Team Sanya passes the Members’ Stand - 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race Leg 5 Start - Auckland, March 18, 2012
Team Sanya, skippered by local hero and former Volvo Ocean race winner, Mike Sanderson, had another magic moment in Auckland as she led the six strong fleet in the opening stanzas of the 6700nm fifth leg to Brazil.
After yesterday's glorious St Patrick's Day In Port race, where Sanderson and the Sanya crew were able to get amongst the more fancied competitors, and sneak a place, the former Rolex Sailor of the Year, would have been positively fizzing, after getting his approach just right at the start, and was able to avoid tacking into the flood tide as soon as the other competitors.
It was harbour racing text book stuff for the local skipper, and he put a long tack up the harbour's southern shore before having to stand out into the Waitemata.
That was enough to give Sanya a jump of his rivals who were left to cross tacks behind, and then watch the Chinese sponsored entry's transom as they rounded the first mark at the entrance to the Waitemata, before heading down toward the start line again to complete the opening lap of the harbour.
Once again the Waitemata was crammed with spectators on both shores, snatching every available vantage-point.
On the water it was the traditional Auckland send off for a Round the World fleet, with inclement conditions deterring many of the smaller family boats that usually make up the fleet.
Auckland turned on a grey, low cloud day, coupled with a building easterly breeze which gusted into the mid-20kts mark.
Behind Sanya, Ian Walker's Abu Dhabi was having one of her better days, holding second place despite a snafu at the end of the first lap when she had to turn in a semi-circle to clear what appeared to be a sail problem. However she was able to recover and chased Sanya back to the third turning mark in the Rangitoto Channel.a halyard problem.
Emirates Team NZ's Camper, overall race leader Telefonica and Puma Ocean Racing all swapped places in the middle of the fleet with Franck Cammas in Groupama, who led the fleet into Auckland, ironically trailed the fleet out of the Waitemata, as they headed towards the final turning mark off the East Coast Bays.
The spectator fleet began to thin noticeably in the face of a rough ride into a building sea and breeze, which was expected to hit over 30kts as the fleet exited the Hauraki Gulf on the way to Cape Horn, which they should reach in about 12 days time.