Pirates of the Caribbean takes initial lead off Melbourne for VOR Leg 3 start 12/2/06

Thousands of Melburnians lined the dockside at Waterfront City, Docklands, this morning to wave goodbye to the Volvo Ocean Race fleet as they head off on Leg Three to Wellington, before heading on to Rio de Janeiro.

It was an emotional farewell on the dock as friends and family kissed goodbye to loved ones before the fleet was blessed my Chaplin Graeme Disney. The blessing finished with the singing of the national anthem.

The six boats in the Volvo Ocean Race headed out one by one to blaring team music as they ducked under the Bolte Bridge for the final time.

A spectacular fly-by was performed by the RAAF Roulettes and shortly after the start gun was fired by the Minister for Tourism, John Pandazopoulos, from the historic tall ship ‘Enterprize’.

The Spanish entry movistar, skippered by Bouwe Bekking (NED) was the first boat to hoist a spinnaker in the 10-12 northerly winds and take an early lead followed by Paul Cayard’s (USA) Pirates of the Caribbean and five times Olympic medallist Torben Grael (BRA) skippering Brasil 1.

It was a game of cat and mouse as the boats headed down, under spinnaker, to the first mark off Mornington. Pirates of the Caribbean was the first to pick up a gust of wind and shot away doing 20 knots from the fleet, closely followed by Brasil 1, Neal McDonald’s (GBR) Ericsson and overall leader ABN AMRO ONE skippered by New Zealander Mike Sanderson.

As the boats progressed down Port Phillip Bay the wind started to drop 10 knots and the fleet bunched up, spreading out into one long line across the bay. The Farr-designed Volvo Open 70s showed good form in the light airs, pulling away from the broader Juan Kouyoumdjian designed ABN AMRO boats.

In the lighter airs, Brasil 1 managed to put her nose out front, commanding a small lead over Ericsson, movistar and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Within two hours of the start, the fleet completely slowed up and at the moment it is anyone’s guess who will come out on top at the Mornington mark which is approximately eight nautical miles away.

Once the boats manage to get through Port Phillip Heads they will encounter descent winds which will help them on their 1,450 nautical mile journey to New Zealand.

Glenn Bourke, Chief Executive of the Volvo Ocean Race commented: “The gods have smiled on Melbourne today. In return for the wonderful job that they have done throughout the stopover, the sun was shining and there was a beautiful offshore breeze. The fleet charged off the start line with their spinnakers up, as up to a thousand spectator boats flanked these racing machines down Port Phillip Bay towards the Heads and on to Wellington.”

Current Overall Leaderboard

1. TEAM ABN AMRO ONE, Mike Sanderson (NZL) 32.5 pts

2. TEAM ABN AMRO TWO, Sebastien Josse (FRA) 25 pts

3. Movistar, Bouwe Bekking (NED) 18 pts

4. Pirates of the Caribbean, Paul Cayard (USA) 16.5 pts

5. Brasil 1, Torben Grael (BRA) 16 pts

6. Ericsson Racing Team, Neal McDonald (GBR) 14.5 pts