With everything still to play for, the eight-strong fleet racing in the concluding leg of the Volvo Ocean Race will head out on to the racetrack for the ninth and final time, on Saturday June 8th.
At the sound of the start gun at 2pm, battle of the bloodiest nature will commence over the shortest leg of the course, some 250 nautical miles to Kiel in Germany, where the outcome of this ocean race of epic proportions
will be settled.
Within the fleet there is certain to be a private clash between illbruck from Germany, with 54 points and current race leader, who defend her position from second-placed Assa Abloy from Sweden who has 49 points. The outcome will settle the winner overall winner of the Volvo Ocean Race and
the right to claim the Waterford Crystal sculpture, aptly entitled Fighting Finish.
There are many points combinations that could be calculated theoretically on this leg, but the most interesting one of all would be that between illbruck and Assa Abloy.
Should Assa Abloy finish in first position on a total of 57 points, and illbruck finish in sixth on a total 57 points, there would be a tie breaker which Assa Abloy would win. The tie breaker is based on the number of firsts, seconds, thirds etc. that each boat has recorded and the current standing is:
Assa Abloy: 5, 6, 1, 4, 1, 3 ,2, 1
Illbruck 1, 1, 4, 1, 2, 4, 1, 4
Should Assa Abloy finish in first position on a total of 57 points, and illbruck finish in seventh or eighth position, then Assa Abloy would be the clear winner.
If illbruck finishes in fifth place or higher, regardless of Assa Abloy's finishing position, then the German team is the overall race winner.
Tyco, News Corp and Amer Sports One, all level with 40 points, will be in combat for third place on the podium overall.
The last two legs of the Volvo Ocean Race have posed considerable inshore racing challenges for the now tired crews, with islands, shoals and strong tides adding to the complexity of leg eight.
On leg nine, the short dash to Kiel, the race track is so constrained by islands that, although the general weather pattern is important, there is little that the fleet will be able to do to avoid unfavourable conditions by sailing a different route.
Instead, what is going to be very important is predicting how the wind field is going to be disturbed by the islands and land encountered. Away from land, the wind should be fairly constant over a relatively large area in both strength and direction. But, through the Kattegat and around the islands of the second half of the leg, the land has a big influence on the wind.
Headlands and hills can cause interruptions in the wind flow, as the same volume of air tries to pass through a smaller space. The heated land may change the direction of the wind and increase its strength making it gustier as the day progresses. Although the route has few alternatives for the navigators to choose from, there can be a big difference in wind strengths between one side of a channel and another. The wind shadow behind hills and headlands will need to be avoided at all costs, as positions will quickly change if any one of the competitors becomes becalmed.
There is also the possibility of including additional course sections to lengthen the course in order to achieve the desired finish time in Kiel on Sunday, June 9th. The fleet will be informed of course sections to be inserted no later than 1100 hours local time on Saturday June 8th. For the same reason, it may be necessary to shorten the course. The Race Committee will inform the boats of an intended change of course by Inmarsat C, and by VHF when the leading boat is within five miles from Kiel lighthouse. There will also be a committee vessel flying a flag stationed at that point.
Illbruck 54 points
Assa Abloy 49 points
Amer Sports One 40 points
News Corp 40 points
Tyco 40 points
SEB 29 points
Djuice 25 points
Amer Sports Too 11 points
Notes: Weather forecast: Light to very light easterly winds are predicted for most of the course.
Sailing instructions (course details) are available for download from www.volvooceanrace.org
Scoring: Each of the nine legs sees the winner scoop eight points down to the eighth boat gaining one. All results count and there are no discards. The international jury can penalise position places for any rule infringements. The yacht with the highest number of points will be the overall winner.
The prize: The winning team will receive the Waterford Crystal sculpture, Fighting Finish, which depicts two yachts in full sail and showcases all the skills of crystal craftsmanship. There is no cash prize.