 36
4 Leg 3, Stage 2 12 48
2 Sanya In-Port Race 5 53
2 Leg 4 25 78

* Retired from leg

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (MARCH 11, 2012) – The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew pushed through days of upwind sailing and a tight battle at the end to finish second in Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. PUMA crossed the line at 11:55.43 local/22:55.43 UTC in Auckland, New Zealand, completing the leg from Sanya, China, in 20 days, 3 hours, 57 minutes and 50 seconds to collect 25 points.

“We had to fight for this second-place finish, and we’re very pleased,” said skipper Ken Read. “It was a combination of boat speed, the ability of the boat to handle the conditions, and of course the guys on board. It was a long, miserable leg, but the last 72 hours were the best we’ve sailed the boat. This finish is definitely something for us to build upon.”

The Groupama Sailing Team won Leg 4 with Team Telefónica edging out CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand for third. Telefónica holds the overall lead in the race with 121 points, while the PUMA crew remains fourth with 78 points.

The journey from Sanya to Auckland took the team 5,220 nautical miles, and the leg was split into two stages due to a tropical cyclone in the South China Sea. Despite a strong start in the first stage, PUMA was the final boat to complete the stage, forcing a 39 min, 17 sec delayed restart. Gradually making up ground over the first few days of the second phase, the crew continued upwind sailing, heading further north to get on a more eastern route down to Auckland. They joined half the fleet in rounding the eastern end of the Solomon Islands, then held off challengers in Telefónica and CAMPER down the New Zealand coastline to cross the line in second.

“This leg went on and on and on,” said watch captain Brad Jackson, who was at the helm across the line into his hometown of Auckland. “We’ve been in some bad places and some good places, and back and forth. It’s been really tough physically and mentally, and it was a tough tactical leg, but we stuck to our guns and we got there in the end. Groupama sailed a great leg, so they really deserve the win. And, for us to get second was a very good result.”

Racing resumes in Auckland with the Pro Am Race on Friday, March 16, followed by the In-Port Race on Saturday, March 17, and the start of Leg 5 to Itajai, Brazil, on Sunday, March 18.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team is under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman, Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Casey Smith, Systems Manager & Bowman (Brisbane, Australia); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

QUOTING KEN READ:

On arrival in Auckland: “It’s very clear that New Zealand is a sailing country, and Auckland is the City of Sails. It’s a pleasure to be here. We can’t believe the incredible show of support. We’re going to make the best of every minute this week, and we’d like to thank everyone in Auckland for this wonderful turnout – it means a lot to us.”

RESULTS

Leg 4:

POS TEAM TOTAL
1 Groupama Sailing Team 30
2 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 25
3 Team Telefónica 20
4 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 15
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 10
6 Team Sanya 5

Overall standings:

POS TEAM OVERALL
1 Team Telefónica 121
2 Groupama Sailing Team 103
3 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 98
4 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 78
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 53
6 Team Sanya 22

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG scoring:

POS RACE/LEG PTS TOTAL
2 Alicante In-Port Race 5 5
– Leg 1* — 5
3 Cape Town In-Port Race 4 9
3 Leg 2, Stage 1 16 25
4 Leg 2, Stage 2 (3rd in Leg 2 overall) 3 28
4 Abu Dhabi In-Port Race 3 31
2 Leg 3, Stage 1 5 36
4 Leg 3, Stage 2 12 48
2 Sanya In-Port Race 5 53
2 Leg 4 25 78

* Retired from leg

Leg 4, Day 17 7 March 2012

Now we’re getting to the tough part of this race. I’m not talking about 35 knot headwinds, 6-meter swells, or soaking wet living conditions. I’m not talking about sleepless days, exhaustive malnutrition, sunburn or frostbite. I’m talking about getting close to a finish line, getting within 1000 miles of a destination you’ve been dreaming about for weeks. It puts everything else to shame.

There’s something about the final few days of a leg that slow time down the way no other Volvo Ocean Race cruelty can. And in some instances such as this one, it can prove painfully difficult. Nobody would have predicted such a long and arduous road north to get south, and to add insult to injury – we left Sanya a day late. So instead of arriving tomorrow, the originally targeted Auckland arrival, we’re looking at another three days at sea and an expected ETA sometime on the 1t1h of March (our first day of Leg 5 Southern Ocean practice is scheduled for the 14th).

Part of what makes this race so appealing is the travel. But circling the globe with your family, friends, and teammates means little if you don’t have the time to enjoy it with them. And two days “off” in New Zealand is not exactly what my parents had in mind when they happily organized a trip to see a place that nobody in our family has ever had the opportunity to go. Everyone has a story like that… Brad, who lives in New Zealand, doesn’t think he’ll have enough time to go home because he – like others – will be working from the shore base to fix what needs fixing.

It’s the second time it’s happened to us after essentially missing the Cape Town stopover, and it makes times like these, with 1,000 miles to go, that much harder. Everyone wants to be there now, everyone wants to drink the local beer, eat the local eats, sing the local songs, and be able to leave with a smile and wave and say “thank you Auckland.”

Even though we find ourselves in the midst of an extremely close race—a race for a podium position—it’s the human elements that can still reign supreme. That’s a good sign…we love what we do, but it’s not always everything to everyone. Auckland, thanks for your patience – we’ll see you soon!

The cruelty in this game has got to be the 3-hour “scheds.” The 3-hour progress reports we get from Volvo headquarters with each competitor’s vital statistics and their exact position. That sched is fed into a spreadsheet on board PUMA and we dissect every bit of information out of it we can. It is quite a tactical tool when trying to position against the fleet.

On one hand it keeps everything sharp. You are always racing. People ask me if it is boring sailing around the world, but the 3-hour scheds don’t allow for that. I have said a million times that this race isn’t a distance race but it is a series of 3-hour day races. A really long series!

So, the scheds keep you on your toes, but they also play with your emotions. For example: The last couple of days we made our east position work and pushed Telefónica and CAMPER back in bearing time after time. Everyone on board was on a high. Sure they were gaining in gauge and coming up to us, but they had a better angle of breeze on the outside of the high and that was simply going to happen. As long as we could keep gaining bearing we would be good.

We also had Groupama in front of us almost exactly on our path paving the way. We could look at their wind readings each 3 hours and determine if we wanted to continue down this path, go higher or go lower – all depending on what we saw with the weather and what we saw in their performance. All a no-brainer right?

Then came two squalls from hell. Complete “sucker” rain squalls with zero breeze in them. In the middle of last night. We were cruising along minding our own business when on the radar appears a blob of green the size of the Texas. No way around either of them. We were gobbled up twice over a 6-hour period. And, we have the proof to show for it. The dreaded sched. The one you know is coming and is going to be really bad news. Two scheds in a row that showed us sailing about half the speed of our competitors, all because we were drifting for a good chunk of that 6 hours…in pouring rain, in the middle of a black night.

And you have to announce the sched. We have an intercom system below to the helm station and every 3 hours either Tom or I tell the troops on deck how we did that last 3 hours. And it sucks to read the bad ones. Sometimes you try to “forget” and maybe the guys on deck will forget that a sched has come in…but they never do. You have to deliver the bad news along with the good. The boys say that Tom gives away whether it is a good or bad sched with the tone of the first couple words out of his mouth. They say I have a bit more of a poker voice.

I can say that those two scheds last night may have been the worst of the trip so far. I think it punched the guys in the gut, as if two weeks of work kind of flew out the window in a 6-hour period. Or should I say in a two-sched period.

So love them or hate them, our 3-hour lives revolve around the next bit of good or bad news.

This just in. Sched number 155 for this leg…big gains for PUMA in a sort of unexpected fashion. Got back a bit of that bearing that we lost last night. Smiles and a bit of a spring in the steps of the crew…for at least 3 hours.

Blog from the Seas Leg 4, Day 12
2 March 2012

It took almost 10 days of sailing to get south of Sanya, our starting location, but ever since then we’ve been ticking away the miles to Auckland in a hurry. Even with today’s expected slow-down, we’ll likely cross the Equator again – the third time this race – sometime in the afternoon. Things will change from there as we approach the more technical stage of Leg 4, rife with islands, currents, and rapidly changing weather.

Our final week on the water will be a different scenario than the last one, more dependent on volatile and changing weather typically associated with the middle-regions of the planet. Equatorial conditions generate unpredictable squalls and areas of no wind – something we know too much about – and there will be a small “doldrums” to cross later down the road to New Zealand.

When did we last encounter a doldrum? End of Leg 2, and nobody has forgotten. Groupama was leading, we were in second, Telefónica and CAMPER behind in third and fourth. That one didn’t work out so well… We exited in fourth, and Telefónica went around everyone to win the leg, nipping CAMPER by a minute. I think it’s safe to say we’re all looking forward to a little redemption this time around, especially given the eerie resemblance!

We’re in a good place, though. Tom is happy with our easterly position and the time has come to see it pay its dividends. The guys to our west will either have to stay low and fast, a risky route taking them through the Solomon Islands, or they’ll need to sheet in and sail far slower angles back up to our line, safely to the east of any geographic interference. Whatever they decide, our relative progress is less reliant on straight-line boatspeed and more on sail management and boat handling, especially in the varied conditions. There are many miles to be gained and lost in each maneuver, and those are miles on Groupama we desperately want to take.

Blog from the Seas Leg 4,
Day 11 1 March 2012

We continue to careen around the Pacific Ocean like an angry New York City taxi driver delivering a very-late passenger. One minute we’re skipping down the face of a wave only just on the edge of control, the next we’re slamming into a wall of water on the bow, bringing the boat to a head-jerking and body throwing halt, before repeating the cycle again and again. It’s fun, but it’s exhausting, and catching up on rest hasn’t been easy.

Sleeping on these boats is a bit of a mystery. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t; a lot of it depends on just how tired you are. When living conditions are at their absolute worst- you’re insanely hot, drenched to the core, haven’t gone horizontal in 12 hours and struggling to keep your eyes open – you can sleep anywhere, anytime. We all know the feeling. In those instances someone can be so “out,” they sleep through anything. It takes a vicious shaking to wake someone like that up for their watch – borderline abusive behavior. They usually start talking about their crazy dreams or something only half coherent; I usually start making them a coffee.

But the other 90% of the time, when you’re just tired (or even really tired), sleeping can be hard. The boat is loud…rock concert loud…it’s like trying to sleep inside a drum set. The boat is unpredictable. Your body gets acclimated to one thing, and then it’s completely upended when you find yourself being pulled in the opposite direction. The air is bad. It’s either excruciatingly hot, or bone-chilling cold, and never dry. Everything is wet – your pillow, your air mattress, your hair. It smells…people are moving and talking everywhere…you only get 4 hours, but not always… You get the idea. Sleeping is tough.

Fortunately, when the sailing is as exciting as it is now, everyone has something to get up for! So we all roll out of our bunks, put on our (very wet) wet weather gear, head on deck, and continue to chase down the French, 80 some-odd miles off the bow.

Blog from the Seas Leg 4, Day 10
1 March 2012

523 miles in 24 hours is a lot of miles for a sailboat. That’s averaging 22 miles per hour over the last day, and it’ll likely improve over the next few hours too. Not so bad for close reaching in 20 knots of breeze and an awful sea state. It’s also the most our Mar Mostro has logged this race (we were unfortunate to miss the high speed run into Cape Town with some minor mast problems).

It feels good to be going fast…psychologically at least! Sailing this way is fun, and it’s what everyone thinks about when they sign up to sail around the world. It’s also a return to the painful existence of slamming and crashing, only this time it’s sunny, wet, and getting hotter by the hour. We shouldn’t be complaining though; instead of suffering upwind, doing 12 knots towards Japan, we’re “suffering” downwind, going twice as fast and pointed straight at Auckland.

A lot of people wonder – at 22 knots these boats are soaking wet, what can you do to stay dry? The easy answer is: nothing. You live wet and deal with it. No item of clothing can withstand the torrential torrent of water over the deck. And what’s wet stays wet. There’s zero chance of drying anything in the heat and humidity. All you can do is figure out how much clothing you have, how much time you have left, and schedule your wardrobe maintenance accordingly. But to be honest, it’s pointless. Twenty minutes into your next watch and it will all be soaked, old and new.

Wet, dry, hot, cold – it doesn’t really matter. It’s not exactly a race of comforts. But it is a race, and one that’s very close. In theory, the wind should continue to head making our sailing angles to the south slightly faster than those to our west. They might struggle to reach our line, but that’s exactly why we came so far east to begin with; it’s nice to see that early work paying off… Next up, the Solomon Islands. We should know a lot more about where things stand by then, but for the record, we are very happy with our position!

Leg 4, Day 9, 28 February 2012
Yesterday’s sunrise brought strong winds and positive results, but today’s brought light winds and negative ones. After two days of consecutive gains, it was a stinging reminder that we are very vulnerable out here on the corner, and that there is still a very, very long way to go to New Zealand.

It was tough sailing for a few hours this morning with all sails flapping in the wind and nothing to push them (or us) anywhere. And when you go to all-stop like that, from sailing in 16 knots of wind to drifting in 4, you move almost everything in the boat. All of the sails on deck go from the back of the boat to the bow. All food, personal bags, spares, pelican cases, and anything else lying around below also go forward. Even my sleeping bunk un-fastens and moves forward.

All of that moving gear helps refine the fore and aft trim of the boat for a particular condition that is based on wind strength, point of sail, and sea state. Light air upwind sailing (this morning), you want the slim-profiled bow touching down and as little of the wide Mar Mostro butt touching the water as possible. High speed downwind sailing (last night), where the boat can plane, calls for all the weight aft so that the bow stays up and doesn’t burrow through waves, and so that the weight is outboard and back to take advantage of a Volvo 70’s powerful beam. Those are two extremes, but there are many in-between trims, too. Like a pilot on the yoke, it’s a constant adjustment of onboard weight while under way to find the right balance of fore and aft trim.

So to a rising sun we moved the boat’s contents forward and could do nothing but watch the computer screen confirm that the rest of the fleet was still averaging 10+ knots. Not fun. Fortunately, we’ve stopped the bleeding and are back up to speed in a nice 15-knot northerly.

We will live another day…but not before returning everything to the back of the boat!

Blog from the Seas Leg 4, Day 7
26 February 2012

By: Amory Ross, MCM, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG

LOCATION: 250 miles W of Chichi-jima Island, Japan.
BOATSPEED: 19 KTS
WINDSPEED: 14 KTS
HEADING: 092
SAILS: Full main, big jib, staysail

We appear to be OK. Our lonesome detour to the north hasn’t ended in self-destruction, we don’t find ourselves hundreds of miles behind, and by all means we are back in this race. A lot sooner than expected, too, I might add.

The decision to stick to the high road was never built around short-term profit; it was a long-term plan that would unravel over the next week or so. Being north meant getting further east, and getting further east meant a delayed turn south with better angles to Auckland. Once alone, we figured it would be weeks before we saw anyone again; the guys to the south would never get as far east as us. But given the difficult conditions they’ve had, everyone’s in scatter mode and it’s painted a very different picture. Groupama has graced us with their company to the north (costing them surprisingly little). Abu Dhabi and Sanya are also trying to head this way, albeit less successfully, while Telefónica and CAMPER are toughing it out further south.

As good as it feels to have more-than-survived our terrifying trailblazing trials – and believe me, everyone’s relieved – we’re very mindful of the challenges still ahead. There are over 4,000 miles to New Zealand and we all have to traverse areas of little to no wind, and soon. There could be a race restart, or worse, a fleet reversal where our high road shuts down and Telefónica escapes to the south, having then cut the corner (and given the way their race is going, that’s a very realistic possibility!).

Regardless of what the next few days of sailing brings, the important thing is that PUMA has some swagger back. The guys are smiling, spirits are high, and we’ve mostly forgotten the last week of torture in favor of more recent reaching pleasantries. I say mostly because everyone owns some lingering bumps and bruises we tend to revisit now and again.

So our game plan is simple: keep the boat going fast and the bow pointed east. Eventually the time will come to start a gradual turn south, but that’s entirely dependent on the wind. We know all too well that that is far beyond our control!

Leg 4, Day 6 25 February 2012

LOCATION: 200 miles SSE of continental Japan (Kanoya)
BOATSPEED: 22 KTS
WINDSPEED: 19 KTS
HEADING: 096-degrees
SAILS: Full main, Fractional-0, Staysail

Two things were certain of 2012: The world was going to end, and PUMA Ocean Racing was going to sail north on Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race…f o r e v e r. Well, the world lives on and we’ve turned east! Incredible.

Mar Mostro’s compass reads near 90 all the time now and we’re taking advantage of some consistently flat-and-fast conditions to close reach east at around 18-to-22 knots. It feels great to finally be heading across the East China Sea and out into the Pacific. Sayonara Japan!

Digging in to the north was always the play for us, and though it felt like we would never be far enough, we’re here now, there’s good breeze to our east, and the time has come to cash in our “ups” to start taking back some of our [many] lost miles. But the transition from north to east comes with an uncomfortable level of anxiety.

We’ve already suffered the familiar weight of going it alone, and while we never once wrote ourselves off and are very much poised to pounce on the guys to our south, the threat of losing big still looms large. In that sense, looking at the position chart can be intimidating – and surely you all feel the same way – but we very well know now how quickly deficits can be erased with the right conditions and a little bit of patience.

Soooo, here we go. The trigger’s officially been pulled. We’ve done a great job staying positive so far, but now it’s time to have some fun; there’s plenty of that to catch up on, too!

Leg 4, Day 5 24 February 2012

LOCATION: 175 miles W of Okinawa, Japan
BOATSPEED: 12.5 KTS
WINDSPEED: 18 KTS
HEADING: 060 degrees
SAILS: Full main, small jib

It only gets stranger. We’re surrounded by Japanese islands, one of which we passed within a mile of last night, and being by ourselves is again a surprise. Nobody’s necessarily excited about it, and it was never part of our game plan to begin with, but we’re clearly sailing in a different weather system than the rest of the guys and it just sort of “happened.”

Our reasoning to go north was grounded: you have to go there to get east, and you have to go east to get south, and south is where we want to finish. So we followed our favorable breeze and trusted the computer models, all the time hoping the rest would follow. They didn’t – at least not yet – and they’ve all managed to survive an early easting.

Whether it was one cloud line or several, it doesn’t much matter. What matters is that we never had what everyone else did. To add insult to injury, when we finally found the penultimate shift to start our long trek east into, we had to wait for five miles to avoid tacking through a microscopic volcanic summit – only two years old! Hello Taisho To. Welcome to Earth.

By any measure we are still doing the right thing for our particular set of circumstances. Tom and Ken have worked tirelessly to decode the forecasts, and the computer models don’t tend to lie. So we, like you, will just have to wait this one out and see what happens.

What amazes me still though, is the ability of this team to work through continued adversity. It has been a sleepless couple of days, a tough leg, an even tougher race, and nobody has given up an inch of effort or enthusiasm. I’m happy to slug it out up here along with these 10 guys, even if it is in VOR solidarity.

Leg 4, Day 4 23 February 2012

First and foremost, we finished the outrageously horrific batch of Chinese “coffee” we had in the galley jar. It’s a true proof of this team’s toughness that we managed such a feat. It was downright undrinkable, but we well know it’s better to agonize and stay awake than throw it over the side and doze off. Nonetheless, I’ve got the Cappuccino Classic ready to replace the destruction the previous poison left, and sailors rejoice: better caffeinated nights ahead.

Second, we had a few hours of true downwind sailing this morning. Days upon days of a regrettable upwind thumping made seeing the A5, an actual sunrise, and boat speeds in the 20s as refreshing as cold lemonade on a hot summer day. Smiles all around brought a bit of cheer into our lives, too. It’s been a tough week for the lot of us and it felt great to share a few new laughs. Sadly, we’re back into upwind mode and the forecast is again calling for 20-25, right on the nose. It was fun while it lasted!

Third, we are finally free of the South China Sea, aaannnddd we’re back in the hunt. Patience, perseverance, and a never-hang-it-up mentality have seen us sail through the lost miles and we find ourselves staring right up the tail-pipe of Telefónica; Abu Dhabi and Sanya idle just to leeward. Seeing a competitor after being alone at the back for so long does wonders for the psyche and morale is considerably improved.

That said, the next few days are going to prove treacherous. There are passing lanes galore out here, unstable winds, currents, and a still-ambiguous heading away from New Zealand. Every decision – and there will be a lot of them – will be a major one. Either way, it’s great to be in the game and feel like there’s something to lose!

Leg 4, Day 3
22 February 2012 [From morning of February 22]

The realities of the coming complications are setting in. Our predicted 18-day leg has turned into a 20-day one, maybe even 21 or 22; it is hard to know as the models keep changing. We’ve started setting food aside and are mindful of our valuable resources like propane and toilet paper. Yesterday’s lunch was recycled, and with a little hot water became yesterday’s dinner, too. It’s only Day 3, so that was a bit of a shock!

A lengthy detour around the top of Taiwan is very much an option to consider at the moment, with forecasts for the strait between its southern tip and the Philippines looking light and doldrumsie. It’s not a question of whether we continue north or not – both routes take us that direction – but when and where we choose to sail it, and choosing the option that gets us east the fastest.

If we go north now and leave Taiwan to starboard, we’ll likely have an easier time getting east once up there. But we would risk strong adverse currents and of course the high level of commitment it requires; there’s no “bailing out” if we change our mind… If we choose the straits and aim for the Philippines, our options remain open. Though the light forecast is uncertain, it is probably the less risky option and we could well have a chance at reconnecting with the fleet in a compression scenario. Conversely, we could get stuck – again – and have a difficult time getting out of there while the rest of the guys sail away in a different breeze.

This is a crucial moment in the leg and there’s obviously a lot at stake. It has already been a busy day of decision-making, but I’d be surprised to see us be anything but conservative. It appears like all of the other boats have chosen the Philippines route, but anything can happen in the next day and a half. At least we don’t have to worry about losing the lead!

Blog from the Seas, Leg 4, Day 2
21 February 2012
There’s a reason they call upwind sailing “beating” – it’s what we take while doing it. These boats are just not made to sail this way. But we insist on doing it, like all the time. We hoped a southerly run from China to New Zealand would mean some spinnaker work, but it has started with anything but. We have to sail north to get south, and it means a few more days of uncomfortable upwind living aimed away from the mark.

Waves seem to come from all directions and there’s nothing to do but make sure you’re hanging on because you never see half of them. A Volvo 70 is designed to sail downwind, to reach at high speeds; shaped like a surfboard, our “flat-bottomed girl” aches with each flight and cries with each crash. As the breeze lightens further there’s talk of canting the keel to leeward to induce heel and help avoid the belly flops that make us cringe.

Taiwain – our first waypoint – sits about 400 miles to our northeast and between us lies more of the waves we’ve come to hate, leftover swell from the monsoon, a few tacks, adverse current, and the gradually easing winds. Not exactly a pleasant trip so far, but well within early expectations.

We still own the northwest and the consensus remains that the further north you are the quicker you reach the new pressure. Our problem remains however, that the further east you are, the more you’re lifted. So we have to find that compromise: how do we get east without sacrificing our north? There are some big decisions to be made over the next few days.

19/2/11
No way to sugercoat it, this is a weird report to be writing. I could wait to send it from the hotel in a few hours! But that would defeat the purpose of an onboard report…

We technically left Sanya with the start of Leg 4 at 2 pm local time, but were now racing (or drifting) back to the very same stretch of water for a temporary finish, a final Chinese feast, and one good night’s sleep before leaving in the morning to face the remnants of a particularly malevolent monsoon.

Obviously there are some mixed feelings about the decision to hold the fleet ashore for the night, but regardless of those opinions, our safety is of value and however the decision was made it was done so with that at the forefront. That has to be appreciated.

As for the racing, we had a great start near the pin and were very nearly over, but lady luck finally graced us with her presence and off we went, to leeward and ahead of the fleet. Solid sailing and smart decisions saw us keep the lead around the triangle course and we extended on the long run to the “Big Buddha.”

That’s where things have gone wrong. As the leaders, we were the first to sail into the lighter winds on the return leg, and we’ve been struggling to get out of our offshore position. The boats behind had the advantage of seeing our problems and opted for the inshore option. We can’t get to them, they’re all powered up in completely different conditions, and we’re watching them sail right by. We’ve completed maybe 30 tacks in the last 30 minutes, could be more, and it doesn’t look like it will change soon.

I was planning on tonight being a “dry” one, but maybe a few beers are in order for the guys…

17/2/11
Amory Ross took home the Leg 3 Inmarsat Media Crew Member Award on a busy awards night for the PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew. The team also won a second consecutive DHL Shore Crew Award, as both awards were presented during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 Leg 3 prizegiving ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 16, in Sanya, China.

“It’s nice to be rewarded for the effort that goes into it,” Ross said. “A couple of years ago when I decided this was something I wanted to do, the level of the MCM role wasn’t the standard it is today. Now we’ve all worked really hard to make it a vital role that shares this sport and this race with everyone.”

Ross was honored for his work during Leg 3 from Abu Dhabi, UAE, to Sanya, China, that included a stop in the Maldives. Throughout the leg, as with each leg of the race, Ross provided daily blogs, photos, video and audio reports, documenting the team’s journey. He shared the adventure of passing through the Malacca Strait and the team’s easterly route through the Dangerous Grounds. He also coordinated media interviews and live satellite broadcasts from onboard PUMA’s Mar Mostro. Ross was one of three finalists for the award, including Hamish Hooper from CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand and Nick Dana from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

PUMA has now captured back-to-back DHL Shore Crew awards, also winning for Leg 2 from Cape Town, South Africa, to Abu Dhabi. The Leg 3 journey to Sanya was raced in two parts due to the threat of piracy, with shore teams required to load the boats on and off a large container ship. The award honors the “unsung heroes” of the race – boat builders, sail makers, riggers, technical experts, logistics team and more – who enable the teams to compete successfully.

Earlier in the day, the PUMA crew was presented with the IWC Schaffhausen Speed Record Challenge trophy for the furthest 24 hour run during the third leg – an award announced after finishing the leg. PUMA’s Mar Mostro posted a 24-hour run of 355.89 nautical miles on the final stretch up the Vietnam coast into Sanya.

Racing returns this weekend with the Pro Am Race on Friday, Feb. 17, followed by the In-Port Race on Saturday, Feb. 18, and Leg 4 to Auckland, New Zealand, gets underway on Sunday, Feb. 19.

The Volvo Ocean Race started on November 5 in Alicante, and the fleet is traveling 39,000 nautical miles through 10 ports, finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July 2012.

The PUMA Ocean Racing team is once again under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman, Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Casey Smith, Systems Manager & Bowman (Brisbane, Australia); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

IMAGES
For editorial images of the awards, visit images.volvoocearace.com.

RESULTS

Leg 3:

POS TEAM S1 S2 TOTAL
1 Team Telefónica 3 24 27
2 Groupama Sailing Team 4 20 24
3 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 2 16 18
4 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 5 12 17
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 6 8 14
6 Team Sanya – 4 4

Overall standings:

POS TEAM OVERALL
1 Team Telefónica 95
2 CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 80
3 Groupama Sailing Team 71
4 PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 48
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 39
6 Team Sanya 15

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG scoring:

POS RACE/LEG PTS TOTAL
2 Alicante In-Port Race 5 5
– Leg 1* — 5
3 Cape Town In-Port Race 4 9
3 Leg 2, Stage 1 16 25
4 Leg 2, Stage 2 (3rd in Leg 2 overall) 3 28
4 Abu Dhabi In-Port Race 3 31
2 Leg 3, Stage 1 5 36
4 Leg 3, Stage 2 12 48

* Retired from leg

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