VOR leg five postponed

Tropical cyclone Pam throws a spanner in the works

Thursday March 12th 2015, Author: James Boyd, Location: New Zealand

The start of leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajaí, Brazil, has been delayed due to the development of a cyclone.

Leg five was originally due to set sail on Sunday, but with the forecast suggesting a grade five tropical cyclone could hit the area hard, the race organisers have chosen to postpone the start by at least 24 hours. The earliest possible restart would take place on Monday March 16 at 1400 local NZ time.

“Safety first,” explained Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad. “We’re making this decision now, because we don’t know the exact track of this tropical cyclone yet. It’s unusually big and essentially it’s blocking the road for our sailors, so it’s prudent seamanship from our side to leave them with options.”

Tropical cyclone Pam is already recording 110 knot winds and could strengthen further as it heads south. Even if the system misses New Zealand, the storm surge and associated seas could still cause problems for the fleet.

“Our biggest concern is the sea state, rather than the wind,” continued Frostad. “The boats can handle a lot of wind, but there will be very big waves along the New Zealand coast, with nowhere to hide.

“We are not going to have the boats leaving Auckland before 1400 local time on Monday, but it could also be later. It depends completely on the movement of this tropical cyclone.”

The New Zealand Herald In-Port Race Auckland, which begins at 1400 local time on Saturday, will still go ahead as planned. The current forecast predicts perfect sailing conditions for Saturday with a 20 knot easterly and warm sunshine.

Grant Calder, General Manager of the Auckland stopover, said: ”Saturday promises to be a great day out, both on the water and in Auckland’s viaduct. The boats will be racing, and the Race Village will continue to offer a wide-range of free activities for everyone who wants to enjoy the last weekend of the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race Auckland stopover. We have some fantastic live entertainment lined up, including the Black Seeds on Saturday evening.”

Despite the delay, a full departure ceremony including a mayoral handover and sailor’s parade will go ahead as planned on Sunday.

Race organisers are tracking the cyclone’s development and a revised event schedule for Sunday, including confirmation of whether any sailing will take place, will be issued as the situation develops.



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