Craig Satterthwaite on sunset helming duties - Nick Dana, Abu Dhabi pic
Craig Satterthwaite on sunset helming duties – Nick Dana, Abu Dhabi pic
The Volvo Ocean Race fleet is converging on Groupama 4, and the French team’s lead has been up and down like a yoyo for much of today, dropping to 53nautical miles at 1000 UTC, before steadily climbing in the afternoon.

At 1900 UTC tonight, Groupama 4 was on fire and her lead over Puma had climbed to 92.9 then to 107nm and her speed was an astonishing 18.1 knots, when all but Puma had averaged less than 10 knots in the previous three hours.

The five-boat chasing pack had all made losses. Team Sanya (Mike Sanderson/NZL) was the worst affected, suffering a loss of 34nm.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) didn’t fare much better. Engaged in a heated battle with Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (Chris Nicholson/AUS), the Emirati team lost 29nm, while Camper lost 26. Only 8nm separate the pair in distance to finish, but Abu Dhabi has a lateral separation of 163nm.

Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) and Camper both put in a series of tacks today to hitch east. Telefónica is now 115nm west of Groupama, but 153nm behind on the approach to New Caledonia.

"I wouldn’t trade places with Telefónica, even the way they’ve been going,” Puma’s pitman Ryan Godfrey commented. “It’s a long way uphill for the guys to the west. I’d rather be where we are and taking the high and slow road.”

The breeze is weakening and there has been some thundercloud activity adding to the intensity aboard the six boats as they sail the last 1200 or so nautical miles to Auckland.

According to Chris Nicholson, there is a lot of uncertainty in the weather left in this leg. “All have every device known to man in order to help them find the fastest way, but, at the moment, it’s reverting to the basic rules of sailing – go to Auckland in the fastest way possible and deal with the weather presented until we know more,” he said.  

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