Light winds for Leg 8 start off Portsmouth 2/6/06

The six remaining VO70s started the eighth and penultimate leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Portsmouth to Rotterdam on Friday afternoon in light winds.

Almost 1,000 spectator boats and huge shore crowds, were out to see the Solent action in bright sunshine. On the dockside, there were a few worried faces due to the lack of gradient wind; only a light sea-breeze was expected to help the boats on their way. With the wind likely to die off in the evening, and the tide turning against them, some of the boats might even have to kedge off the Needles if they don’t make it into the Channel tonight.

At 1600 hours, following the blessing of the fleet, the boats sailed out of Gunwharf Quays. Each carried a white wreath in remembrance of Hans Horrevoets, the ABN AMRO 2 crew-member who died during the last leg.

The start-line was positioned just off Southsea Castle, east of Portsmouth Harbour, which was closed to shipping for the time that it took the fleet to get away from the busy commercial channel. ABN 2 won the start, which was an asymmetric spinnaker reach. They led from their sister-ship ABN 1, followed by Pirates, but a fast diminishing 10knot sea-breeze, shifting from the south-east to south-west, saw ABN 1 fall off the pace. Brasil and Pirates, two of the lighter Farr designed boats, led towards the non-scoring gate positioned just off Cowes and the spectators on the island shore.

The fleet continued westwards through the Solent towards the Needles, from where they will filter into the English Channel en route for Land’s End, the Scillies and the Fastnet rock.

Once they turn the south-west corner of Ireland, crews are hoping for heavier winds and reaching conditions as they sail northwards up the coast and up and round the Orkney islands. They are currently expected to arrive in Rotterdam sometime on Thursday 8 June.