American skipper Ken Read produced a tactical masterstroke to leave the Volvo Ocean Race wide open again Sunday by taking his Puma team past pacesetting Telefonica into second place in the fourth leg.
Read, the oldest captain in the race at 50, left observers scratching their heads midway through the 5,220-nautical mile leg when he headed north in the Pacific toward Japan, apparently in completely the wrong direction for their New Zealand destination.
The experienced campaigner from Newport, R.I., knew what he was doing, picking up vastly superior wind and eventually leading Telefonica home by 50 minutes to claim runner-up spot for the leg between Sanya, China and Auckland.
"My God, I feel good to be in Auckland," Read said. "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."
French boat Groupama won the leg late Saturday night despite a major late scare when crew found a leak in the hull that needed a hasty on-board repair 100 miles from the finish in Auckland.
The result leaves Spanish boat Telefonica still in the overall lead with 121 points after winning the first three legs, but Franck Cammas' Groupama crew now lie only 18 behind with still plenty of time to catch up with each of the five legs remaining carrying 30 points apiece for the winner.
The race is scheduled to finish in Galway, Ireland on July 8, nine months and more than 39,000 nautical miles after setting out from Alicante, Spain.