From China to New Zealand

Text by Agathe Armand
Change in the wind
Wind shifts
From China to New Zealand Text by Agathe Armand
It takes a dozen paper charts covering two walls to visualise the entire fourth leg, a 5,264-nautical-mile stretch taking the teams all the way from Sanya to Auckland.

That’s 9,800km or 6,000 miles, starting on Sunday, February 8, 24 hours after the Team Vestas Wind In-Port Race.

But it’s not just the distance… it’s going to be rough, too.

“They’re going to be challenged straight away,” comments Anderson Reggio, who provides navigational support to Team Alvimedica.

“It’s quite variable down the coast to get over to the Guan Yin statue. Last race the boats went through a couple of big transition zones, but of course they also had to go to the statue, come back and stop because of the weather forecast,” says Anderson, referring to the postponed start of the leg in the 2011-12 edition.

It won’t be as ferocious this time around, but it will be upwind as the fleet crosses the South China Sea towards the Strait of Luzon.

And “it’s always windy here,” adds Andrew Cape, Team Brunel’s renowned and temperamental navigator.

“You’re lucky if you get away under 30 knots. They’ve got pretty good storms.”

Surely though, the sailors are all looking forward to more lively conditions after two legs sailed in light airs.

“No, wind is horrible,” groans Capey, “especially at the start. It’s straight into bumpy conditions and it doesn’t give people a chance to settle in.”

So it’s going to be a rough first couple of days. The good news is, a pleasantly touristic route across the Pacific Ocean follows with a whole bunch of paradisiacal islands to sail past.

“But you don’t actually see them – you reach past them quickly!” Capey laughs as he describes it.

“There are the Solomon Islands and some more on the way to New Zealand. There aren’t unchartered dangers, but it’s obviously not a regular route. It will be new to most people.”

There will be an Equator crossing, and Doldrums too. And the Australian navigator mentions “an historical route”, remembering passing quite a few of the World War II sites as he sailed the exact same leg in the last edition.

Sailors have packed for 22 days, with an Estimated Time of Arrival around March 1st in Auckland. In fact, they’ve got to pack before tomorrow so that the bags get through Chinese customs on the eve of the start.

“We’re looking forward to getting there,” adds Capey, finally smiling.


Race marks, Leg 4, Sanya – Auckland:
“Once we get out of Sanya, there is the same exclusion line running that the sailors had coming into Sanya – it’s just to keep them out of the Navy zone. Then there is a mark on top of the Philippines, to stop them from going back to the Malacca Strait. Later on there are couple of marks around the Solomon Islands, because we didn’t want them to sail through these islands. And that’s it – next mark is the finish line!” – Jack Lloyd, race director

For more info, check out Mark Chisnell’s preview of Leg 4 for B&G HERE.