PHOTOS: The fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race is finally underway from Auckland

Dongfeng Race Team tackles steep and angry seas as they pass East Cape. Photo: Getty Images

Delayed for several days due to Cyclone Pam, the Volvo Ocean Race boats finally left Auckland on Wednesday morning.

Amid a flotilla of support vessels, well-wishers and a couple of crazy kayakers, the six boats set sail on Leg 5 of the round the world race. They are heading for Brazil which they are due to reach in early April.

After several days of delay as Pam caused squally seas and big swells, the weather for the departure was on form. In the sunshine, some good wind to be found and a quiet sea, the boats got off to a fast start before slowing a little before they jibed and found a stronger breeze heading up the Rangitoto Channel off Auckland’s North Shore.

As they disappeared into the distance, and the supporters returned to shore, it all looked picture perfect. But they have many days of hard sailing ahead of them.

Auckland had put on a good show while the crews were in town, a pop up village and bar area down by the waterfront was popular as the long summer drags on. And the in-port race, held on Sunday and won by the all-women crew of team SCA from Sweden, was a huge crowd pleaser.

The round-the-world challenge, in its 41st year, covers 38,790 nautical miles. It is staged over nine legs, visiting 11 ports and every continent. It started in Alicante, Spain, on October 4 last year and ends in Gothenburg, Sweden, on June 27.

Here are some shots from the beginning of the race.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing powers forward

MAPFRE sailing sideways in tough conditions

Abu Dhabi Ocean passes East Cape

Dongfeng Race Team joins the pursuit

Picture perfect — MAPFRE sails out from Auckland as the sun sets

Ellen Read joined the on-sea action courtesy of Sealegs on one of their amphibious RIB vessels. (The one that has wheels so it can drive in and out of the water. It’s very, very cool, but at $240k then so it should be. Several of the Volvo crews used them during their Auckland stopover).

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