Groupama continues to lead VOR fleet with less than 100 nautical miles
The setback allowed Spain’s Telefonica, which won the first three legs, to close the gap on the leader after surging to second place at the expense of US entry Puma.
With Telefonica screaming along at 17.5 knots and Groupama floundering in a windless zone, helmsman Phil Harmer said there would be plenty of nerves on the French yacht before a predicted finish on Saturday.
"Today we were going along much quicker than expected only to hit a brick wall," Harmer said from the boat on Thursday.
"Everyone is quite tired and exhausted. We’ve been hanging onto this lead for 18 days or so. Everyone has been sailing really hard to keep the lead, which is what we have done.
"Now it’s getting a bit stressful because we know the guys behind are going to catch us a little bit, so everyone is hoping and praying they don’t catch us too much before we get to Auckland."
Telefonica is still a long shot to overhaul Groupama in the final 700 nautical miles to Auckland but even second place would be enough to extend its overall lead.
Joint Spanish-New Zealand entry Camper was in fourth place behind Puma, with Abu Dhabi and Team Sanya filling the final two places in the six-yacht field.
The race set sail from Alicante, Spain, in November and finishes in Galway, Ireland, in July, with the latest leg beginning in Sanya, China, on Feb. 20.
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