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6 February 2003, 10:14 am
Countdown to the Start of Leg 4
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Around Alone

February 6 is Waitangi day in New Zealand, a public holiday that recognizes and celebrates the treaty signed by the Crown and the indigenous population of New Zealand in the late 1800's.

The Around Alone skippers were invited by the Tangata Whenua (the local Maori) to join them in a sunrise ceremony atop Mount Maunganui in a celebration of their culture. This afternoon most of the skippers and race management will be attending a rugby match followed by the prize giving for Leg 3 - the last of the social functions before the race starts on Sunday.

All the boats are back in the water, and for a change the atmosphere on the docks in quite relaxed. The relatively long stopover in New Zealand has allowed even the smaller boats enough time to get ready for the start. Instead of the usual mad scramble in the days leading up to the start, this time many of the skippers have been able to take time off and enjoy the hospitality of this warm country.

Friday is the last full day the sailors will have before the start of Leg 4. Saturday will be taken up by skippers briefings and a press conference. It seems that most of the international media stationed in Auckland waiting for Race 1 of the America's Cup are taking the opportunity to get out of town and come to Tauranga to see what the fuss has been all about. They will be pleasantly surprised to see how hospitable this small part of New Zealand is.

Leg 4 starts at noon local time on Sunday. As soon as the yachts have departed for Cape Horn and points beyond, the travelling road show here in Tauranga will pack up and head for Brazil in time for carnival!

Brian Hancock/ISAF Secretariat
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