A powerful cyclone in the Pacific has forced organisers to delay the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race through the Southern Ocean for a further 24 hours until Tuesday.
The start had already been postponed from tomorrow to Monday over safety fears, but with Cyclone Pam continuing to menace the New Zealand coast with winds of more than 250 kilometres an hour in the last 24 hours, a second delay became inevitable.
Cyclone Pam is, according to one New Zealand meteorologist, the fiercest in the South Pacific for 40 years.
Richard Green told local radio station RadioLIVE yesterday: “Cyclone Pam is enormous, it is the most powerful it can be.
“We have seen nine cyclones of Category 5 in the last 40 years in the South Pacific, and this is the strongest.”
Knut Frostad, the chief executive of the Volvo Ocean Race, said he had “no option” but to delay the fleet’s departure for the 6,776-nautical mile leg to Itajaí in Brazil.
The sailors have unanimously backed that decision.
“We know that our boats are strong, but we cannot sail in 70-knot winds [130 kph]. This is already something more than a cyclone. I have not seen anything like this in my life,” Mapfre skipper Iker Martinez said.
Officials have also started dismantling part of the specially-built race village in Auckland to avoid damage, although Saturday’s in-port race was due to take place as planned.
Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante has warned of winds of up to 60 knots tomorrow night to Monday morning.
The Emirati picked up a stomach bug last month, two nights before the start of the fourth leg from Sanya, China.
That forced Khalid to withdraw and he returned to the UAE, where he had been recovering and regaining his strength in a bid to be fit to make his return to action in this leg.
However, race doctors have ruled that he is still not fully recovered enough to be able to sail and his place on Azzam will be taken by Antiguan sailor Louis Sinclair.
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