With Groupama sailing team safely on dry land with the leg win under the belts from Saturday, the other boats spent their final night at sea with almost nothing to separate them and the final two podium places still to be won and lost.
It set the stage for a remarkable morning in Auckland, as the so-called City of Sails underlined its reputation as the world’s sailing capital, with thousands of fans taking to the sea on spectator boats and thousands more brandishing binoculars and lining the viewing area at North Head and the Race Village itself.
Most had come to see if CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand could come back to claim second or third. In the end it was not to be, but Chris Nicholson’s men gave it everything over an epic finale to a leg that began back on February 19 in Sanya, China and took the fleet over 5,220 nautical miles through the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean.
The first business of the day was the battle for second and here PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG could not be touched.
Ken Read’s team, who lost their mast on leg 1, crossed the finish line in Auckland at 22:55:43 UTC Saturday (11:55:43 Sunday local time) after 20 days three hours 57 minutes 50 seconds on Leg 4 to claim 25 race points.
“My God, I feel good to be in Auckland,” Read said immediately after PUMA finished. “From day one of this leg, ever since we sailed into the South China Sea, it’s been tough. I know that’s what we signed up for but man this is a challenging leg.
“This result is something we can build on and we just wish we had a couple more weeks to hang around in Auckland,” he added.
Next came what was always likely to be the day’s most compelling drama — CAMPER’s attempt to steal third place from their Spanish rivals Team Telefónica.
Telefónica held what should have been a comfortable lead but as they hit the final stretch they lost speed and CAMPER started to demolish the gap between them.
As they traded gybes, the lead went from 700 metres to 500, 300 and even less with Iker Martínez’s men just doing enough to hold on.
Telefónica and CAMPER finished less than two minutes apart at 23:43:15 (elapsed time 20 days four hours 45 minutes 22 seconds) and 23:44:48 (elapsed time 20 days four hours 46 minutes 55 seconds) respectively.
“It was a really close race but we just ran out of runway at the end,” said CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson. “It was the toughest leg so far. Now we’re really tired and we’re just looking forward to being home.”
Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crossed the finish line in fifth place at 00:18:28 UTC Sunday (13:18:28 Local time).
Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya sailed into Auckland to huge cheers at 00:53:36 UTC.
“I could not be more proud of the way we sailed,” said Sanderson.
The previous night in Auckland, Franck Cammas’ Groupama sailing team had claimed their first leg win of the race finishing at 10:33:47 UTC (23:33:47 local time) after nursing a damaged bow for much of the final 12 hours.
Telefonica continue to lead the stands with 121 points but with Groupama now their closest rivals on 103. CAMPER drop to third on 98, with PUMA now threatning on 78, followed by Abu Dhabi on 53 and Sanya 22.
Elapsed time after leg 4 – including Act 1:
Groupama sailing team : 19d 15h 35m 54s
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG : 20d 3h 57m 50s
Team Telefónica : 20d 4h 45m 22s
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand : 20d 4h 46m 55s
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing : 20d 5h 20m 35s
Team Sanya : 020d 05h 55m 43s
Photo Credit: IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race
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