History 2011-12



Alicante – Cape Town – Abu Dhabi – Sanya – Auckland – Itajaí – Miami – Lisbon – Lorient – Galway

Groupama 4
Franck Cammas/FRA
Elapsed time
Juan Kouyoumdjian Volvo Open 70


  • Franck Cammas/Groupama 4 won on his debut Volvo Ocean Race.
  • Abu Dhabi in the UAE, Sanya in China, Itajaí in Brazil, Lisbon in Portugal, and Lorient in France all became stopovers for the first time.
  • Auckland and Miami returned as Host Cities for the first time in 10 years.
  • Galway in Ireland hosted the finish for the first time, having been a stopover in the previous race.
  • Three boats were dismasted.
  • It was the last time the Volvo Open 70 raced as a class.
    Half of the six-boat fleet retired on Leg 1: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and PUMA Ocean Racing both dismasted and Sanya retired with serious damage to her bow. All three boats arrived in Cape Town onboard cargo ships.
  • The entire fleet was shipped to avoid the threat of piracy for parts of legs 2 and 3.
    Only one boat (PUMA) completed the Southern Ocean Leg 5 without being forced to make a pit stop to repair serious damage.
  • It was the first time since the introduction of a single class of boat that the 24-hour monohull world record was not broken.
Podium positions (on points)
Groupama 253 points
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 231 points
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 226 points


Leg 1
Leg 2
Leg 3
Leg 4
Leg 5
Leg 6
Leg 7
Leg 8
Leg 9
Alicante - Cape Town
Cape Town - Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi - Sanya
Sanya - Auckland
Auckland - Itajaí
Itajaí - Miami
Miami - Lisbon
Lisbon - Lorient
Lorient – Galway
39,270 nm
6 boats


Start date
Leg distance
Groupama 4
PUMA Ocean Racing
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
Groupama 4
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand


Leg 1

Alicante to Cape Town

For the last time, a fleet of Volvo Open 70s crossed the start line and the weather that greeted the six teams was reminiscent of the boat’s debut six years previously. Not even 24 hours after the start, Abu Dhabi dismasted. The crew fitted a new rig but reluctantly retired and the boat was shipped to Cape Town. Meanwhile, Sanya, the former Telefónica Blue, also retired when her bow section was damaged in heavy seas off Spain’s Mediterranean coast. She too arrived in Cape Town onboard a cargo vessel. 

After leaving the Mediterranean, Groupama 4 stayed close to the African coast and sailed away from the fleet into different weather, while the crack crew of PUMA led the rest of the four-boat fleet to the west. 

On November 21, PUMA dismasted in conditions that were far from extreme. The shocked and disappointed crew limped towards the remote island of Tristan da Cunha, where the locals entertained them. A ship diverted to collect PUMA and deliver her to Cape Town, but it didn’t leave much time for the shore crew to step a new mast and have the boat ready for the start of Leg 2. It was an anxious time.

Meanwhile, Telefónica's 100-mile lead over CAMPER and a partial ride on a cold front enabled her to lead the rest of the leg into Cape Town where 40 knots of wind delivered an exciting finale.  CAMPER was second and Groupama 4 was the third and last boat in the decimated fleet to finish, three days behind the winners.

Leg 2

Cape Town to Abu Dhabi

There was nothing straightforward about Leg 2, which was split in to two stages to counter the threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean. 

For Stage 1, with locations kept veiled, the fleet made its way to a secret port in the Indian Ocean. On arrival, the boats were loaded onto a ship and transported to within 100 miles of Abu Dhabi for a Stage 2 sprint to the race's first ever Middle Eastern stopover. 

The fleet left Cape Town expecting harsh weather conditions on the first night only to make a painfully slow crossing from the Atlantic to the Indian oceans. 

Groupama 4 continued southeast, not getting any closer to the finishing line, while Sanya took a bold option to track north built a lead that extended to 213 miles before damage to her standing rigging on day nine forced her to head to Madagascar for repairs. She missed the transport ship to the northern Emirates. 

Groupama 4 pulled out a lead, which was then swallowed by the Doldrums. With Groupama 4 stuck like glue, Telefónica and CAMPER took the advantage to the east, with PUMA behind them, and their followed a tussle that continued throughout Christmas Day.

The stage victory was in doubt right up until the finish line at the secret loading port, where Telefónica crossed first with a winning margin of just one minute 57 seconds after 15 days. The fleet was then loaded onto a ship, arriving at Sharjah on January 2. 

Groupama 4 won the seven-hour Stage 2 sprint in much faster conditions than expected, overhauling Telefónica with 10 miles to go for another exciting finish and the full six points.


Leg 3

Abu Dhabi to Sanya

Telefónica led for much of the 106 nm race up the coast from Abu Dhabi only for their hometown boat to snatch an unexpected victory. As in Leg 2, the fleet was then loaded on to a container ship to take them through waters affected by piracy. The secret safe haven port was later revealed to be Male in the Maldives from where the six teams set off on the 3,051 nm stage to Sanya on January 22. 

The first day brought more trouble for Telefónica when a fitting on the huge code zero sail broke.

PUMA damaged a dagger board after colliding with a tree trunk and then became snared by a fishing net, but the biggest problem faced by the crews was sleep deprivation. Wind shifts and tidal surges made it a roll of the dice every minute. 

On February 1, PUMA surprised everyone by making a bold move east that ultimately failed while the following day, the top four sighted the unfamiliar coast of Vietnam. Groupama 4’s hopes of depriving Telefónica of victory took a blow when she hit a floating object before snapping her mainsheet in a night of drama. Repairs were carried out quickly, but the crew could not squeeze enough boat speed to overtake Telefónica who sealed victory on Saturday, February 4 followed by Groupama, CAMPER, PUMA and Abu Dhabi, all of whom were welcomed by thousands of fans.

Leg 4

Sanya to Auckland

After the pirate-enforced stages in legs 2 and 3, the weather forced a break in Leg 4. A forecast of eight-metre waves meant that while the leg started on schedule in Sanya Bay, there was then a pause for the seas to abate for Stage 2’s staggered start at Sanya Bay Lighthouse. Telefónica led the fleet back out into the South China Sea when Leg 4 Stage 2 started, upwind to the notorious Luzon Strait. 

After starting behind everyone else, PUMA, who was fast supplanting Groupama 4’s early reputation as the risk-takers, headed for Japan. It was a grand game, played on a grand scale and it took a long while to sort out who was right and who was wrong. The fleet was four days into the Pacific before they even began the right turn and descent towards Auckland, still thousands of miles to the South. PUMA found great breeze to convert her position to one on the eastern wing of the pack and was starting to look dangerous. 

While the crossing of the Doldrums was uneventful, the Solomon Islands lay in the path of the approaching fleet, which split. The next hurdle was the island of New Caledonia, which everyone chose to go to west of. PUMA found a pothole and though Groupama 4 retained her three-digit lead, Telefónica and CAMPER closed up enough to make a fight of it all the way to the finish. Conditions were brutal as the fleet approached New Zealand, but despite some late damage to the bow, Groupama 4 posted her first win in the race by just over 12 hours.

Leg 5

Auckland to Itajaí

The Southern Ocean leg opened in traditional brutal fashion as a vicious weather system tracked south with the fleet to keep them in boat-breaking conditions throughout the first couple of days. And break they did.   Abu Dhabi was only six hours out of Auckland when an internal bulkhead came loose. She was back at the dock four hours later to complete the repair in just 12 hours, but was then faced with a 60-knot Pacific hammering and forced to seek shelter until conditions abated. In the end, the 30-hour pitstop left her almost 600 miles behind. 

Meanwhile, the rest of the fleet had been holding it together through 50-knot gusts and seven-metre waves before the conditions eased briefly and then worsened. Sanya retired with a broken rudder and returned to Auckland where the boat was put on a ship to Miami. 

That left four boats in the running and it was CAMPER who pushed hardest in the big seas and breeze to go to the front. Skipper Chris Nicholson uttered prophetic words of concern about the fragility of his lead in those conditions, just before the boat slammed into a wave and delaminated crucial structures in the bow. The crew diverted to Puerto Montt on the west coast of Chile to repair the boat. 

The tally of the infirm stood at half the fleet when Telefónica joined the slow lane. The damage to her bow wasn’t as bad, but meant a pit stop at Cape Horn. The damage roster had briefly put Abu Dhabi back in the running but then, just as Telefónica completed a brilliantly efficient 17-hour pit stop the crew of Abu Dhabi discovered more damage. They lowered their bowman over the side to drill through the boat’s hull and insert more than 30 bolts to bind the inner and outer skins together, but joined CAMPER in Puerto Montt, where they later retired from the leg and shipped to Itajaí. 

The lead pair, PUMA and Groupama 4 raced northward side by side until catastrophe and Groupama 4 was dismasted. The crew turned the boat towards Uruguay, where the crew built a jury rig good enough to take third place ahead of a fixed-up CAMPER.  It now looked like a clear run to the finish and a win for PUMA, but Telefónica staged the most extraordinary comeback. Their 400-nm deficit at Cape Horn melted away as a weather system hoisted them to with a mile of PUMA on the final day. The crew of PUMA kept their heads and their lead to win a remarkable leg - the only boat not to suspend racing – by just less than 13 minutes.

Leg 6

Itajaí to Miami

The leading pair into Itajaí, PUMA and Telefónica, had the most time to recover, while second and third overall, Groupama 4 and CAMPER were left with short stopovers after nursing their boats home. The crew of Abu Dhabi were even worse off, having only just won their battle to make the restart, while Sanya didn’t make it at all and re-joined the fleet in Miami. 

After an initial ‘bubble bath’ of around 20 knots for the first few hours, conditions settled on the first night to produce fast reaching conditions in flat seas and warm water as the fleet reached up the Brazilian coast. 

The first big split came after just 24 hours. CAMPER and Abu Dhabi headed for the Brazilian coast while Groupama 4 and Telefónica edged further ashore. PUMA took a route between the two. The separation opened to about 100 miles and stayed in place for a couple of days before PUMA broke through into stronger breeze just ahead of CAMPER, the leader of the inshore pair. 

As PUMA led CAMPER, Telefónica and Abu Dhabi, Groupama 4 drifted off the back to a 100-nm deficit. It looked like an impossible position from which to come back. Tactical options opened up significantly once the fleet cleared Cabo Branca and approached the Doldrums for the final time and, once again, the Doldrums shuffled the pack. Some fast sailing in the northeast trade winds followed, but it didn’t last long and the fleet compressed into yet more light winds. 

As the fleet skimmed along the edge of the Caribbean island chain, Telefónica made a rare mistake. She held offshore, while Groupama 4, her closest rival dived between the Turks and Caicos Islands. It was a brilliant move. Telefónica was swallowed by the light air and gybed to escape, but Groupama 4 slid past and pulled up to third. Throughout the final 400 miles, Groupama 4 struggled to keep her foot on Telefónica’s throat, but despite interventions from the island chains to the east of the Bahamas, the Gulf Stream and yet more light winds, that was the way it finished. The result blew the overall contest wide open. It was the first time Telefónica had failed to finish on the podium in an offshore leg and made their three straight legs wins at the start of the race feel just that little more distant.


Leg 7

Miami to Lisbon

The first tropical storm of the 2012 hurricane season raised its ugly head just in time for the start of the Atlantic leg, sitting several hundred miles north of the Miami start line. 

Straight from the off, Tropical Storm Alberto threw a curveball at the fleet. Everyone was doing all they could to stay out of its way, while searching for the fast flowing Gulf Stream current running north up the coast. 

Early leaders Abu Dhabi and Telefónica could only watch as Groupama 4 executed a perfect gybe in the centre of the storm. She drew out a lead of 40 miles and was well placed for the North Atlantic sleigh ride that would happen as the depression swept over the fleet. But the weather system was travelling too fast for Groupama 4, and, along with Telefónica, she slammed straight into light winds. 

Behind, CAMPER was the first to bail out of their position to the south of the fleet, heading north to find better breeze. With the Gulf Stream still playing a big role, Abu Dhabi emerged on top at the head of a front from the northwest. 

The final hurdle was a band of light winds off the Portuguese coast, and as Abu Dhabi was in the lead, she was the first to slow, helpless as the chasing pack closed the gap. 

Groupama 4 was within a mile of Abu Dhabi as they approached the Tagus River, but Abu Dhabi held off the challenge and claimed her first offshore leg win. There were also celebrations for Groupama 4, whose second place finish propelled them into the overall lead with just two legs left.

Leg 8

Lisbon to Lorient

Just shy of 2,000 miles, the penultimate leg started with drifting conditions caused by the Azores High. The six boats closed to within just 10 nautical miles as they tacked around the island of São Miguel and raced headlong into an unavoidable gale-force low-pressure system in the North Atlantic. Telefónica, Groupama 4 and PUMA were all within a couple of miles when the wind increased. 

Groupama 4 suffered the first problem while trying to shorten sail. The mainsail had stuck and wouldn’t reef. It needed three trips aloft to fix the problem. She dropped to fourth place, but soon after the repair, she was back chasing Telefónica, who then damaged her starboard rudder. The crew worked to drop in a spare, and quickly regained the lead. The first four boats were sailing straight at the centre of the storm, no more than 20 minutes apart. 

Groupama 4 and Telefónica put in their final gybe together, and pointed straight at the finish. Two intense hours later, everything unravelled for Telefónica. Hurtling off a wave, she broke the port rudder and damaged the spare on the starboard side. There were no more options. They limped towards Lorient with marginal control, conceding the lead, the leg and ultimately the race that they had led for so long, with a fifth place finish. Groupama 4 and her crew led the way into their homeport. It meant that Groupama 4 had extended her lead to 23 points with just one leg and two in-port races to complete.

Leg 9

Lorient to Galway

The final offshore leg was more or less a straightforward dash to Ireland. CAMPER was penalised for a start line incident involving overall race leaders Groupama 4, while Telefónica tore around the opening inshore section to lead the fleet away from France. 

Six minutes separated the top four when PUMA led the fleet past the Fastnet Rock off the southern tip of Ireland at around 1030 UTC the next morning. 

As the wind freshened in the afternoon, the fleet made rapid progress up the west coast of Ireland sailing in fast running conditions, with leaders PUMA under constant attack from their trio of rivals.

By early evening and with the breeze starting to fade, PUMA was struggling to defend against a three-way attack from CAMPER, Groupama 4 and Telefónica. Around midnight, CAMPER eased ahead as the top four closed within 10 miles of the Galway finish where a huge crowd had gathered to await their arrival. 

The final two hours were nerve wracking for CAMPER who had to dig deep to hold off overall race leaders Groupama 4, in increasingly fickle winds on the final approach to Galway. She crossed the line to score her first leg win of the race and all but lock up second place overall. 

Shortly behind them, the crew of Groupama 4 began to celebrate as they finished in second place, a result that sealed their overall Volvo Ocean Race victory at their first attempt.


Crews 2011-12

Sailor by team

Groupama 4

Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier, Thomas Coville, Damian Foxall, Phil Harmer, Erwan Israel, Martin Krite, Brad Marsh, Jean-Luc Nélias, Laurent Pagès, Yann Riou (OBR), Martin Strömberg

CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand

Stu Bannatyne, Roberto 'Chuny' Bermúdez, Nick Burridge, Hamish Hooper (OBR), Andrew McLean, Adam Minoprio, Chris Nicholson, Will Oxley, Mike Pammenter, Tony Rae, Robert Salthouse, Daryl Wislang

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG

Andrew Cape, Amory Ross (OBR), Brad Jackson, Casey Smith, Jonathan Swain, Kelvin Harrap, Ken Read, Michi Müller, Rome Kirby, Ryan Godfrey, Shannon Falcone, Thomas Johanson, Tom Addis, Tony Mutter


Jordi Calafat, Andrew Cape, Xabi Fernández, Diego Fructuoso (OBR), Zane Gills, Iker Martínez, Neal McDonald, Ñeti Cuervas-Mons, Pepe Ribes, Joca Signorini, Pablo Arrarte

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

Nick Dana (OBR), Justin Ferris, Simon Fisher, Rob Greenhalgh, Adil Khalid, Andrew Lewis, Wade Morgan, Anthony Nossiter, Craig Satterthwaite, Justin Slattery, Ian Walker, Paul Willcox

Team Sanya

Cameron Dunn, Ryan Houston, Martin Kirketerp, Aksel Magdhal, Chris Main, Richard Mason, Andrew Meiklejohn, David Rolfe, Mike Sanderson, Bert Schandevyl, Andrés Soriano (OBR), David Swete, ‘Tiger’ Teng Jianghe