Veteran Kiwi sailor Stu Bannatyne, one of the Volvo Ocean Race's most experienced and toughest competitors, will join Team Alvimedica for the next leg of the event - the gruelling Southern Ocean trek.
He has been helping the young crew in a mentoring role, sailing the transatlantic training leg with them before the race kicked off last October. Since then he has been a sounding board for skipper Charlie Enright at each stopover, sharing the wisdom from six previous Volvo campaigns.
But with crew needing all the know-how they can muster for the 6776-nautical-mile journey from Auckland to Brazil - the longest and most challenging stage of the nine-month race - the team opted to bring Bannatyne on board.
He was busy with other ocean racing commitments around the world over the first four legs, but said "the stars aligned" to allow him to link up with Team Alvimedica for the Southern Ocean leg.
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"I haven't been able to do any of the legs up until now, but this one fits in nicely and it would be my first choice of a leg to do," said Bannatyne, who takes over from bowman/trimmer Seb Marsset of France.
While he has been occupied with other events, Bannatyne said he had been following the race closely and was impressed with Team Alvimedica's progress so far given their lack of experience. The team, which includes Kiwis Dave Swete and Ryan Houston, are sitting fourth in the race standings, with a third-place finish on leg three from Abu Dhabi to Sanya their best result to date.
"They've put in a great effort so far and hopefully I can help them get over that next hurdle and make podiums a regular occurrence," said Bannatyne.
Enright said that with memories still fresh from the last edition in 2011-12, when the fleet was ravaged by breakages with mountainous 15-metre waves causing havoc, Bannatyne's experience would be vital on the leg ahead.
"The leg that we are about to embark on is like nothing we have seen in this race so far," he said. "With most of our crew never having sailed in the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn, we will benefit from Stu's knowledge and driving skills on this challenging leg."
Early forecasts suggest the fleet have a tough exit from Auckland in store for them on Sunday, with a tropical storm rolling in from the north set to bring winds of 40-50 knots.
Team Alvimedica race crew for Leg 5: Stu Bannatyne, 43, (NZL); Alberto Bolzan, 32, (ITA); Nick Dana, 28, (USA); Charlie Enright, 30, (USA); Ryan Houston, 32, (NZL); Will Oxley, 49, (AUS); Dave Swete, 30, (NZL); Mark Towill, 26, (USA); and onboard reporter Amory Ross, 30, (USA)