It went down to the wire. Kenny Read’s American-flagged Puma had been in hand-to-hand combat with French rival Franck Cammas until Groupama’s mast fell down on the home straight of the fifth leg of the Volvo round the world race from Auckland to Itajai, Brazil.
But coming up from astern was the overall race leader, Telefonica of Spain, which had stopped for repairs tucked inside Cape Horn.
When skipper Iker Martinez pulled back onto the race track he had not only a 400-mile deficit to make up but a further 17 hours to make up and that a man down. His 10-man race crew had been reduced to nine as Antonio Cuervas-Mons had been taken off during the repair break suffering from a back injury.
At the end Read held off Martinez by less than a mile, but that still leaves him in third overall and 40 points behind the Spanish Olympic gold medallist. But it gave the race its third leg winner. Read had finished the first leg on the deck of a ship, taken to Cape Town from Tristan de Cunha on the first leg. The whole race has been a litany of breakdowns.
In Punta del Este, frantic work by the shore crew had been completed on the dismasted Goupama to fix a makeshift rig from the bits rescued when it crashed down 60 miles off the Uruguayan coast.
Sails were also modified and the yacht has been able to restart on the 600 remaining miles to Itajai, which would give them 20 points and consolidate their second overall position.
Both the Chinese team Sanya and Abu Dhabi’s Azzam have pulled out as the sixth boat Camper tries to complete repairs in Puerto Montt, Chile and restart racing down the coast to Cape Horn and then up the other side to Itajai.
The next leg to Miami starts on 24 April.
Early gold and hard-won silver opened the medal haul for Britain’s Olympic sailors at the Princess Sofia regatta in Palma de Mallorca.
Ben Ainslie overcame a start line, boat-damaging collision, injury to a recently operated on back, and a dash ashore to change to a replacement Finn singlehander, to take third in the second race of the day.
That was enough to give him a lead of 36 points over his nearest rival and secure back-to-back golds in the topline event just four months ahead of going for a fourth consecutive Olympic gold in Weymouth.
In the 2.4mR, Helena Lucas, already selected to represent Skandia Team GBR at the Paralympics, won silver.