Photo: Yann Riou/Groupama

Volvo Ocean Race leg 3B starts Sunday

Six VO70s to be reunited, with mystery port to Sanya expected to take 14 days

Friday January 20th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

All six boats in the Volvo Ocean Race will gather for the first time in more than a month when on Sunday, 22 January, the second stage of Leg 3 gets underway from the 'mystery port' in the Indian Ocean, to the Chinese city of Sanya.

The leg start is scheduled for 0800 UTC and will see the six-strong fleet race more than 3,000 nautical miles across the Indian Ocean, through the Malacca Strait and into the South China Sea. En route the boats are likely to have to tackle monsoon winds, painfully long stretches of upwind sailing through rough seas along with much commercial traffic to dodge as they pick their way through some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

The five VO70s currently being shipped to 'the mystery port' are expected to arrive in the early hours of Saturday where they will be reunited with Team Sanya, forced to suspend racing during the first stage of Leg 2 and delivered on her own bottom from Madagascar to the 'mystery port'.

Once the ship is docked, the five VO70s will be unloaded and work will begin to prepare them for the second stage of the third offshore leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Campper skipper, Chris Nicholson, looked forward to what lies in stores: “Leg 3 is the most worrying of the whole race, there are so many things going on in this next leg in regards to shipping down the Malacca Straits, the possibility of a light air upwind start. After the Malacca Straits we will have to deal with one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, followed by the prospect of some heavy air upwind sailing.

"Looking at the leg there’s some key tactical decisions that people should look out for. Going up to the Malacca Straits and how you set-up on the long port tack will be vital. If you go further towards Sri Lanka you’re likely to have less pressure but will comfortably lay through the Straits. If you go more to the south you’ll have better pressure but may but may not be able to make the entry to the Straits. Then all the way through the Straits themselves will be very interesting.

"The boats are all likely to be forced to sail effectively the same course meaning that those with the sail programme best suited to whatever the wind angle is are likely to have a major speed advantage over the others and may make a break on the fleet. This will be a leg that rewards good tactical and navigational calls and a reliable boat."

For the Mike Sanderson skippered Team Sanya, stage two of the Leg 3 represents an opportunity to race into their home port as heroes.

“A nice end for us will be to secure a solid result in Sanya after a decent run,” he said. “Obviously, a win in the in-port race at home would be a dream come true but just finishing the leg will be a milestone after all we’ve been through.”

Leg 3 Stage 2 comprises of three sections: firstly, a stretch of more than 1,000 nautical miles to the northern tip of Sumatra, an area prone to monsoons. The next section will see the fleet take on the Malacca Strait, a narrow stretch of water between Sumatra and Malaysia notorious for shipping hazards.

Volvo Ocean Race Chief Meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said this stage could prove costly for any team not 100 percent focused on the task ahead: “It is very tricky, you can lose everything you gained in the Indian Ocean with one bad decision or lack of attention in here,’’ he said. “It’s unlikely that the yachts make big gains, but you can certainly make big losses.”

The final stage will see the teams race upwind for up to a week through the shallow South China Sea in potentially boat-breaking conditions.

“They are likely to be beating for one week in conditions that are very hard on the boat,’’ Infante added. “The waves could reach four to five metres, and could be very steep.’’

The teams are expected to take around two weeks to reach Sanya where they will arrive in early February.

Louay Habib talks to Abu Dhabi's Rob Greenhalgh:


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