Tension mounts on final lightwind stretch to Leg 4 finish in Rio 8/3/06

Overnight the Volvo Ocean Race fleet has been floundering in pockets of little or no wind. The five yachts first started snaking around to the north-west as they hit the wall of no wind, before gybing back to the west, as what little wind there was had changed direction. For one painful moment, there was only one knot of wind speed.

ABN AMRO ONE (Mike Sanderson) is now 63 nautical miles ahead of Pirates of the Caribbean and will face light winds for the next 14 hours or so before benefiting first from any significant breeze. Based on her current speed of 9.4 knots, the finish is predicted around 1700 GMT on Friday 10 March, but there are still 576 nautical miles to cover in fickle and unstable winds.

Ericsson Racing Team (Neal McDonald) is facing the possibility of finishing this leg in last place and onboard the stress is mounting. “We are at the back of the fleet and desperate to make gains; the anxiety of sitting here [in the nav station] for hours at a time in little or no wind, almost praying for breeze, is enough to stop you eating and sleeping, but yet, at this very moment, if you could transport me to my living room, hand me a cold beer and stick a decent English comedy on television, it would still be a hard decision to leave.”

Ericsson Racing Team is the only boat which has made any inroads into the lead during the last six hours. Although they have only gained a mile, this small gain will help bolster the flagging spirits onboard.

Movistar (Bouwe Bekking) has now left the Falkland Islands behind and continues on a northerly course towards Rio de Janeiro. They are currently enjoying slighter stronger winds that the rest of the fleet as they are positioned over 1,000 miles to the south.