A look at what’s in store for VOR crews as they prepare for the fourth leg which starts on Sunday

With just two days to go before the start of the fourth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, crews are carrying out final preparations for what could be one of the toughest legs of the race.

Auckland to Rio de Janeiro round Cape Horn will undoubtedly throw out some extreme conditions that will see crews pushed to the limit once again. Apart from the first leg from Southampton to Cape Town which was relatively tame by comparison, crews have already had to contend testing conditions which has led to illness and injuries.

Jason Carrington, the British bowman aboard Assa Abloy suffered a urine infection during leg three, and although it was hoped that he’d be fit and well again for the next leg, the three weeks stopover was just not enough for a full recovery. And with just two days to go before the start, he’s on his way back to the UK for further treatment. Like other crew members who’ve suffered similar problems, Carrington’s illness was brought on by dehydration which highlights the fact that regular fluid intake is one of the most important things for crews to consider while battling with the harsh Southern Ocean environment.

Throughout the stopover period in Auckland there has been plenty of activity including mass crew changes (see list below). The all-girls crew aboard Amer Sports Too have two new crew including British sailors Emma Richards who’ll act as helmsman and trimmer and Miranda Merron who will take over the navigator role from Genevieve White. One of the biggest surprises was the announcement of Paul Cayard joining Grant Dalton’s Amer Sports One team for the fourth leg replacing tactician Dee Smith who had to return to US for surgery on his shoulder. Cayard, who was recently sidelined from the Oracle America’s Cup campaign, is looking forward to getting involved with the round the world race once again. But it will be interesting to see how he copes with being the afterguard rather than the figurehead aboard one of the fastest boats in the fleet, not to mention taking orders from Dalton, someone he’s used to competing against rather than with.

Friction on board Team SEB got the better of Matt Humphries who quit from the team almost immediately after arriving in Auckland. Humphries who was one of the watch captains, had been with the team since the outset but strong differences in opinions with Gunnar Krantz, the skipper, forced him to resign. While Humphries has yet to be snapped up, Team SEB has now filled the three gaps on the boat with New Zealander David Rolfe who temporarily left the crew in Sydney, Anthony Merrington from Australia, and Frenchman Pascal Bidegorry who, with his vast ocean race experience including last year’s Figaro race, will be a great asset to an already strong crew.

So far the VO60s have, despite several rudder problems and a couple of failed hatch covers which has caused flooding in the forward bulkhead, stood up to the Southern Ocean and Tasman Sea battering. But for how much longer? More upwind work than expected may have stretched boats and crews beyond expectations. Furthermore, as the racing hots up between the leaders, there will be more and more risks taken and the chances of serious damage will be increased. As well as the inevitable hurricane-force winds and mountainous seas, crews will have to cope with the increased risk of icebergs as they approach Cape Horn and head towards Antarctica.