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19 February 2006, 08:56 am
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Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006
Wellington, New Zealand

A little over 24 hours after the start of leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race and overall leader ABN AMRO ONE has raced to the front of the fleet, with roughly ten miles separating them from the closely bunched chasing pack of ABN AMRO TWO, Ericsson and Pirates of the Caribbean.
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On the race course yesterday afternoon, the competition was intense, with the fleet tearing along, averaging over 20 knots, with fierce battles waging everywhere. By the 0400 hours UTC report this morning, speeds had dropped slightly, but it seemed the heavy weather expert ABM AMRO boats were fairing the best, with ABN AMRO ONE stretching out their lead at the front by another five miles since 2200 yesterday and recording the highest speed of 19.1 knots.

Since being level with ABN AMRO ONE in the lead at 1600 yesterday, the more easterly movistar has dropped back to 44 miles behind.

Great Conditions

Ericsson are currently in third position, twelve miles behind the leaders and three miles back from second place ABN AMRO TWO. Meanwhile, just a mile behind them lie Paul CAYARD's (USA) Pirates.

'In my book, you'd have to go some way to beat situations in the ocean like this,' wrote the Ericsson Racing Team's navigator, Steve HAYLES (GBR) yesterday.

Ericsson Racing Team is fighting it out with the Pirates. 'I can see them [Pirates] clearly on the radar and I am giving a running commentary to the boys on deck of how we are doing,' explained, HAYLES. 'We won't step ashore for another 6,800 miles and it seems a little crazy to be fighting over a few tens of metres now, but you never know when a small lead can turn into a big one,' he added.

Ice Gates

For this final Southern Ocean leg, two ice gates have been set into the course in order to keep the crews from sailing too far south and into iceberg territory. The first waypoint is set between 148'00W and 143'00W and the second waypoint is between 130'00W and 125'00W. This means that each boat has to be above the latitude of 48 degrees south at some point between the longitudes of each gate. If a team is already north of 48 degrees south, they do not have to go south to go through the gate. The ice gates will force the fleet well north of the great circle route, making for a safer, but more tactically challenging course to Cape Horn.

Other than the changing weather conditions, nothing but icebergs and water stands between the boats and fearsome Cape Horn. Nevertheless, the ice will be a constant concern throughout this leg. The race office has been working closely with C-Core, a Canadian remote sensing firm, to analyse radar scans of the southern Pacific Ocean in the hopes of identifying areas with possible icebergs. C-Core has provided dozens of radar surveys which they hope will help to keep the Volvo fleet away from the worst of the ice and prevent any of the ice encounters which were common during the last race. It is this analysis that let to the placement of the ice gates in this leg.

Movistar Protest

Prior to starting leg four, movistar skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED) informed Pirates of the Caribbean and ABN AMRO TWO that he had issued a protest against them regarding their crew changes. The protest is based on the fact that both the Pirates and ABN AMRO TWO had crewmembers working on the boat who would later not be declared in the crew lists for leg four. The protest will be heard in Rio.

Original Story...

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Pirates lead the charge

Wellington provided a spectacular backdrop as leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race got underway bound for Rio de Janeiro via the Southern Ocean. In perfect conditions, with blue skies and gentle twelve knots breezes, the fleet jostled for the best position on the start line, just a stone's throw away from the shore and in full view of the hundreds of spectators that had lined Queen's Wharf.

As the cannon sounded it was Pirates of the Caribbean, Skippered by Paul CAYARD (USA), who had positioned themselves in the best place and shot off the start line closely pursued by overall race leaders ABN AMRO ONE. Seb JOSSE (FRA) and the young crew on ABN AMRO TWO crossed the line next followed by Brasil 1 and Ericsson.

As the fleet headed upwind to the first turning mark, Pirates of the Caribbean had sneaked out an eleven second lead from Mike SANDERSON and his crew on ABN AMRO ONE.

The fleet weaved their way up the shoreline, in a battle to reach the second mark and be the first boat to hoist the spinnaker. Pirates of the Caribbean showed great pace and by mark two had pulled out a 33 second lead over ABN AMRO TWO. Despite making a last minute crew change, the Pirates crew work was slick and they continued to charge out in front.

Further down the fleet, Brasil 1 had problems with their headsail but managed to hold out Neal MCDONALD's (GBR) Ericsson causing them to tack for the mark. Ericsson went for an early hoist on the spinnaker and rounded just behind Torben GRAEL's (BRA) Brasil 1.

The fleet was a spectacular site for those watching from the shore and by spectator boat, as they picked up speed in the 16 knots gusts and headed out of the Bay. Pirates of the Caribbean pulled away and established a healthy lead from ABN AMRO ONE, who had also managed to pull away from their team mates on ABN AMRO TWO. Brasil 1 and Ericsson continue to tussle at the back of the fleet, with Brasil 1 just having a small advantage over the Swedish entry.

Amongst the spectators watching the start from Queen's Wharf was the unusual site of a race crew staring out to sea and a Volvo Open 70 still tied to the dock. The crew of movistar, who incurred a two hour time penalty when they opted to repair the boat during the pit stop, carefully watched the route the fleet had taken hoping that they would be able to make up the two hours over the 6,700 nautical mile leg.

Navigator Andrew CAPE commented: 'It certainly feels strange to be standing on shore and watch the rest of the fleet starting. We had to fix the boat and it was not an option for us. Two hours is not very long over that distance and we will just have to work hard to catch up.'

Leg four is one of the most spectacular legs in the race as it takes the crew round Cape Horn before finally finishing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The fleet are expected to be at sea for 18 days arriving in Rio around the 9 March 2006.

Overall Leaderboard
(Up to and including Leg Three)

Pos Team Nation Skipper Pts
3 movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 25
5 Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 21.5
4 Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 20
6 Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 16.5
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.

Volvo Ocean Race (As Amended By ISAF). Image, ABN AMRO ONE head back into the Southern Ocean:© Oskar KIHLBORG
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