Iceberg forces detour in 5th leg of Volvo Ocean Race

March 22, 2015

ALICANTE, Spain (AP) Volvo Ocean Race crews are speeding through the Southern Ocean toward Cape Horn in the fifth leg Sunday after organizers guided them clear of a 1-kilometre (0.6-mile) wide iceberg that was blocking their path.

The massive iceberg was spotted on the Race HQ satellite screens at the end of last week and has led to a hasty change in the positioning of ice gates in the toughest of all nine stages in the nine-month offshore marathon.

The ice limits will force the boats to sail clear of the iceberg's passage in the Southern Ocean. Crews will be penalized if they sail over these boundaries toward hazardous areas.

The iceberg itself is not the major hazard. Growlers - or chunks of ice that have broken off it - are a more potent threat as they can be unseen by the crews until the last minute.

The fleet had already been delayed three days in the previous port of Auckland, New Zealand, to avoid the worst of Cyclone Pam, which has claimed at least 16 lives in the South Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu.

The six boats nevertheless made the most of high winds on the tail of the cyclone after setting off last Wednesday, and made quicker progress through the South Pacific than anticipated.

Organizers to bring forward the expected time of arrival in leg five's destination port of Itajai, Brazil, to April 4 from April 7.

Meanwhile, one of the sailors, Swede Martin Stromberg of Dongfeng Race Team, has told how he narrowly avoided losing several fingers of his right hand when he trapped it in a winch block on Saturday.

''I could easily have lost a few fingers,'' he wrote in his regular blog from the boat. ''My hand went into the block and was stuck for a while by the rope until I got help.

''I thought I would lose some fingers, but I was lucky with some flesh wounds and blue fingers. It will hurt for the rest of the leg.''

Team Brunel of the Netherlands currently lead the leg from Turkish-U.S. entry Team Alvimedica, with overall race leaders, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Team SCA of Sweden, Spain's MAPFRE and the Dongfeng Race Team of China closely bunched behind them.

In all, the boats will cover 38,739 nautical miles (71,745 kilometers, 44,642 miles), visit 11 ports and every continent. The nine-month event, held every three years, concludes on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden.