Team AkzoNobel leads Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Hong Kong on Leg 6

Team AkzoNobel has made a strong start to the sixth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race – a complex 11,000 kilometer open ocean passage from Hong Kong, China to Auckland, New Zealand.

After crossing the start line in second position the international crew of nine team AkzoNobel sailors played the local wind shifts to perfection to quickly take the lead as the six-boat fleet ghosted past the towering skyscraper buildings of Hong Kong’s cityscape in around eight knots of wind.

Despite the benign start to the leg over the next few days the team AkzoNobel sailors will face punishing conditions with strong headwinds forecast to whip up large waves that will make for unpleasant living conditions on board.

“We are expecting to be in for quite a pounding in 30 to 35 knot winds and big seas,” said team AkzoNobel watch captain Chris Nicholson (AUS).

“That will make eating and sleeping difficult and so the priority is to manage the boat and ourselves well so we make sure not to break equipment or bodies in the first few days.”

Image © Thierry Martinez/team AkzoNobel
The teams are expected to head east for several days in close formation before weather conditions moderate and they can make the turn south in north easterly trade winds that will accelerate the fleet towards New Zealand.

Before returning to the southern hemisphere the crews will have to negotiate the notorious light winds of the Doldrums – an area of ocean either side of the equator densely populated with potent thunderstorms and capricious squalls as well as vast expanses of morale sapping flat calms.

On Leg 4 from Melbourne, Australia the Doldrums trapped the Volvo Ocean Race fleet for several days in drifting conditions. According to team AkzoNobel navigator Jules Salter (GBR) the return crossing could well evolve into a similar scenario.

“The weather routing has us crossing further east than on the way up,” Salter observed. “That could make things better or worse depending on what the scenario is when we get there.

“There could be some compression of the fleet again as the leaders get slowed first, giving the back markers a chance to close up. We will be watching closely how the weather develops over the first week to see where we might want to try to make our Doldrums crossing.”

Image © Thierry Martinez/team AkzoNobel
The Volvo Ocean Race fleet is expected to take just under three weeks to complete Leg 6 from Hong Kong to Auckland with the leading boats predicted to arrive on or around February 27.