"No one wants to be hitting the ice," said Simon Fisher in the days before leg five.
The Telefónica Blue trimmer paused before adding: "Life would get pretty bleak pretty quickly if you did."

His skipper, Bouwe Bekking, put a finer point on it. "You wouldn't have much time to get in the life raft," he said.

Needless to say, the topic of icebergs returns to the agenda whenever the higher latitudes come into play. But it's not just the media and the people they interrogate who do the talking. "It's a legitimate concern for all of us," said Jack Lloyd, the race director.

With that in mind, the race committee has added two ice gates to the 12,300-nautical mile fifth stage to steer the fleet away from bergs.

The first gate is located south-east of New Zealand at 47S between the longitudes of 155W and 140W. And the second is approximately 1,500 miles west of Chile at 45S between 120W and 105W.

In both cases, the intention is to keep the fleet north of known populations of ice. And in both cases the protocol is the same: a team must be on or north of the designated latitude at some point between the two stated lines of longitude.

"It means the fleet can cross through the gate from south to north or they can cross from north to south or they can stay north of the gate," Lloyd explained. "The end result is that the guys will be directed north."

It's certainly in their interests to stay north. For while it is still true that higher winds generally come further south, there are a couple of large, compelling reasons to stay north.

"There are two masses of ice that broke off Antarctica about two years ago," Lloyd said. "At the moment both are about 60 miles long and the gates will safeguard against those."

However, tracking ice is a difficult science and relies largely on sightings and limited observations from space. "We have been using anecdotal information from boats that have sailed through these areas and making some predictions based on the currents and water temperatures," Lloyd said. "The imagery we get from satellites will not pick up anything smaller than 150 metres in any one direction so we have to be mindful of that."

To that end, the gates have been placed approximately 100 miles north of the known ice populations. "It should keep the fleet well clear," Lloyd added. "It's just another facet of ocean racing that we all have to deal with."

Indeed, the organisers of the Portimão Global Ocean Race also dictate that their fleet of 40ft yachts must stay above a 4,000-mile line at latitude 45S in the Pacific.

Likewise, the Vendee Globe fleet negotiated three gates between New Zealand and South America at 48S, 46S and 44S in order to reduce the risk of a collision with ice.

Even then Sam Davies, the skipper of Roxy, had an unexpected surprise. "I saw the ice from my starboard porthole, and at first I couldn't believe my eyes," she wrote at the time. "I was quite tired and not sure if they were playing tricks on me. When I realized it was for real, my first impression was of joy at seeing such a beautiful product of nature. This feeling lasted for about a quarter of a second, as the second realization was that it may not be alone and there could be potentially fatal ‘growlers' - smaller bits of ice that are shed from the main iceberg and are impossible to pick up on the radar - in my path. "I was doing about 15 knots and a collision could seriously damage Roxy, endanger my race, or worse still, my life."

Whether there are any close calls in this race remains to be seen, but in the meantime fingers are crossed. As Fisher said: "Cool as it would be to see one, I think we'd rather give it a miss."