SOURCE: Volvo Ocean Race
Second Half of Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 Underway With Race Wide Open
Chinese-entry Team Sanya led the fleet out of Auckland, New Zealand Sunday and into a likely battering from the weather en route to the Southern Ocean, as Leg 5 to Itajaí, Brazil got underway with the second half of the race completely open.
Overall race leaders Team Telefónica, which won the first three off-shore legs and two of the in-port races thus far, have seen their run of success end with Groupama's Leg 4 victory and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand capturing the Auckland In-Port Race on Saturday.
Meanwhile, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by Berg has recorded a pair of consecutive runner-up finishes to get back in the mix.
Telefónica lead second-place Groupama sailing team by 15 points in the overall standings, with CAMPER just three points behind Groupama in third and fourth-place PUMA still with hopes of challenging for victory.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing currently sits fifth with 55 points and Team Sanya, the only second-generation boat in the race, on 25 points.
Points in five in-port races and five off-shore legs – more than half the points still to be awarded in the race – are up for grabs over the next four months with the race finishing in Galway, Ireland, in July.
On Sunday, Auckland skipper Mike Sanderson enjoyed a dream start to Leg 5 as his underdog Team Sanya boat led the fleet around the inshore course on his home waters.
But with 6,700 nautical miles of ocean racing ahead of them, no team will be placing any significance on the departing positions out of New Zealand, especially with such a trial by the elements in prospect.
According to race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante a low-pressure system to the north east of Auckland is set to intensify as it moves towards the colder waters of the Southern Ocean. Big winds of 30 knots, even as high as 50 or 60, could hit the fleet.
As the leg goes on, the boats will be required to stay north of four "ice limits" gates added by race organizers to keep the fleet clear of treacherous icebergs. The Southern Ocean and area approaching Cape Horn can routinely blow above 40 knots and conditions are more than capable of breaking boats.
Leg 5 is expected to take around 18 days to complete with current arrival estimates pegged for April 4 into Brazil. Leg winners collect 30 points with each position below that earning five points less.