Monday 20 November 2017

Sailing: Foxall in need of trouble-free finish with his Ocean dream on the horizon

James Hall

The six boats competing in the Volvo Ocean Race are sailing their final day at sea today as the 39,000-mile contest reaches its final destination on Galway Bay, eight months after departing Alicante.

The overall lead is held by French entry Groupama 4, skippered by Franck Cammas, with a 10-man crew that includes Ireland's Damian Foxall, but success hinges on avoiding incidents.

"We've seen it all during this race -- masts coming down, rudders breaking, we don't want any of that in the last 36 hours of the offshore section of the race," Foxall said. "It's going to be harder for the other guys to take it away from us."

The fleet is expected to reach Galway sometime between midnight and 6.0 tomorrow, depending on wind conditions on the 540-mile leg from Lorient in Brittany.

Groupama's overall win is widely expected, though it relies heavily on a strong performance in this final leg in which they must place fourth or better.

American entry Puma, skippered by Ken Read, is the principal challenger and needs to win this leg plus have the French boat finish worse than fourth.

Thousands

In that scenario, the outright victory of the 39,000-mile race would depend on next Saturday's short In-Port race to be held off Salthill where tens of thousands of spectators gathered in 2009 when the previous race stopped off after crossing the Atlantic from Boston.

However, if Cammas and his crew do win tomorrow, next Saturday will still decide the In-Port series that has been sailed in each of the other nine ports around the world since last October.

A win for Groupama would be the first Volvo Ocean Race victory for Foxall, who comes from Derrynane and had a childhood dream of competing in the then Whitbread Round the World Race.

He will join Cork sailor Justin Slattery, bowman on Ian Walker's Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team, as a winner of this race from 2006.

Slattery and Walker haven't fared as well this time after their boat had to miss two stages of the race due to damage. "It's going to be quick trip to Galway, we're really looking forward to it," said Slattery shortly before departing Lorient yesterday. "It can't come soon enough."

Live position reports on www.volvooceanrace.com will update the estimated time of arrival into Galway in the course of today.

Irish Independent

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