It was ready, set, slow for the restart of leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race as the fleet crept out of a windless Sanya yesterday after a 12-hour delay imposed by race management because of weather concerns.
With gales and waves of 6m to 8m forecast over the early stages of the leg, race organisers decided to delay the start of leg four. The fleet instead set off on a 43-nautical-mile coastal race at the scheduled departure time, which determined their starting order for yesterday's dawn restart.
Already bitterly disappointed with the decision to delay the start, Team New Zealand would have been even more disheartened on Sunday night after finishing fourth in the coastal race, allowing their key rivals overall race leaders Team Telefonica a nine-minute head start in yesterday's resumption.
But the Camper crew made the most of the light and shifty conditions, quickly making up the lost time on the rest of the fleet to build a slim lead early in the race to their home port.
By late last night French team Groupama had edged their bow in front of Camper, and with the fleet still tightly bunched, there is likely to be further movement overnight as the fleet plot their path to the first waypoint at the northern tip of the Philippines 700 miles away.
Despite the calm start the fleet are in for an uncomfortable first few days with a large, difficult sea state stirred up a by a low in the South China Sea expected to batter the boats as they head for the Strait of Luzon.
From there the course will take Camper south past the Philippines and Indonesia, through the Doldrums and the South Pacific Convergence Zone, past Fiji and the east coast of Australia before finally heading for New Zealand and down the eastern coast to finish in Auckland. The estimated arrival date for the first boat after the 5220-nautical-mile leg is March 8.
Camper skipper Chris Nicholson said that despite a tough first fewdays and the huge tactical challenges that the leg presented, the teamwere delighted to be at sea againand heading for Auckland.
"This is a huge leg for us and we all can't wait to get back to Auckland. We're well prepared for this leg, the boat is in good shape and we're ready to go. I think it's clear to everyone that as a team we're incredibly motivated to turn in a good performance."