This VOR leg to Qingdao promises to be very different from any Volvo leg to date and could prove to be a bigger threat than the traditional Southern Ocean stuff. The biggest problem is that a lot of it will be an upwind slog and round the world racing boats are usually designed for downwind conditions.

If the leg started off with the boats reaching, it didn’t last long, as new Ericsson 3 skipper, Magnus Olssen, reported “We have started our pounding way upwind to Qingdao, but so far so good. The temperature is still nice, the seas are ok and we still haven’t seen more than 20 knots. It’s going to get worse, for sure. The question is only how much worse. Before the race started, everyone was saying that this leg is all about bringing the boat to China in one piece, preferably in ok shape to do the in-port race and then, with short notice, continue on the long leg to Rio. It will be interesting, yet a bit gut crumbling, to see how hard it will get. I’m sure everyone is at bit worried.”

Puma skipper, Ken Read, said “As we make our way north past Taiwan the water temperature will begin to seriously drop off, to almost zero degrees. At night, we’re expecting it to be colder than in the Southern Ocean, and there’s a chance we’ll have snow on deck.”

In the first three legs, Frits Koek worked behind the scenes as shore navigator for Delta Lloyd, now he’s onboard. According to Koek, the first big decision is imminent, as the northeast monsoon is expected to increase to thirty knots this evening. Koek says “If it is coming from the north, we go to the right in the direction of Borneo. In case of a northeaster, we go to the left towards Vietnam. It is likely to be the second option. Following this section, we will hit the northeast monsoon right on the nose.” This pic David Branigan and tons more here.