The final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race starts from Rotterdam today 15/6/06

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet leaves the port of Rotterdam at 1300 today for the final leg – Leg 9 – of the 31,250 mile round the world race.

The short pipe-opener from Rotterdam to Göteborg, Sweden will see the final podium position between Pirates of the Caribbean (Paul Cayard) and Brasil 1 (Torben Grael) decided.

Although Mike Sanderson and team aboard ABN AMRO One have already clinched the overall title see previous news story here the race for second place is going to be exciting with just four points between the Pirates – currently in second – and Brasil 1.

On this final sprint the fleet will take a course across the shipping lanes off Rotterdam before heading on a direct course towards the Skaw – the northernmost tip of Jutland between the Skagerrak and the Kattegat. From here it’s a quick hop across the Kattegat through the myriad of islands which could see the race develop into a tactical conundrum just miles from the finish.

The weather forecast for the final sprint to Sweden shows an improving situation with the previously expected light winds developing into stronger more consistent winds to allow for a moderate upwind start.

According to the VOR weather report a low-pressure area will develop over north-western Europe. At the same time, there will be a high-pressure zone in the North Sea just off the south-west coast of Norway. Fortunately, the predicted position of the high is west of the course and it will be weakening with time, so some wind should remain over the route even as the fleet makes a close encounter with the high later today.

As the fleet heads further north progress along the Danish coast will see the winds gradually decrease, dropping to under 10kts. Around the northern tip of Denmark, winds could become quite light for a time.

By Saturday morning, the boats should be reaching in on their final approach to the finish, and sailing in a gradually building south-westerly wind.

Crew lists for final leg

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

ABN AMRO TWO, Sebastien Josse (FRA) – Skipper, Simon Fisher (GBR) – Navigator, Andrew Lewis (USA), George Peet (USA), Lucas Brun (BRA), Gerd Jan Poortman (NED), Luke Molloy (AUS), Nick Bice (AUS), Scott Beavis (NZL), Simeon Tienpont (NED)

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

Brunel, Matthew Humphries (GBR) – Skipper, William Oxley (AUS) – Navigator, Eduard van Lierde (NED), Gareth Cooke (NZL), Jeffrey Scott (NZL), Mitchell White (AUS), Philip Harmer (AUS), Philip Airey (NZL), Mark Bartlett (GBR)

Ericsson Racing Team, Neal McDonald (GBR) – Skipper, Andrew Cape (AUS) – Navigator, Damien Foxall (IRL), David Rolfe (NZL), Magnus Woxen (SWE), Richard Mason (NZL), Timothy Powell (GBR), Ken Read (USA), Tom McWilliam (IRL), Ian Walker (AUS)

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

In a last minute crew list alteration, Graeme Taylor, Brunel, has pulled out of this leg due to illness. The team will sail with just nine aboard.