Volvo Ocean Race Auckland Stopover: Up close and personal!

Team Telefonica, skippered by Iker Martinez from Spain in the Sanya Haitang Bay In-Port Race, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.

Spectators will have a great close-up view of the world's fastest monohulls in action as the Volvo Open 70s race in Waitemata Harbour during the Auckland Stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Organisers announced the courses today for the Pro-Am Races on Friday 16 March, the In-Port Race on Saturday 17 March and the Departure and Start of Leg 5 on Sunday 18 March.

The Pro-Am course is a loop close to the shore with the yachts turning just before the Harbour Bridge. The In-Port Race, for all-important Race points, is longer - taking the fleet out past North Head and racing under the Harbour Bridge. When the fleet departs on Sunday 18 March, the action begins with a loop course in the Waitemata Harbour before the fleet races up the coast to start the long haul of Leg 5 to the next Stopover in Itajai, Brazil.

'We learned from the 08/09 Volvo Ocean Race that we needed to bring as much racing close to the shore-based public as we possibly can,' says Volvo Ocean Race Director Jack Lloyd. 'We knew that Auckland Harbour would deliver on this criteria.'

Lloyd is looking forward to the Race returning to Auckland after ten years away. 'If you have been here, you want to come back, and if you haven't, then you have always wanted to,' he said.

'The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron has designed a fantastic series of courses for the event,' said Jennah Wootten, Manager Major Events, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development. 'There are great viewing points for the public not just in the Viaduct and Princes Wharf but also on North Head, Orakei and Birkenhead.'