The decision by Volvo Ocean Race officials to delay the start of the last leg out of China has come under the spotlight again, with very high winds forecast for Sunday's start of the next leg out of Auckland and into the Southern Ocean.

Winds gusting up to 50 knots are forecast off the Bay of Plenty coast and the fleet will be expecting some of the toughest conditions of the race on the 6705 nautical mile journey around Cape Horn to Brazil.

"That's more breeze than they have seen in the entire race by miles,'' Emirates Team New Zealand chief executive Grant Dalton said.

When asked about how the forecast wind strength compared to the start of the last leg from Sanya to Auckland which was delayed for safety reasons, Dalton replied: "Way more... I'll leave you to work out the inferences there.


"We were against that [decision] and that was based on two things. One, it should be a skipper's decision whether to go to sea or not and, two, that we didn't see what was coming as the issue, it was what was after the weather - by delaying you would push them into light air and you would delay them coming into Auckland and guess what, that's exactly what happened.

"Our view was to let them go and if the skippers wanted to stay for 12 hours, all power to them, it's an around the world race.''

The six boats in the fleet have a tight turnaround of less than a week before the longest leg of the race. Leg winners Groupama arrived in Auckland on Saturday night, with Team NZ boat Camper finishing fourth on Sunday along with the rest of the fleet. If they had departed as scheduled the leading boat would have arrived last Thursday.

"I was pretty disappointed with what happened in China,'' said driver and trimmer Rob Salthouse, who is sailing in his third Volvo Ocean Race. "From a sailor's point of view, I thought it was a poor call really. It's up to us to make a decision from a seamanship point of view.

"It should really be up to a skipper and sailors to make those decisions, not race officers - in this race - not all races should be like that for sure.

"I think there's been enough said after the Sanya delay that they won't delay here.''
Asked about whether the credibility of the race had been compromised by the decision, Salthouse replied: "It's for the public to have that opinion, not me.''

Still, the expected rough conditions will play into Camper's hands. The boat has proven to be robust and reliable, with the worst damage coming in the last leg and consisting of a torn sail.

Camper, in third place overall, needs something out of the ordinary to make up lost ground, acknowledged Dalton.

"They're moving into what looks like pretty rugged weather and the Southern Ocean looks like it's going to live up to everything we've heard about it and actually that's what we want. To make up the points we need to re-shuffle the deck slightly otherwise we're not going to win.''

Telefonica lead the race, with Groupama's victory into Auckland allowing them to leapfrog above Camper on the overall standings.