Photo: Marc Bow/Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean Race: Strong start for backmarkers

Sanya leads the boats out of Auckland

Sunday March 18th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: New Zealand

After a frantic few days, the two backmarkers led the fleet out of Auckland as the Volvo Ocean Race's fifth leg to Itajal, Brazil got underway at 0100 UTC today.

With local skipper Mike Sanderson at the wheel, Sanya started cleanly and at speed at the weather end of the line with all six boats on port. The only 2007 generation boat in this race, the Chinese-backed team did a fine job to pick their lanes and not only managed to hang on to the lead, but to extend away.

They were followed around the initial inshore course by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Puma, Telefonica, Camper and Groupama, the Volvo fleet on a last show for the thousands of spectators.

The boats will be battening down hatches for the first couple of days out of Auckland. At present there is an area of high pressure centred some 600 miles east of New Zealand, but there is a depression to the northwest and between these there is northeasterlies - making for a beat to get around the Coramandel Peninsula, on the eastern side of the Hauraki Gulf before the boats get out into the open water.

PUMA skipper Ken Read said keeping the boat and the crew in one piece was the top priority. "It’s going to be boat-breaking and person-breaking weather, and I think the smart will prevail.

“Quite frankly this is not a leg to be talking about wins and losses right now,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to talk tough but the reality is this is not the most hospitable part of the world and we have to make sure we’re smart.”

Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker added: "Right now all our focus is on the weather forecast, which looks absolutely diabolical for the first 36 hours. We just have to prepare our boat and our people as best we can.”

Three new sailors have been added to the crew lists in Auckland. Anthony Nossiter from Australia is joining Abu Dhabi to replace the outgoing Justin Ferris, while just for this leg Finnish Olympic gold medal winner Thomas Johanson takes over from injured Kelvin Harrap on Puma and Danish Olympic gold medallist Martin Kirketerp steps in on Sanya for Ryan Houston, who has a kidney infection.

Leg 5 is expected to take around 18 days to complete.

From Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race:

From Marc Bow/Volvo Ocean Race:

From Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Race:


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