• 13-MAR-2015

  • SOURCE: Volvo Ocean Race

Leg 5 skippers' press conference - Cyclone Pam forces another delay to Leg 5 start

Cyclone Pam caused another postponement for the Leg 5 departure of the Volvo Ocean Race as organisers announced on Friday that the fleet would not now leave Auckland for Itajaí, Brazil, until Tuesday at the earliest.The cyclone has already racked up winds of 200kM/ph causing a delay in the departure in the six-strong fleet which was originally due to embark on the 6,776nm journey on Sunday (March 15).

It was on a collision course with the fleet shortly after they were due to leave the New Zealand city.

Race CEO Knut Frostad told a press conference in Auckland on Friday that there was no choice but to hold up the start of a leg, which was already likely to be the toughest in the nine-month, 38,739nm marathon event.

He had previously announced on Thursday that it would not leave until Monday at the earliest.

"This weather is very rare for the race, and for New Zealand. We will not start the leg until Tuesday and will probably look at an afternoon start or in the evening. That's our current plan," he said before adding that organisers would review the situation again later on Friday.

The fleet's skippers in the press conference backed the decision to keep the fleet in port for at least an extra two days.

"It's obvious," said Team Brunel's Dutch skipper, Bouwe Bekking. "All the skippers in our meeting said straight away, 'you've got to delay it'. A very good decision."

The race emphasised that the New Zealand Herald In-Port Race was still scheduled to go ahead on Saturday (March 14) at 1400 and they hoped that a sizeable audience of Auckland's sailing-loving residents would attend.

Additionally, they plan a similar length, In-Port race for charity on Sunday when the winners will be awarded NZ$10,000 by the event, which they can donate to a cause of their choice.

Frostad emphasised that with Cyclone Pam bearing down on Auckland, that event was subject to cancellation, but was an attempt to give the city's sailing fans and sponsors an extra dose of action.

"It's on the borderline of what we think is safe and prudent to do but we'll continue to monitor the situation."The skippers, meanwhile, are relishing finally taking on the most challenging stage of the race, which will take them through the Southern Ocean, past Cape Horn and then the Atlantic to Itajaí in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina.