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Volvo Ocean Race towards Cape Horn

Having spent three weeks licking their wounds in Auckland following leg three of the Volvo Ocean Race from Sydney, the VOR fleet set sail on the fourth leg last Saturday. Thousands of spectators lined the banks of Auckland's harbour to bid farewell to the eight-strong fleet as they headed off along the Rangitoto Channel on their 6,700 nm race to Rio de Janerio via Cape Horn.
Mark Rudiger from Assa Abloy reflected the views of many when he commented: "For most of us, getting through this leg of the Southern Ocean, and around the Horn, is like reaching the peak of Mount Everest. It is the moment you want to savour, and then you want to get the hell out of there."
After a brief 20-knot blaster from the start line out in to the Hauraki Gulf, it became a navigator's nightmare once again with the fleet reaching a virtual standstill round the top of New Zealand. The aim was to track south as soon as possible in an effort to dodge the high pressure system that lingered over the east coast but it soon became a lottery as boats struggled to catch the zephyrs of breeze.
But the proof of the pudding, to see whether the VO60s can really stand up to the Southern Ocean battering, will soon start to tell as they enter the 60 knot wind, huge sea zone. They have already been giving a good pounding with more than their fair share of upwind work during the previous three legs but as the leading boats are pushed to the limit in the extreme conditions, it will be here, if anywhere that structural failures will occur.


3/2/2002

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