April 06, 2012

After 20 days of sailing through some of the toughest conditions imaginable, Puma won the Volvo Ocean Race's fifth stage by just 12 minutes on Friday.

Puma collected 30 vital points, holding off overall race leader Telefonica, which chased all the way up the South American coast to the Brazilian port of Itajai despite earlier having to stop for 17 hours to fix a damaged hull.

An epic leg that left the fleet battered and broken was decided by the ice-cool nerve of 50-year-old American skipper Ken Read.

With the dramatic "match race" being watched by thousands of fans on shore, Read repeatedly blocked the route of Telefonica, which had caught up with the leaders after trailing by more than 400 nautical miles following the pit-stop in Cape Horn.

"I've never done such a tough offshore leg in my life," Read said. "We ran out of food a day and a half ago so we haven't eaten for a day and a half. It's been pretty intense.

"Our hearts go out to the crews who have suffered damage. We know what that's like and it's even worse when it's in a place like the Southern Ocean."

Groupama of France was Puma's long-term rival for fifth leg honors but joined the casualty list 650 nautical miles from Itajai while leading when their mast broke in two on the fifth stage through the southern Pacific and past Cape Horn from Auckland, New Zealand.

They plan to rejoin the nine-month, 39,000-nautical mile race later on Friday after piecing together a jury-rig for the mast from a haven in Uruguay.

China's Team Sanya (broken rudder) and Abu Dhabi (hull damage) were both forced to pull out of the leg and Camper (Spain/New Zealand) suspended racing with a broken hull. They have repaired it in Chile and intended to return to action on Saturday.

Overall standings: 1 Telefonica (Spain) 147 pts, 2 Puma (U.S.) 113, 3 Groupama (France) 107, 4 Camper (Spain/New Zealand) 104, 5 Abu Dhabi 55, 6 Team Sanya (China) 25

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