Following latest information on the development of Cyclone Pam, Race organisers have announced that Leg 5 from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajaí, Brazil, will now start on Wednesday, 18 March at 09:00 NZDT (Tuesday 17 March, 20:00 UTC.
“We see a significant change between leaving Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning in easier conditions, and this was also the preference of the majority of the teams,” commented Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad, coming straight out of a meeting with the six teams’ skippers, navigators and weather experts in Auckland.
The fleet is now leaving on Wednesday instead of last Sunday as initially planned.
“The cyclone is still a very severe system near New Zealand. Most of the routes on this leg take you very close to that cyclone for a substantially long period of time.
“Now that we have started delaying because of the cyclone, it’s always a matter of when do you leave, when do you feel that it’s far enough away? What we see is that the system is big, it’s not moved very far, and leaving on Tuesday they’d very quickly be into 40 knots and a very big sea state.”
“There’s probably not many people who have sailed very close to a cyclone,” commented Team SCA’s navigator Libby Greenhalgh. The winner of The New Zealand Herald In-Port Race Auckland on Saturday agrees with this decision.
“On Tuesday, we would be in 35 to 40 knots for between five and seven days, whereas Wednesday that’s not the case. We still end up catching it up but the storm has started to decay. It’s probably going to be significantly different even though that’s difficult to estimate and easy to underestimate as well.
“It’s not been easy for Volvo Ocean Race to decide but they’ve listened and everyone has had their opportunityto put forward what they feel, and I think they’ve taken a reasonable stab at it. For us we’re happy, we’re pleased.”
“We had a discussion about whether we should start on Tuesday or Wednesday morning,” said Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s skipper Ian Walker.
“Four of the six teams very strongly felt that we should leave on Wednesday, so the organisers decided that we should leave at 09:00 Wednesday morning.”
Now less than 48 hours to the start of this 6,776-nautical mile stage across the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn, Frostad also put things into perspective, reminding the fleet of the actual impact of Tropical Cyclone Pam in the Pacific region.
“This is a cyclone which has killed many people, and created a total disaster in some amazing islands that we just raced through north of New Zealand.
“It’s not just a weather system, we’re talking about a natural disaster. For me, as a race organiser, I would never even consider starting in that cyclone.
“We know that the system is still out there. We have enough wind readings to know that it’s still strong. There are times when you just simply have to wave the safety flag.”
Estimated Time of Arrival in Brazil:
The initial range of ETAs in Itajaí was from April 1 - 5, 2015. However, this is now likely to be delayed and at this stage there are still too many uncertainties in the forecast to establish a clearer range. More information soon.
*Photo credits: Volvo Ocean Race/Ainhoa Sanchez