When the Volvo Ocean Race fleet sets sail from Auckland early next week the crews will set their course for the toughest examination any sailor will experience.
It is the next leg from Auckland to Itajai, Brazil - now set to start on Tuesday because of the impending arrival of tropical cyclone Pam - in which all those stories embedded in yachting folklore of mountainous waves, howling winds and icy seas are based.
It was likely this treacherous Southern Ocean leg the marketing gurus had in mind when they dreamt up the tagline for the Volvo Ocean Race "life at the extreme".
In the 6776 nautical mile leg the sailors will experience extreme wind, extreme waves, extreme temperatures and extreme danger. But it is those very extremes that draw sailors to the challenge of the iconic round the world yacht race.
For Team Alvimedica skipper Charlie Enright, who is competing in his first Volvo Ocean Race, the next leg will be a "rite of passage" for himself and many of his young crew.
"This is the part of the Volvo that you always think about when you think about the Volvo. I don't think you can really call yourself a Volvo sailor with the four lighter air legs that we've done so far. After this, hopefully we can. Cape Horn is certainly a rite of passage, it's something that we're all looking forward to," said Enright, who has brought Kiwi ocean racing legend and three-time winner Stu Bannatyne on board to assist his young crew in the next leg.
"A big reason behind why we do this race is the challenge, it's the adventure. It's a personal proving ground, I think that's what the Southern Ocean represents."
With the personal challenge of sailing in fast, heavy conditions and testing yourself against the elements, Kiwi sailor Daryl Wislang - a pitman and boat captain for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing - said the sights they experience on the journey are something special. It is in the Southern Ocean that the fleet will be accompanied by the albatross, the wandering bird with a wingspan as wide as 3.5m
"Not many people can say they've sailed around Cape Horn. It's a place on earth that unless you're a fisherman or a sailor, you're not going to go," said Wislang.
While other sailors focused on the more romantic elements of Southern Ocean sailing, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker painted a grim picture of what the leg has in store. Walker said the ever present danger encountered in the Southern Ocean adds to the stress of the race.
"There are a lot of responsibilities, a lot of pressure, and those decisions are harder when you're tired. You don't sleep as well, you get less sleep because you've got all this gear on and it takes longer to get undressed and dry and into your bunk."
Walker's team had a particularly tortuous Southern Ocean leg in the 2011/12 edition of the race.
Within hours of the start at Auckland, in winds of up to 40 knots, Abu Dhabi had structural damage to the bow bulkhead and were forced to return to Auckland for repairs.
After setting off again, the boat suffered another serious breakage as they approached the farthermost point from land - a potentially disastrous situation. The team were forced to do make-shift repairs at sea, before motoring to Chile.
"We pretty much destroyed the bottom of the boat and ended up capsizing the boat in the middle of the Southern Ocean and had to drill 30 holes in it to bolt it back together. That was slightly unusual when you have to make a decision like that. And what that does highlight is sometimes the skippers have to make some quite hard decisions," said Walker.
"Last time round we damaged the boat about 100 miles from what they mythically call Point Nemo, which is the furthest point on earth from any land. I remember race organisers contacted the Chilean Coastguard to see if there was anybody that could help us if things deteriorated. The nearest ship was 1000 miles away, which focused the mind a little bit."
Despite the delay to the start of leg five, the New Zealand Herald in-port race will go ahead today as scheduled.
Leg 5: Auckland - Itajai, Brazil
• Notorious Southern Ocean leg
• At 6776 nautical miles it is the longest and most volatile leg, with the fleet expected to encounter near cyclonic conditions, towering waves and icy seas. It's a test of seamanship as the conditions can break both boat and man.
• Rarely has there been a Southern Ocean leg in which the weather conditions have not damaged at least one of the fleet. The 1985/86 race was the first time the entire fleet finished that leg.
• In the 2011/12 edition of the race, only one boat completed the leg without having to stop for repairs.