Leg Six of the Volvo Ocean Race began on April 21 as six of the seven boats in the fleet set sail from Itajai, Brazil for Newport, Rhode Island, with race leaders Abu Dhabi continuing to hold sway in front of the pack.

They arrived in Newport, and are currently celebrating a stopover and public party with special events planned for each day they are there. Find out about all the youth, family and fun events happening here: http://tiny.cc/1prvxx


Although the front-runners fly the colors of the United Arab Emirates, all of her crew hail from Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The same is true of the current second-place boat, Team SCA, which is the first all-female crew in 12 years to participate in the grueling round-the-world race. SCA flies the blue and yellow flag of Sweden and although none of her crew is Swedish, the all-women’s effort was the brainchild of a Swede.
Magnus Johansson was one of the most accomplished Volvo sailors ever, sailing in six round-the-world races as well as five Olympics and one America’s Cup challenge. Although best known for a sense of humor that earned him the nickname of the “clown prince of sailing,” Johansson was an ardent proponent of competitive sailing. In an interview with Nordstjernan in 2009, Johansson said he wanted to help create programs to introduce competitive sailing to Swedish youth, much as sports organizations teach soccer and hockey.

Sailing is for everyone
“Sailing isn’t just for the rich and wealthy,” Johansson said. “It is a sport anyone can learn and anyone can enjoy. I would love to see a day when as many children are involved in sailing programs as there are involved in other sports.”
One of his Volvo-related ideas was to mount a two-pronged challenge, one featuring a boat with a crew all over 50 years old and the other an all-female crew. Sadly, Johansson died following a massive stroke in 2013 but the idea of an all-female race team took hold. British Olympic skipper Sam Davies began pulling together a crew of experienced British, American, Australian, New Zealander and Swiss sailors and with the backing of Swedish conglomerate SCA, the women’s effort took form.
After five legs and more than 20,000 nautical miles, the team many dismissed as too weak is proving that girls can do anything boys can do, and do it just a little better. SCA finished the most grueling leg of the race, stretching from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil in 20 days, 17 hours, 52 minutes and 15 seconds. SCA suffered in heavy seas, 50-knot winds and a crash that damaged an important sail. Despite the setbacks, the boat remained primed to make a run at the leaders in Leg 6.
“We proved at the beginning that we could keep up with the others, but then we broke our fractional sail, the sail we really needed for this leg,” said Davies. "So we kind of let ourselves down by losing that sail. It was really, really hard; we were frustrated. There was nothing much we could do in certain conditions without our fractional. The race became a bit of different challenge from then on."
Leg 5 required all the boats to make the harrowing passage between Cape Horn at the tip of South America and Antarctica, although for Team SCA, there was always the sense the guiding light behind the women’s effort was with them.
“It was a beautiful sight — the pretty wild sea and the South American cliffs shooting up from the water,” wrote Anna-Lena Elled, the onboard reporter of Team SCA. “We also had our very special moment dropping a wreath for Mange Olsson in the water. It was powerful.”
As the magenta-color boat passed the Horn, the women of Team SCA laid a wreathe in tribute of their mentor, Magnus "Mange" Olsson, who sadly passed away at the age of 64 in 2013.

A special ceremony for a special man
“We’re at Cape Horn, and we’ve got a special delivery for Magnus!” said Liz Wardley, voice diluted by the wind. “Our friend and mentor — lost, but forever an albatross. So, Magnus we’re going to keep on fighting just for you, thank you for looking out for us!”
It was the perfect place for a special ceremony. As the wreath danced on the water, a Southern Ocean albatross appeared, floating gracefully on the sunset. To sailors, albatrosses are a special creature. It’s believed that the rare birds represent the souls of those comrades lost at sea.
“We’re really happy we managed to deliver Magnus’ wreath,” said skipper Sam Davies, huddled in her wet weather gear. “In almost one piece! I’m sure he’s looking at us. There’s an albatross gliding above us as we sail around Cape Horn — thanks for getting us here!”
And it's not the first time Magnus has paid a visit to his girls.
Back in Leg 2, as they were being followed by an albatross for days, Wardley said: "When you’re in the Southern Ocean and you’re looking at hard times, and you have an albatross with you, you know you’re in good hands. And every time I see an albatross I think of our lost sailor, Magnus, giving us the thumbs up, and it makes me smile. Hopefully it’s Magnus giving us some good karma and heavy wind!"
As the boats left Itajai on April 21, Team SCA was a scant 2.3 nautical miles behind the all-male crew on the Abu Dhabi. As of press time on April 22, SCA was 4.0 nautical miles behind. Leg 6 concludes in Newport in mid-May.

By Chipp Reid

For more info, see www.volvooceanrace.com