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AUCKLAND, (Reuters) - Volvo Ocean Race organizers on Friday postponed the start of the fifth leg through the Southern Ocean a further 24 hours until Tuesday as Cyclone Pam continued to threaten the New Zealand coast.
The round-the-world event had been forced to delay the anticipated Sunday departure for the six-strong fleet from Auckland until Monday because of the category five cyclone. Cyclone Pam has built up winds of more than 250 kilometers an hour and is, according to one New Zealand meteorologist, the fiercest in the South Pacific for 40 years. Richard Green told local radio station RadioLIVE on Friday: “Cyclone Pam is enormous, it is the most powerful it can be. We have seen nine cyclones of category five in the last 40 years in the South Pacific and this is the strongest.” Race CEO Knut Frostad told a news conference on Friday that he had “no option” but to delay the fleet’s departure for the 6,776-nautical mile leg to Itajai in Brazil. The sailors have unanimously backed that decision. “We know that our boats are strong but we cannot sail in 70 knots of wind (130 kph). This is already something more than a cyclone. I have not seen anything like this in my life,” MAPFRE (Spain) skipper, Iker Martinez, an Olympic gold medalist in Athens 2004, told reporters on Friday. The nine-month race, which is staged over nine legs, covers 38,739nm, and is due to finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. There are nine legs in all and the fifth, which takes the fleet through the treacherous Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn, was already reckoned to be the toughest of all.
Editing by Ed Osmond