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7 March 2006, 10:50 am
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Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006

The back and forth battle over the last 24 hours has swung ABN AMRO ONE's way, as they pull out their lead to 50 miles in the final, but frustrating, stages of the Volvo Ocean Race leg four. In ideal conditions, the final 800 miles could be covered in a fast two day sail, but the light airs situation at present is likely to delay the fleet for another three days or more.
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The overall picture is for very light wind all the way to the finish in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Huge losses were made overnight as race leader Mike SANDERSON's (NZL) ABN AMRO ONE, in their westerly position, sailed through the decaying low pressure system, reached the new south westerly gradient and managed to maintain high speeds all the way. For the next six hours, the Dutch boat will luck in as the breeze ahead is good, while the rest of the fleet struggle in virtually no wind at all.

Paul CAYARD (USA) is sitting in the Pirate navigation station, waiting for the next weather report. 'We are waiting for the wind to lift just a bit more and then we will gybe onto port and head towards the shore. The game here is to try and get the biggest shift without getting so close to the centre of the low, that we lose too much wind. This is made trickier by the fact that this low pressure system is decaying and possibly spreading out.'

Brasil 1 Lose Out

Torben GRAEL's (BRA) Brasil 1 was the worst hit by the light airs, losing 71 nautical miles to the leader in the last six hours and only averaging a speed of 4.3 knots, compared with that of ABN AMRO ONE at 17.2 knots. Pirates of the Caribbean lost 29 miles and is now 50 miles behind SANDERSON. Third placed ABN AMRO TWO of Sebastien JOSSE (FRA) lost 57 miles and Ericsson Racing Team lost 52 miles. The stress of racing is inevitably going to increase.

Knut FROSTAD (NOR), watch leader on Brasil 1, says, 'The big thing now is the change of mode from breezy, high speed condition to light air focus. The boat is constantly restacked [all the sails, spares and the very few food bags left are moved forward, to leeward on deck and down again]. The fleet is packed again, and in fact anyone has a realistic chance of being first into Rio.'

The pressure is on for everyone, not just the leaders. 'More than 800 miles to go in very light airs: this is not the easiest for us. The pressure is on, but we are well trained for that as every finish has been running this scenario, hopefully we will survive,' wrote Sidney GAVIGNET (FRA) from ABN AMRO ONE.

Which Strategy To Choose?

With light and fluky winds usually found off Rio de Janeiro, the team's strategies look set to play a crucial role in the results of leg four and no one is taking any chances. 'We are adopting a pretty conservative strategy,' said CAYARD last night. 'We take some risk but only when it is pretty high percentage, but otherwise we don't shoot the corners. It is keeping us in a good position, but it will be a shoot out right at the end.'

Brasil 1 is sailing into her home port and this team will settle for nothing less than a podium position at the finish. 'For sure there are other ways of getting there [to Rio] which are much easier than the one we have in front of us,' wrote watch leader FROSTAD. 'Wish us the best - we need it.' Andrea 'Bonchecha' FONSECA (BRA) added, 'I think that if we make the right calls on the weather from now on, we have a chance to fight for the victory. Conditions now are on our side.'

'I can't stop thinking about the strategy,' wrote Ericsson Racing Team navigator Steve HAYLES (GBR) last night. 'It keeps me awake when I should be sleeping and I switch off from everything, including the guys around me as I try and make sure that we are doing everything possible to leverage a position where we can make a gain and make it stick.'

Movistar Getting Back In The Groove

Now back in the race, movistar has sailed through Le Maire Strait and is now following in the track of Brasil 1 and heading to pass east of the Falkland Islands, doing 11 knots. She is over 1,900 miles from the leader and her estimated arrival in Rio will be three days after the bulk of the fleet.

At 1304 UTC yesterday the Spanish VO 70 resumed racing, after spending just over two days repairing the yacht in Ushuaia, Argentina. Movistar left the port in much better shape but minus one crewmember. Peter DORIEAN (AUS) is missing the end of leg four for personal reasons but will get back on the yacht in Rio for the rest of the race. The team has also lost a second member, Fred BARRETT, the technical shore manager who released a statement yesterday announcing his departure from the team.

As the yacht motored out through the Beagle Channel, skipper BEKKING sent a message back to race headquarters informing the race Jury that they wanted to withdraw the two protests they submitted against ABN AMRO TWO and Pirates of the Caribbean. BEKKING explained earlier how the previous twelve hours have been pretty frantic for their team.

'movistar is back in the water after a hectic twelve hours. Hectic because the weather was awful, blowing like hell, squalls up to 45 knots, and freezing cold rain (it was snowing just above us in the mountains), so lots of delays before the final laminates could go on to finalize the repairs. We have made a 'simple' repair, and this means that the keel will stay in the centre for this trip. We lose some time during the trip, but gaining lots of time getting movistar back in the water, which means in the end a longer repair period in Rio. We had Javier MENDEZ and his team [Spanish America's Cup team], plus Britty & Wado from our shore crew non stop in action for the last 55 hours. Thanks is not good enough for these guys!'

Position Report At 1000 Hours UTC, 7 March 2006
Team Nation Skipper Latitude Longitude DTF DTL DTLC CMG SMG VMG ETA
ABN AMRO ONE NED Mike SANDERSON (NZL) 35 38.05S 48 2.03W 805 0 0 351 17.2 15.6 10/03/2006 - 0700 UTC
Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 36 39.01S 47 30.04W 855 50 -29 340 12.5 15.4 10/03/2006 - 1200 UTC
ABN AMRO TWO NED Sebastian JOSSE (FRA) 37 19.01S 46 53.02W 886 81 -57 352 6 15.4 10/03/2006 - 0800 UTC
Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 37 43.01S 46 53.01W 910 105 -71 332 4.3 15.3 10/03/2006 - 1000 UTC
Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 38 28.04S 46 56.02W 954 149 -52 329 9 15.2 10/03/2006 - 1400 UTC
movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 53 10.04S 60 24.02W 1979 1174 -36 65 11 12.6 13/03/2006 - 1800 UTC

DTF: Distance To Finish
DTL: Distance To Leader
DTLC: Distance To Leader Change; the difference between the distance from the boat to the leader taken at the time of the last six hour poll, and the distance from the boat to the leader at the previous poll
CMG: Course Made Good; the average course steered over the period of the past six hours up to the time of the last poll
SMG: Speed Made Good
VMG: Velocity Made Good; the average velocity of the boat towards the finish over the entire leg
ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival

Overall Leaderboard
(Up to and including Leg Four Scoring Gate - not yet ratified)

Pos Team Nation Skipper Pts
3 movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 26
5 Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 24.5
4 Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 22.5
6 Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 18
7 ING Real Estate Brunel AUS Grant WHARINGTON (AUS) 11.5

For a complete list of all the news about the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 CLICK HERE.

Lizzie GREEN (As Amended By ISAF). Image, The bowman signals with his hand as he is silhouetted against the rising sun whilst working on the bow on Ericsson:© Magnus WOXÉN
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