Leg 5 of the VOR starts from Rio de Janeiro tomorrow 1/4/06

Competitors in the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-06 are ready to set sail on Sunday when the next stage of the race gets underway. Leg five will see the competitors sail 5,000 nautical miles through the Atlantic Ocean to Baltimore, Maryland.

This leg promises to be a hard fought battle as the skippers and navigators face some difficult decisions due to the complicated currents and often fickle winds of the Western Atlantic.

The teams are likely to approach the leg in three sections; Rio to the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha where they can pick up some vital bonus points, the scoring gate to the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay, and finally the last 100 plus miles up the Chesapeake to Baltimore where the leg points await.

Throughout the leg there will be some tough decisions to be made, as Assistant Race Meteorologist Jennifer Lilly explains: “Once passed Cabo Frio each team will have to choose whether they want to continue north along the coast, risking fickle winds to gain the advantage of less current and daily thermal winds off the land, or whether they want to head farther offshore risking stronger counter currents to have a more stable breeze.”

There will be no respite even into the last 100 miles of the leg. “The last section of this leg will be quite different from anything along the course so far. Past Virginia Beach and Norfolk the fleet will enter Chesapeake Bay, a narrow shallow opening, with tricky winds and an obstacle course of crab pots, fish traps, commercial shipping, naval warships and recreational traffic,” explained Lilly.

In previous races the leg has been won or lost in the final approach to Baltimore as race veteran and Ericsson skipper John Kostecki (USA) explains: “The Chesapeake provides a lot of challenges – there are large shoals, lobster pots, current and possible variable winds due to land on both sides. The three or four times that I have sailed up there I have struggled with the challenges of the Chesapeake.”

Pirates of the Caribbean skipper Paul Cayard also remembers some testing times in the Chesapeake: “We will have to see what happens as we approach the US in terms of fronts and then anything could happen into the Chesapeake. Based on experience, there will be a lot of re-shuffling and we could see boats parked up. It should be very exciting for the spectators as it really could come down to the wire.”

After a victorious in-port race in Rio, ABN AMRO ONE has pulled out a 16-point lead over their sister-ship ABN AMRO TWO at the half-way stage in the race. Skipper Mike Sanderson hopes the next leg will go their way too: “I am expecting the next leg to be good for us. The boat was designed for moderate airs reaching and therefore this should be a good leg for us. Hopefully we can start to see a little edge over the fleet.”

With just eight points separating second place from fifth, there will be an intense battle for the podium places.

The Spanish entry movistar is just half a point behind third-placed Pirates of the Caribbean. Bouwe Bekking and his team have had a tough time but believe that their troubles are now behind them as Bekking explains: “I am confident that we have the right sails and a good team. We are aiming for a podium position and with second to sixth place very close, we are looking forward to the competition.

“A lot on this leg comes down to technique and concentration. The physically strongest crew will come out on top and I think that is one of the strong points we have for this leg. Our prime goal is to beat Pirates and ABN AMRO TWO. Of course winning is the first goal but we have to look to the overall and if we do that we are in good shape.”

Due to the hot conditions that the teams will experience, hygiene will also be an important factor on this leg as Kostecki explains: “This leg can be very hot and sticky and at times unbearable. When I sailed this leg eight years ago many of the crew had skin problems and I got infections in my legs. You have to be very careful with hygiene and make sure you stay healthy.”

The race gets underway at 1310 (local) on Sunday 2 April and the boats are expected to arrive into Baltimore between the 17-19 April.

Current Leaderboard

1st ABN AMRO ONE, Mike Sanderson (NZL) 52.5 pts
2nd ABN AMRO TWO, Sebastien Josse (FRA) 36.5 pts
3rd Pirates of the Caribbean, Paul Cayard (USA) 31.5 pts
4th Movistar, Bouwe Bekking (NED) 31.0 pts
5th Brasil 1, Torben Grael (BRA) 28.5 pts
6th Ericsson Racing Team, John Kostecki (USA) 23.5 pts

Crew Lists – Leg 5

Mike Sanderson (NZ) – Skipper
Stan Honey (USA) – Navigator
Brad Jackson (NZ)
Mark Christensen (NZ)
Tony Mutter (NZ)
Sidney Gavignet (FRA)
David Endean (NZ)
Jan Dekker (RSA)
Robert Greenhalgh (GBR)
Justin Slattery (IRL)

Sebastien Josse (FRA) – Skipper
Simon Fisher (GBR) – Navigator
Andrew Lewis (USA)
George Peet (USA)
Lucas Brun (BRA)
Hans Horrevoets (NED)
Luke Molloy (AUS)
Yves Leblevec (FRA)
Scott Beavis (NZ)
Simeon Tienpont (NED)

Brasil 1
Torben Grael (BRA) – Skipper
Marcel van Triest (NED) – Navigator
André Fonseca (BRA)
Andy Meiklejohn (NZ)
Henrique Pellicano (BRA)
João Signorini (BRA)
Horacio Carabelli (BRA)
Roberto Bermudez (ESP)
Stuart Wilson (NZ)
Marcelo Ferreira (BRA)

Ericsson Racing Team
John Kostecki (USA) – Skipper
Steve Hayles (GBR) – Navigator
Neal McDonald (GBR)
Damien Foxall (IRL)
David Rolfe (NZ)
Guillermo Altadill (ESP)
Magnus Woxen (SWE)
Richard Mason (NZ)
Ross Halcrow (NZ)
Timothy Powell (GBR)

Bouwe Bekking (NED) – Skipper
Andrew Cape (AUS) – Navigator
Chris Nicholson (AUS)
Jonathan Swain (USA)
Mike Joubert (RSA)
Mike Howard (USA)
Pepe Ribes (ESP)
Peter Doriean (AUS)
Stu Bannatyne (NZ)
Fernando Echavarri (ESP)

Pirates of the Caribbean
Paul Cayard (USA) – Skipper
Jules Salter (GBR) – Navigator
Craig Satterthwaite (NZ)
Jerry Kirby (USA)
Erle Williams (NZ)
Anthony Merrington (AUS)
Justin Clougher (AUS)
Justin Ferris (NZ)
Ian Budgen (GBR)
Dirk de Ridder (NED)