Published: Wednesday, 18 March 2015

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet finally set off from Auckland at 0900 NZDT on Wednesday March 18 after waiting 67 hours to avoid the worst of Cyclone Pam. 

Leg 5 Of Volvo Ocean Race Gets Underway 

“I’m heading into the Southern Ocean with two sailors onboard that have never sailed in more than 30 knots of wind, of course it’s added pressure,” says Dongfeng Race Team Skipper Charles Caudrelier. 

On the 7,000 nautical mile journey from New Zealand to Brazil, crossing the world’s most treacherous ocean – the difference between winning and losing will be the ability to make smart decisions in various states of exhaustion.

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After a three-day delay, the sailors are finally on their way towards Cape Horn. The delay to the start of Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race due to Cyclone Pam caused unexpected confusion amongst the crew of Dongfeng Race Team. Instead of having a few extra days to relax – it left the sailors slightly on edge and all geared up to go with nowhere to go. It allowed them extra time to think about the challenges that crossing the Southern Ocean will bring.

On the dock the words “be safe” and “be careful” are replacing the usual “good luck” and “go and get 'em.” For the Chinese sailors Liu Xue (Black) and Yang Jiru (Wolf) this is just another chapter in their round the world adventure. “I’ve been told it’s unlike anything I have ever seen before,” says Black before setting off. “I know sailing is physical but I believe it’s your mentality that makes you a winner.”

Leg 5 Of Volvo Ocean Race Gets Underway 2 

“The reality is, if something goes wrong the only people that will be able to help us will be our competitors,” says Caudrelier. “The last time Abu Dhabi were in trouble in the Southern Ocean, the nearest ship was 1000 miles away. It’s a reality check – but I reckon with the one design we will be closer.”

Dongfeng Navigator Pascal Bidégorry doesn’t have too many fond memories of the Southern Ocean either. “Last time was 14 years ago and I dismasted,” he says. “Then we stayed at sea for 21 days without a mast before we reached safety. That was not fun. The Southern Ocean it breaks boats – we must be careful. Everyone must be careful because I want to pass Cape Horn.”

This leg will take the boats to the furthest point from land on earth and through the ocean known to produce some of the roughest conditions on the race.

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“The conditions will be light early on, with coastal sailing up to East Cape (the tip of New Zealand) but after a few days it will be the full-on Southern Ocean regime,” says VOR meteorologist, Gonzalo Infante.

Leg 5 will take the sailors from Auckland to Itajaí in south eastern Brazil. It is 6,776 nautical miles long, will take roughly three weeks to complete, and is one major reason why many of the sailors in the fleet are competing in the Volvo Ocean Race. 

The boats are expected to arrive in Itajaí around Apr 7.