Leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Singapore to Qingdao (2,500 nm), promises to be among the hardest sections of this edition of the race.
Before the finish in China, the crews are expected to encounter difficult upwind conditions, freezing temperatures, and boat-breaking sea states caused by strong winds battling fierce currents.
On Friday, the pre-start press conference with the seven skippers in Singapore featured the unusual sight of these highly competitive sailors speaking not of winning the leg, but of how it might be necessary to ease off, to preserve their crew and equipment to ensure safe arrival in Qingdao, China.
"We want to come first like everyone else, but we want to get there more than we want to get there first,"
said Torben GRAEL
(BRA), skipper of the race leading Ericsson 4.
The others on the stage agreed: "Fast or slow, we need to get there in one piece. We have to look out for each other,"
added Ken READ
(USA), skipper of PUMA. "We could get into situations where others need our help so it is a challenge for everyone, not just individually but as a fleet. We've got to get there. We just have to get there."
"You need to be fast and smart but most important, you need to get there in one piece,"
said Ian WALKER
(GBR), who will be sailing the Green Dragon into its home waters as the boat was built in China.
Leg four is nominally a 2,500 nautical mile battle; one of the medium length legs in the race. But, in reality, the teams are expected to sail much further, as the prevailing conditions would typically make much of the leg an upwind beat.
After spending the better part of a month on Sentosa Island in Singapore, it is hard to imagine what lies ahead. The leg will start on Sunday in winds forecast to be near 15 knots and temperatures approaching 30-degrees.
The first half of this leg should be straightforward; sail the fastest up the race course, utilising the shifts to strike off the miles efficiently. Boat speed and weather analysis will be the keys to success here. Then, a tactically difficult decision comes; whether to go inside or outside Taiwan. The current and sea state will be major factors in making this call.
The final obstacle will be the winter storms that often sweep off the mainland of China at this time of year. They can bring strong winds, thick clouds and rain, or snow and will doubtless provide a very stern test.
When the teams arrive in Qingdao, they will be hosted at a first-class facility. The Race Village is in the same location as the sailing events in the 2008 Olympic Games. The first boats are due to arrive on the 30 January.
The race start in Singapore is scheduled for 13:00 local time (05:00 UTC). The teams will sail around a triangle-shaped course after the start before proceeding out to sea. Live audio commentary of the leg start will be available on www.volvooceanrace.org
The next race in the in-port series will be held in Qingdao, China on 7 February.
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
(After Singapore In-Port Race)
1. Ericsson 4, skipper Torben GRAEL
(BRA), 39 points
2.Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING
(NED), 33.5 points
3. PUMA, skipper Ken READ
(USA), 31 points
4. Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 24 points
5. Green Dragon, skipper Ian WALKER
(GBR), 22.5 points
6. Telefónica Black, skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI
(ESP), 22 points
7. Team Russia, skipper Andreas HANAKAMP
(AUT), 10.5 points
8. Delta Lloyd, skipper Roberto BERMUDEZ
(ESP), 10 points
Go here for all the news on the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09
Volvo Ocean Race - www.volvooceanrace.org