(Test) Flat and fluky with 89nm to go on Leg 4, VOR

Breakfast in the early morning light below decks on Volvo Open 70 Ericsson Leg 4 to Rio ©Magnus Woxén
After the severe weather they received rounding Cape Horn the teams on the Volvo Ocean Race welcomed the warm waters and lighter breezes on the route north to the finish. But after nearly a week of these conditions and only 89 nautical miles to go for the leader ABN AMRO ONE (Mike Sanderson), everyone is getting very tired of the slow boat speeds and feel the need to get into the party city.

The yachts have been tacking with vigour throughout the past days trying to get every last ounce of speed out of their high performance yachts which are not best suited for light upwind conditions. Throwing all their kit from one side to the other and even letting sails sleep in their bunks instead of their tired bodies on ABN AMRO TWO (Sebastien Josse).

Simon Fisher had this to say in the anxious hours ahead, ‘It is all go here on ABN AMRO TWO. With Brasil 1 (Torben Grael) just next to us the race is on for the finish. It has been tough for us today as they have been a tiny bit faster and it is hard to imagine anyone more driven towards a podium finish in his home town than Torben Grael. However we are putting up a fight, anything we can do to squeeze and extra fraction of a knot out the boat has been done. People have given up their bunks for sails in an effort to increase righting moment, extra halyards have gone up the mast to reduce windage and weight aloft. Small things yes, but if it makes a difference then we have done it. No matter where we finish, I want to be able to say we did everything we could.’

Despite all the young guys’ hard work, the Brazilian passion surpassed them yesterday just before 2200 GMT when Brasil 1 over took them moving into third place, but the battle is far from over with currently 12 nautical miles separating them. Knut Frostad one of the token Brazilians onboard expressed the nature of racing that still lies ahead.

All ship shape on deck on Volvo Open 70 ABN AMRO TWO as she sails slowly through the South Atlantic Leg 4 ©Lucas Brun
‘It's a very intense atmosphere onboard Brasil 1 right now. Lot's of times I have been asked; ‘what is the worst about this race?’ They expect to hear about the cold storms in the south. But no, the worst is simply no wind. Less wind gives you less options, and higher probability that the competitors have more of it. We have about 250 nm to go now. In our world that's normally achievable in less than a day, but as the wind is slowly dropping and right now on the nose, Rio seems close but still so far away.

‘Last night we entered into a tight battle with ABN AMRO TWO, slowly catching them up from behind and in the end positioning ourselves to weather in a controlling position. This was the first time we have seen any boat with our own eyes since the day after the start in Wellington. We might look close on Virtual Spectator at times, but really it's impossible to se a VO70 from any further distance than nine nautical miles. For sure, being close to someone sparks some extra energy onboard. Tacks and re-stacking goes faster than normal. All kinds of devices, such as night vision binoculars, radar and hand bearing compasses, are up and running to make sure we know their moves at any time.

‘As all predictions show very light and variable winds from now on, until a stronger south easterly fills in from behind, it really feels like walking on very thin ice. We know for sure that whoever is behind, has a good chance of catching up, and we know that failing to judge any rain cloud around us right, could cost us a lot of miles.

‘Still some food left onboard, and although we wish the finishing miles where much faster, we have to admit that a really slow finish creates some opportunities we want and need. So, Rio will have to wait for us a little more. Right now we should be finishing tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon, and what's better than finishing in Rio on a Saturday?’

ABN AMRO ONE still leads with a confident 113 nautical miles separation from second place Pirates of the Caribbean (Paul Cayard) but the nail-biting will continue through till the end, even for Ericsson Racing Team (Neal McDonald) bringing up the rear of the finishing pack only 39 nautical miles behind fourth place.

The fleet will have to sail into Guanabara Bay to finally reach the finish line of leg four just outside Marina da Gloria. The Guanabara Bay is known for it’s zephyrs and wind holes which has stopped more than a few yachts in their tracks to victory and this finish will certainly not be any different. As the hours count down we can only wait with baited breathe to see what the final outcome will be.

1ABN124 20.57S043 34.56W0008908.522009.200000+000003.57.010.511/03/06 02:23:3549.01
2POTC26 06.22S044 20.08W0020206.217207.200113-0001936.09.011/03/06 15:42:2230.53
3BRA126 16.69S044 38.61W0021808.419608.200129-000102.55.07.511/03/06 17:33:0527.55
4ABN226 25.77S044 48.54W0023007.818607.700141-0001524.06.011/03/06 18:56:4134.02
5ERIC27 04.76S044 57.68W0026909.619508.100180+000061.53.04.511/03/06 23:32:4221.06
6MOVI41 48.12S050 20.28W0118913.934114.201100+0003312.03.015/03/06 09:11:4828.04
ABN1              ABN AMRO ONEABN2              ABN AMRO TWOBRA1              Brasil 1ERIC               Ericsson Racing TeamMOVI              movistar POTC             Pirates of the CaribbeanDTF: distance to finish, SMG: Speed made good, DTL: distance to leader, DTLC: distance to leader change; the difference between the distance from the boat to the leader taken at the time of the last six hour poll, and the distance from the boat to the leader at the previous poll SGPTS:          points scored at scoring gates on this leg to datePLPTS:          projected leg points PTLPTS:        projected total leg points including actual points from scoring gates POP:              projected overall points including actual points from scoring gatesOVERALL:     projected position in race overall if yacht maintains current position