Gusts of over 60 knots and 25 foot waves expected in Freemantle

Velux 5 Oceans Race Director David Adams announced that the start of Leg 3 was postponed as a result of the severe weather expected to hit Norfolk, Virginia (USA), over the weekend. With less than 48 hours to go before the fleet of skippers were due to set sail for Bilbao and complete their solo circumnavigations, the weather has dealt a blow to race start plans as a powerful low pressure system moves into the Chesapeake north of Norfolk and looks set to deliver intense storm conditions reminiscent of the start of the race in Bilbao.

After the front has hit, the storm is then expected to back off with up to 40 knots of wind on Monday, diminishing to 25 knots late in the day.

Speaking following a briefing with skippers, teams and sponsors, Adams said: ‘It was clearly not an easy decision to postpone the start of the third leg, but we felt it was absolutely necessary in order to guarantee the safety of the skippers and the safety of the local community here in Norfolk. Although the skippers regularly battle big seas and strong winds in the Southern Ocean, we did not want to jeopardize their safety at the outset. The horrendous storm in the Bay of Biscay at the start of the race vividly illustrated what is possible when you underestimate nature and the power of the ocean.”

Commenting on the postponement, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said that the skippers were ‘100% in agreement’ with the official decision, and ‘those who came to watch a start were treated instead to a magnificent reception aboard HMS Ocean, complete with Royal Marine Band which I would travel a few hundred miles to hear and watch.

Sir Robin’s mind is focused on the competition ahead, however. ‘Having lost so much time during the last leg Saga and I have to beat Unai by 42 hours into Bilbao in order to regain 3rd position overall for the race. It’s a tall order, with only 3,500 miles in this last leg, perhaps as much as 15%, and Unai has been sailing his boat faster as the race has developed, but it just might be possible with a bit of luck and gives me something to go for.”

“We have checked SAGA, had the sails checked, set up the new jib and staysail, installed the new Lenova computer, almost sorted the programmes, and are ready to go. The team have done as great job. We have been living out in a house near Virginia Beach, a half hour drive from the Waterside Marina where the boats are berthed. The Marina is in the city where the public can come right down to the boats and they have come down in their hundreds. Supplies have arrived including a generous amount of Old Pulteney whisky, my new sponsor who joined us here, so morale is assured. RKJ”