Volvo Ocean Race's leg five sets sail on Sunday
Leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race sets sail this Sunday at 0100 UTC from Auckland bound for Itajal, Brazil via Cape Horn. However due to the threat of ice, so the organisers have set four ice limits, three in the west and one in the east. Rather than being gates through which the boats must pass at some stage to get them north, effectively the Volvo boats have a continuous barrier to starboard, to prevent them going south. This continues up to the eastern end of the eastern ice limit (EIL). So, rather disappointingly, the furthest south the VO70s are ever likely to get on this race is about 56-7°S on the approach to Cape Horn.
And guess what? The start on Sunday looks set to be initially upwind with an area of high pressure to the east of New Zealand's North Island, causing the boats to exit the Hauraki Gulf into an ENEerly flow.
In the interim, earlier today the six Volvo Open 70s took part in a Pro-Am race. This took place in light winds with the first race canned as the wind died. Once again proving her light wind inshore credentials, when the Pro-Am race did get underway again it was the Mike Sanderson Team Sanya which won on Sanderson's home waters.
Tomorrow at 0100 UTC will be the scoring Auckland In-Port Race.
Camper skipper Chris Nicholson commented: “The race is still wide open, more than half the points for this race are still up for grabs, this is going to be a very hard leg, you don’t have to be the leader at Cape Horn, but you have to be in the leading pack or it’s too hard to catch up. This leg is the reason most sailors sign up for this race.
"It’s been hard to get into race mode, we’ve had a huge amount of people out on the boat each day, so now we just want to go home, clear our heads and get ready for tomorrow. We’ll be back to the full sailing team and it’s time to focus on the job in hand tomorrow, if we do that right, we’ll have a good result.
"In terms of the forecast it looks like 15 knots N/NE, so we should have a windward leeward course in front of what we expect to be a massive amount of spectators. This is a perfect arena for yachting on display to a worldwide audience. I’m really looking forward to getting out there and to nail down the racing."
Looking ahead to leg five, Telefonica's Xabi Fernandez said: "This is is the “crowning leg. You have to round Cape Horn and there's no other choice but to head South from here to catch the first squall you can and push southeast with a lot of breeze. When you go South not breaking anything is key. It's almost an absolute cert that we'll get strong winds and once that happens breaking something can happen easily. I hope that it's not too rough, and that the boats don't suffer too much."
The Spanish team's Olympic gold medallist helmsman and trimmer Jordi Calafat added: “To begin with, it's the toughest leg. It's the leg that takes us furthest South, which means squalls and showers for a long time and lots of cold, with very cold water too. This leg is made up of two components: one is the racing itself and the other is safety. The leg will be taken at a very fast pace indeed and there may be the conditions for that to happen and that's why people are more likely to push hard and they could run into trouble”.
Pepe Ribes reckons that they will round Cape Horn in about 10 days. "It's be heavy-going, intense and short. It will be fast and we'll set off from here to the South at top speeds. After that we'll be sticking close to an exclusion zone to look for as much breeze as possible to then make our way to Cape Horn.
"It is always difficult, with waves coming from different places and it's difficult to handle the boat in lots of conditions because the swell doesn't come from the same place as the wind. There are also strong currents coming from a different direction to the wind and these boats are incredibly fast and it's hard to keep control of them in these conditions and sometimes you find you're totally out of control. You have to be very careful and concentrate hard. A shower can come along out of anywhere and bring 50 to 60 knots of breeze with it and you can find yourself in quite a mess."