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Volume 14, Issue 1 ~ January 5 - 11, 2006

Following the Volvo Ocean Race

Leg 8: Hungry Racing through Pea Soup

by Kat Bennett

In the slowest, most trying leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, racers battled their way through pea-soup fog and across glassy water often with less than 0.5 knots of wind. The same boats that had covered over 500 miles in 24 hours were taking an agonizing five days to sail 800 miles. As food and fuel supplies dwindled, crews strictly rationed their food. Officials did what they could to help by moving the final mark and re-routing the racecourse to avoid major shipping channels.

In one of the fiercest battles so far Brasil 1, ABN AMRO ONE and Ericsson raced like thoroughbreds: First one, then another nosed to the front. The boats shifted position so often that Brasil 1’s crew didn’t know that they had won until they saw the finish line. Three minutes after Brasil 1, ABN AMRO ONE took second with Ericsson third.

After backing down to shake off crab pots, Pirates of the Caribbean sailed into fourth place. Struggling with a sick crew and broken radar, Brunel followed fifth with ABN AMRO TWO last.

Then the race committee announced that Brunel had not finished Leg 8. Thirty miles from the Rotterdam finish, Brunel missed a turning mark. The racers thought that the course had been shortened and that mark eliminated. Brunel chose to retire from Leg 8 and will receive points for the leg as if they had finished last, moving ABN 2 into fifth place.

Thursday, June 15, marks the start of the 500-mile sprint to Goteborg for the final leg. The new test for the navigators will be to follow maritime law in the shipping channels — or pay fines of $20,000 or more. The rules state that boats must cross the separation lanes at right angles; following that rule in the heat of battle may prove difficult.

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