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23 February 2006, 10:04 am
Mother Nature Versus The VO 70s
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Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006

Leg four and the Southern Ocean is simply not delivering the high speed sleigh rides which everyone associates with this desolate part of the world. Instead, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet is floundering in a no wind zone, with just a hint that there is bad weather to come. The chopping and changing for the lead continues, with movistar the latest front runner.
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Torben GRAEL's (BRA) Brasil 1 and Sebastien JOSSE's (FRA) ABN AMRO TWO are positioning themselves to break out over the top of the ridge, while the other group of four will sail beneath it. The two boats in the north are barely making eight knots, while the boats to the south are averaging eleven.

What Next?

The southerly boats are hoping for the wind to go into the east which will enable them to tack and then still cross the two boats in the north. Bouwe BEKKING's (NED) movistar, now in first position, was the first to make the break, tacking at 0940 hours UTC this morning. Paul CAYARD's (USA) Pirates of the Caribbean is just a mile behind movistar, but has yet to change course. Neal MCDONALD's (GBR) Ericsson Racing Team is the slowest of this group and furthest to the north.

Mike SANDERSON's (NZL) ABN AMRO ONE, the most southerly of the fleet, 260 miles due south of the ice gate, said today, 'One of the reasons that it is worthy hurrying to the gate, apart from the result, is the fact there is a chance that it will blow 50 knots there within twelve hours of us getting there… so the race is on, against the competitors and Mother Nature.'

Navigators' Nightmare

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The early morning grind on

The last two and a half days have been a nightmare for the navigators in the Volvo Ocean Race as they scratch their heads and spend hours looking at weather models on their onboard computers, trying to find the best way to approach the ice gate ahead.

Steve HAYLES (GBR), navigator for Ericsson Racing Team, has had a pretty harrowing few days. He has some very clear plans in his mind, but because each team has a restricted number of sails onboard it is not always possible to sail the boat to the optimum place on the race course with the sails they have. 'We have to try and double guess what other competitors are going to do, what the weather is going to do and what sails we have to get us closest to where Steve wants us to be,' explained skipper MCDONALD yesterday. 'All in all, the last day or so has been very harrowing for him, and I think over the next days it will be hard work, really hard work, for all the boats.'

Andrew CAPE (AUS), navigator on movistar is pragmatic and yesterday said he was not gambling at all. 'We are 160 miles away from Brasil 1 and one of us is going to be right and one of us is going to be wrong. We are doing the best we can, but it will go one way or another. I am very happy with where we are.'

Nerves In The North

Onboard ABN AMRO TWO, the constant companion of Brasil 1 in the north, the nervous times continue as the team has headed into the ridge of high pressure in a bid to cross it early and reach the new breeze on the other side. 'While we are battling it out in five knots of breeze, the majority of the fleet is steaming along at 15 knots and the scheds [position reports] make for very dismal reading.'

Dismal reading indeed this morning for these two as the 1000 position report shows a loss of 99 miles for ABN AMRO TWO on their position relative to the leader 24 hours ago and an even greater loss for Brasil 1.

Gut Wrenching

As well as the navigational difficulties, the temperatures are dropping as the fleet heads further into the Southern Ocean and away from dry land. Every team, for the first time on the leg has been talking about sleeping bags, warm food and the first outings of fleecy hats and balaclavas.

As the yachts jump places on the leaderboard daily, and sometimes hourly, the navigators are feeling the pressure of their decisions. HAYLES explained what life was like onboard and his emotions. 'We are down at 53 degrees south now and despite things heating up tactically they are definitely cooling down temperature wise. The sea temperature is still up at nine degrees but full thermals on deck and sleeping bags below are the order of the day.

'A couple of interesting days ahead before we round the ice waypoints and head south properly. It has a vaguely similar feeling to previous southern ocean legs we have done before and there is a general air of anticipation. These boats have been outstanding in normal ocean conditions; it will be awesome to see what they can do on the way down to the Horn.'

Sail Casualties

Ericsson had a hard 36 hours with David ROLFE (NZL) working around the clock to repair a ripped spinnaker that they will need in the light fickle breeze ahead. Ericsson is not the only yacht with sail casualties. Brasil 1 has also been working non stop on their genoa which was finally finished yesterday. The attention of the crew has now turned to the weather, with the Brazilians distinctly not enjoying the temperature drop and Norwegian watch leader Knut FROSTAD (NOR) kicking himself for not remembering the rules. 'Rule number one. Never ask anyone from a warm and sunny country to buy the sleeping bags, especially when he is considerably smaller than you.'

FROSTAD revealed some more of the funny insights into cold weather sailing, 'As the temperature is slowly dropping, the fashion is changing on deck. Horacio CARABELLI [(BRA)] was seen on deck last night wearing both a balaclava and a fleece hat on top. Can't wait to see him when we get closer to zero, five hats?? Torben has started to wear his combined facemask and balaclava, and when wearing sunglasses as well he and a few others are definitely ready to rob the Brazilian National Bank. Probably not a bad idea considering our very tight budget?'

Position Report At 1000 Hours UTC, 23 February 2006
Team Nation Skipper Latitude Longitude DTF DTL DTLC CMG SMG VMG ETA
movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 52 3.01S 148 2.03W 5447 0 1 73 11 14 10/03/2006
Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 52 11.04S 147 35.03W 5448 1 -1 75 11.5 14 10/03/2006
ABN AMRO ONE NED Mike SANDERSON (NZL) 52 23.04S 147 6.03W 5455 8 -5 71 11 14 10/03/2006
Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 52 6.01S 149 17.03W 5471 24 -3 73 8.9 13.8 10/03/2006
ABN AMRO TWO NED Sebastian JOSSE (FRA) 50 17.02S 154 25.03W 5560 113 -17 15 8.1 13 10/03/2006
Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 49 15.03S 155 24.02W 5584 137 -17 42 6.2 12.7 10/03/2006

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 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.

Lizzie GREEN (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Movistar are the latest leaders in leg four:© Oskar KIHLBORG
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