'Brutal' conditions test Auckland-bound Volvo crews


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The Independent Online

Sea sickness and waves as high as five metres are making life difficult for all six teams in the early stages of leg four of the Volvo round the world race from Sanya, China, to Auckland, New Zealand.

Conditions have been described as "brutal" as crews struggle to throttle back their Volvo Open 70s to avoid teeth-rattling crash landings off the backs of big waves left over from several days of gale force winds.

A drifting start in the wind shadow of Sanya's towering mountains belied the testing weather the crews found themselves in just hours later, after the wind and sea state quickly turned to nasty with 5,220 miles to the finish.

Drama, too, at the start of the fourth Royal Ocean Race Club's Caribbean 600. Low cloud enveloped Antigua and a vicious squall caused a torrential downpour. With the wind gusting up to 20 knots, crews were scrambling for wet weather gear. Once the squall had passed, bright sunshine lit up the race course.

There are 39 boats in nine classes with the fight for line honours expected to go to the defending 90-foot Rambler, entered by the American George David, but a strong challenge for the overall winner’s trophy is being brought by the British-based Niklas Zennstrom in his 72-foot Rán.