VOR: Leg four wrap-up report—Sailing news from the U.S. and beyond

New Zealander Tony Mutter takes PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG home to Auckland, on the final morning of racing, during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand.
You know a design rule has finely evolved when an entire fleet of open-class boats—including a previous-generation design—can finish a 5,220-mile leg within a few days of each other, but leg four of the fully crewed, around-the-world Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) concluded with a Delta of less than twelve hours separating the first Volvo Open 70 home and the last. Groupama 4 proved the fastest team to New Zealand, followed by Puma Ocean Racing’s Mar Mostro and overall race leader Telefonica completing the podium.

'We had to fight for this second-place finish, and we’re very pleased,' said Ken Read, Puma Ocean Racing’s skipper. 'It was a combination of boatspeed, the ability of the boat to handle the conditions, and of course the guys on board. It was a long, miserable leg, but the last 72 hours were the best we’ve sailed the boat. This finish is definitely something for us to build upon.' For Puma, this strong finish in a tough, two-stage leg is an important psychological victory, especially considering that the team started sailing the leg four’s second stage nearly forty minutes astern of Groupama 4, due to their stage-one results. 'From day one of this leg, ever since we sailed into the South China Sea, it's been tough,' said Read. 'I know that's what we signed up for, but man, this was a challenging leg. This result is something we can build on.'

Impressively, Telefonica and Emirates Team New Zealand’s (ENTZ) Camper crossed the finishing line within ninety-four seconds of each other, with the Kiwi boat having to settle for fourth place after a committed battle. 'It was a really close race but we just ran out of runway at the end,' said ENTZ’s skipper, Chris Nicholson. 'It was the toughest leg so far. Now we're really tired and we're just looking forward to being home.'

Leg five of the VOR, a 6,705-mile grudge match that will take the fleet from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil, begins on Sunday, March 18, giving shore teams precious little time to make repairs. Get the full VOR download, including plenty of great image galleries and on-board reports, inside this issue.

Melges 24 fleet - Bacardi Miami Sailing Week - Melges 24

Stateside, Flavio Favini and his crew aboard Blu Moon have won the Melges 24 class of the 2012 Bacardi Miami Sailing Week. 'To put it plainly, we just had a great regatta,' said Favini. 'Day one conditions were beautiful. Fantastic. Yesterday was a tricky day. Today, because of the light air, it was tricky as well, however the conditions made for great sailing too.'

And in the Melges 20 class, Michael Kiss and his Bacio crewmates took first-place honors. 'We were really happy to do well in the heavy breeze earlier in the week and the light air today,' said Kiss. 'Lighter is always trickier, and this fleet is loaded with really good sailors. If you get behind it is so hard to catch up.' Get the full Miami Sailing Week report, including the latest from the talent-laden Star class, inside.

A three-boat photo finish from back in the pack - Harbor Cup Day 2

And in college-sailing news, the weekend’s conversation hovered around the Harbor Cup/Cal Maritime Invitational Intercollegiate Regatta, which was hosted by the Los Angeles Yacht Club and held in San Pedro, California. Here, college sailors from ten different schools spent their weekend fleet racing aboard identically matched Catalina 37s. Check out the post-racing results to learn how different teams adjusted to the rigors of big-boat racing and the communication and teamwork that it demands.

Thunderstorm coming - see the choc top - Performance Sailcraft sponsored Laser Masters World Championship 2012 - Brisbane Australia

And finally, be sure to get the latest news from the Laser World Masters Championships, where Sail-World is providing the coverage, , the Clipper Around the World Race and the Farr 40 USA circuit, inside this issue.

May the four winds blow you safely home,