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VOR fleet face Cape Horn storm

13th March 2009

One month into the longest leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, the PUMA Ocean Racing team are preparing to face heinous conditions over the next four days, as they make their way towards Cape Horn. With 1,700 nautical miles to go until they round the iconic landmark, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet is about to be shaken up again, with the opportunity for place-changing at the front of the fleet. PUMA is currently in third place behind rivals Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4, but are closing the gap between the boats every mile that they sail.

Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America, is fabled for the hazardous conditions commonly encountered by boats rounding it. Where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet, strong winds, large waves, strong currents, freezing temperatures and rough seas combined with the chance of iceberg sightings make its rounding threatening to the most experienced ocean going sailors.

With a huge low pressure system currently building to the west of Chile, PUMA must make some big decisions with regards to their course to Cape Horn. Positioning themselves carefully within this weather system with winds of up to 50 knots could catapult the team towards Cape Horn at great pace, and offer the opportunity to overtake the two Ericsson boats. PUMA are expected to round Cape Horn on Monday or Tuesday of next week.

Skipper Ken Read (USA) commented: “We are in the process of essentially waiting for a low pressure system to come our way so we can jump on and rip to the horn. Sounds bizarre? Well, when you look at a weather map of this place, it is truly ‘Bizzaro World’. Our quickest route by far is to head north east and punch through quite a strong low to get in the westerlies on the back side of it. Just when you thought this leg couldn't get any weirder.”

“There are plenty of weather options coming up here soon. Green Dragon will be the first to jump on this system and come ripping up to us. As we see it, the leg will start all over again with Ericsson 4, Green Dragon and ourselves. Do Ericsson 3, who has worked so hard for a nice little lead, continue south and try to beat this low, or do they come back with us and jump on the train and burn up their hard earned lead? Very interesting. At this point I count nothing out.”

“Last night sucked. Really cold, tons of water, hard reaching – brutal conditions. We’re in a cold, desolate place - a little bit of sunshine would go a long way right now. We talked today about a total lack of marine life out here so far. We’ve seen very few Albatross, and only a handful of small sea birds, with no fish or dolphins to speak of. Thank goodness no whales (they can hurt both whale and boat if they meet unexpectedly). My guess is that even the marine life have figured out that this is a pretty desolate place and there are better places on earth to hang out. It’s strange though as when we passed through a similar latitude leaving Cape Town there were tons of Albatross. None on this side of the Southern Ocean. Only 1,700 miles to the Horn. Hopefully the race will start up again soon.”

Leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race is expected to take 35 – 40 days to complete. The Volvo Ocean Race is made up of ten legs, finishing in June 2009 in St. Petersburg, Russia. By joining the race, PUMA has entered a new premium category and is the only Sportlifestyle company to participate in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. For more information about the race, team and the PUMA Sailing collections, please visit <>

Alongside PUMA’s entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, PUMA has launched a full range of marine clothing and apparel, from offshore sailing gear to onshore lifestyle fashion. The PUMA Sailing Performance collection was developed and tested by the PUMA Ocean Racing team itself, and is worn by the team throughout the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. The PUMA Sailing Lifestyle collection takes inspiration from the sport.

Lucy Harwood of Green Dragon adds:For the crew onboard Green Dragon there are several milestones onboard today, firstly that it is Tom Braidwood’s birthday, second they have passed through the ice gate and are heading for Cape Horn, and finally that today marks one month at sea for the crew. The focus for the top four boats has moved to Cape Horn and the next scoring gate.  Whilst the top three boats have dived south east, the Dragon is once again pushing to the east.  There is a band of low pressure which is circling in the north and they are looking to hook into it and make up some serious miles on the boats ahead.  As Volvo race expert Mark Chisnell said, “Are we now going to see the rule book burned to ash by Green Dragon? Their move doesn’t involve anything as dramatic as Ericsson 3’s tack at the scoring gate, but it could be just as effective, history quickly repeating.  There are dangers though, and they are not all tactical – the Dragon must negotiate an ugly low pressure system to close down Ericsson 3”.

A month at sea also means that the crew will need to start realistically considering supplies onboard as this leg is turning into a 40 plus day event. With testing conditions onboard a shortage of food or snacks will be the last thing that the crew will need for a harmonious time onboard, “The problem now is that everything is typically gone by breakfast and it is a long day with only 2 freeze dried meals and no snacks. Soon I think we will have to divide everything up between 11 of us so there can be no argument about stealing all the snacks/sweets. To be honest I can only see this situation getting worse between now and the finish”. said Ian Walker today.

The strategy over the next few days will be crucial as they approach the Horn, Green Dragon skipper Ian Walker commented this morning, “There is a deep low pressure system that will cut across our path with winds in excess of 50 knots in places. This gives an opportunity to sail over the top of the low pressure as Ericsson 3 did east of New Zealand - the question is do you really want to put yourself in the path of these winds?”. Team

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