Groupama completed a heroic comeback victory on Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Friday, strengthening their grip on the overall standings and realising a dream homecoming to Lorient – while Telefónica were left to reflect on what might have been after a cruel twist of fate.
Just two days ago Groupama were back in fourth struggling to catch up after spending more than two hours trying to free their jammed mainsail, with bowman Brad Marsh having to climb the 31-metre mast three times in storm conditions.
But once again Franck Cammas’ crew showed off their blistering pace, hauling back their rivals to climb up to second going into the final 24 hours — and when Telefónica saw their hopes dashed by a second broken rudder 12 hours from the finish they were left unchallenged in terms of pace.
The win sees them take a maximum 30 points to move on to a total of 219, bolstering their position at the top of the overall leaderboard with just one leg and two in-port races left.
Groupama couldn’t have picked a better place to notch up their second offshore leg win than their home port of Lorient — and in return, an army of French fans turned out to give them a hero’s welcome.
“It’s a very good feeling for me and for the crew,” Cammas said. “It was a short leg but it was very hard. Last night was very complicated and we took a lot of risks but finally they paid off.
“This was a dream we had 10 months ago and we’re realising that dream now. We still have one leg to go and it’s important to do well, but tonight we can have a good night.”
As Groupama revelled in victory, CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand crossed the line to take second place, with PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG on course for third.
The reality of seeing his Leg 8 dreams dashed was sinking in for Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez.
“The mood on board is as good as it can be in circumstances like these, as we have just seen any chance of us winning this round the world regatta slip away,” he said. “It’s like two years work just disappearing into thin air in a matter of minutes – what a mess. Now I’ll be happy if we all get to shore without any further problems.”
Wild conditions continued to dominate in the final sprint for the finish line, as seen in this incredible video from on board CAMPER. The video is downloadable from our Broadcast Room at http://volvooceanrace.synapticdigital.com
Despite being the shortest of the legs so far at under 2,000 nautical miles, Leg 8 from Lisbon, Portugal, to Lorient, France, threw up numerous challenges.
The fleet had to negotiate the light, tricky winds of the Azores High as they approached the waypoint of São Miguel, while in the latter stages winds got up to more than 40 knots in a violent North Atlantic storm.
Just 48 hours from the finish, Groupama faced a potentially dangerous situation as they tried to reduce sail area in preparation for gale-force winds.
The sail got jammed at the top of the mast leaving Marsh to carry out some mid-sea heroics, climbing to the top of the mast three times in winds of well over 20 knots and rough seas.
After two hours of repairs, Marsh’s skills kept the French team in the race and they only lost out 20 miles to the fleet.
Leg 8 also produced record-breaking 24-hour runs, with CAMPER setting the top distance of the race so far of 565 miles.
Stay tuned to the action with the live tracker at www.volvooceanrace.com