After the Asian detour to engage with commercial interests, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet departs tomorrow to return south so as to get back on with the business of racing around the world.
As strong winds are in the forecast, the start time has been moved forward two hours for the fleet to get away ahead of the big breeze. The fleet will now leave at 1100 local time (0300 UTC) for the 6100nm Leg 6 to Auckland, New Zealand.
The course begins by crossing the South China Sea to the northern tip of the Philippines. After that, it’s out into the Pacific and a long drag race to the south-east, dodging the many island chains of Polynesia until they reach Auckland.
“It’s always notorious this bit,” said Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari. “I remember from the last edition when we left Sanya (China) we had similar upwind, strong conditions through the Luzon Strait. So it’s the same again this time.”
“It’s also a bit deceiving as we almost sail away from New Zealand before we put the bow down and make that commitment and head down there. So psychologically it’s a hard leg as well.”
And once the bow aims south, teams must transit across the Doldrums which proved so decisive on Leg 4 into Hong Kong. Spanish skipper Xabi Fernández knows first-hand the challenge the Doldrums pose as the earlier stage turned into a losing battle with clouds and a disappointing result.
“We all know how hard the Doldrums can be and last time, for us it was even harder,” Fernández said. “We found ourselves a little bit separated from the leaders and for 10 or 15 hours it was painful as we watched the others sail away…”
Dongfeng fared better in Leg 4, finishing second, and hopes to do well again to gain on the leading Spanish team. “We know it’s complicated and a bit random and we’re concerned about being the guys who catch a bad cloud this time,” said Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier.
This will mark the 11th time the race has visited New Zealand and the 10th time it has stopped in Auckland. Many will look at New Zealand as a spiritual home to the Volvo Ocean Race, with over 350 Kiwi sailors having taken part in the race dating back to 1977.
Damage: Only six of the seven teams will compete in Leg 6 as Vestas 11th Hour Racing is still repairing their boat following the collision with a fishing boat as they neared the finish line of Leg 4 in Hong Kong. The team has shipped their boat to Auckland to complete repairs in time for the March 18 start of Leg 7 to Itajaí, Brazil.
Race details – Tracker – Scoreboard – Race route – Facebook – YouTube
Overall Results (after 5 of 11 legs)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 34 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 30
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 23
4. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 20
5. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 18
6. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 15
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 9
Source: Volvo Ocean Race, Scuttlebutt