Unlike the traditional Southern Ocean route of Leg 3, the fourth stage of the Volvo Ocean Race is a new addition for the 2017-18 edition – but some of the challenges it poses will be recognisable from the early north-south legs.
Where Leg 3 was all about hooking onto the infamous depressions of the Westerly Storm Track that circle the bottom of the world west to east unrestricted by land mass, Leg 4 is all about navigating through climate zones.
Setting out across the Coral Sea, players must tackle the Subtropical High Pressure Zone, a stable, semi-static area of high pressure in the Pacific lying between 30 and 38 degrees south. Because of its proximity to the northern edge of the Westerly Storm Track there is a real chance of being propelled out of Melbourne by big winds. Equally, the anticyclone could prove dominant.
The normally-consistent trade winds will come into play as the virtual fleet climbs further north, before the dreaded Doldrums come into play once more.
Throw in numerous Pacific Islands dotted around the course and you've got a serious challenge in the shape of Leg 4.
After three legs French virtual sailor tamebird tops the overall rankings with 6,877 points, with Leg 3 winner LJadra in second on 5,745 and Leg 2 winner RQ-Naos close behind in third on 5,625. However, with only three of 11 legs complete, the race is still young – and anything can happen as the Volvo Ocean Race reams and virtual fleet take on this new challenge.
Leg 4 starts on January 2 at 1400 Melbourne time – that's 0300 UTC.
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