- Published on Monday, 21 May 2012 01:28
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Miami, Florida, U.S.A. – The fleet in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 departed Miami on Sunday in light winds in front of hundreds of spectator boats to start pivotal Leg 7 before they head straight towards a tropical storm.
With four boats still in close contention for the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 trophy with just three legs remaining, Leg 7 could potentially one of the most critical stages of the 39,000 nautical mile marathon.
With a gentle breeze blowing off Miami’s famous South Beach it was Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, winners of Saturday’s PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, who took the early lead round the six-mile course which extended as they entered the powerful current of the Gulf Stream.
Despite a light start to the 3,590nm transatlantic leg from Miami to Lisbon, Portugal, the six-strong fleet were preparing to tackle Tropical Storm Alberto, the first of the 2012 hurricane season, lying off the east coast of the United States and holding winds of up to 45 knots at its centre.
Points have never been more crucial as the race reaches a critical juncture. After more than six months and thousands of miles of extreme racing, Team Telefónica still lead with 165 points, but Groupama are snapping at their heels just seven points behind on 158, while CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand have 152 and current in-form team PUMA on 151.
The formation of Tropical Storm Alberto may have put an end to the traditional route up the coast using the Gulf Stream as a catapult but it will reward the teams with fast sailing in decent breeze if they play it correctly. Get it wrong, and they could quickly find themselves in dangerous conditions.
Navigator Tom Addis, mastermind of PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG’s back-to-back leg wins in Leg 5 and 6, said the race to pick up the winds generated by Alberto could prove critical in the bid to get an early advantage.
After the disappointment of finishing last in the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, Telefónica navigator Andrew Cape said his team were looking forward to getting back to rediscovering the form which saw them win the first three offshore legs and build a lead in the overall standings that they have yet to relinquish.
Volvo Ocean Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said the key to early success depended on how well the teams use Tropical Storm Alberto. Leg 7 is expected to take around 11 days to complete with finish estimated for May 31 into Lisbon.