Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race set off after a spectacularly successful Itajaí stopover on Sunday, but an almost total lack of breeze ensured the fleet had more than enough time to wave their farewells.
Just as Saturday’s Team Vestas Wind Itajaí In-Port Race was won almost in slow motion by Team Brunel, so the departure to Newport, Rhode Island, was conducted as if the fleet were sailing through treacle.
Overall Race leaders, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, found themselves on the wrong side of the start line when the gun signaled the start of the 5,010-nautical mile (nm).
Skipper Ian Walker was forced to do an about-turn, very slowly because of the complete absence of wind, before finally getting their journey to North America underway.
There was some consolation for the Briton and his crew, though – the rest of the fleet was virtually parked up stationary.
After approaching almost an hour of drifting, the Race Committee decided to shorten the in-port section of the course and the fleet were cleared to sail out into the open seas from the first mark.
Team Alvimedica, so determined to win this leg into their home port, were first away with MAPFRE on their heels followed by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Team SCA, Dongfeng Race Team and Team Brunel in that order.
Once they escape the immediate shortage of breeze in almost Doldrums conditions, the fleet should find appreciably more wind up the Brazilian coast through the Atlantic.
The leg is unlikely to match the previous stage’s treacherous conditions through the Southern Ocean and south Atlantic, but there are still plenty of challenges to test the fleet to the full.
“We might all end up parked up, and there’s one perfect spot,” says Team Alvimedica navigator Will Oxley. “But you’ve got to find that perfect spot. There’ll be quite a big rubber band effect.”