Big winds to almost no winds for the Volvo Ocean Race Leg 3 start from Cape Town to Melbourne.
Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng Race Team and the Spanish MAPFRE squad were neck and neck leading the Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Cape Town and towards the southernmost point of the African continent on Sunday.
It was the eleventh time in the history of the event that the fleet had raced out of Cape Town, this time on a 6,500 nautical mile leg to Melbourne, Australia. The ETA is currently between the 24th and 26th of December.
Conditions were ideal, with the famed Cape Doctor wind blowing at 20-25 knots. The fleet raced around a short triangle course in front of the city, before being freed to sprint off towards Australia.
There was some drama for the Dongfeng team who had to make a late crew change just before leaving the dock. Daryl Wislang suffered a back strain this morning and the team decided not to risk having it flare up more while at sea. He stepped off the boat to be replaced by Fabien Delahaye.
The forecast is for very strong winds on Sunday evening and overnight, which should then ease for a brief respite, before strengthening again as the first of the Southern Ocean weather systems that will pick them up and carry them to Melbourne comes calling.
“It is the worst sailing you can do but it’s also the absolute best,” said Stu Bannatyne, a three-time race winner on board Dongfeng, in reply to a question about the Southern Ocean.
“Fortunately it seems the human mind forgets the bad times and only remembers the good, which is why we keep coming back.”
That is a sentiment that is sure to be shared among the 63 sailors (and seven on board reporters) over the coming days.
“The Doctor came in to see us off from Cape Town,” said Simon Fisher, navigator for Vestas 11th Hour Racing ahead of the Leg 3 start to Melbourne. The strong southeasterly breeze, known as the “Cape Doctor,” was blowing 25-30 knots for the start on Sunday, December 10th as the seven boats started the 5,800-mile leg to Australia via the Southern Ocean.
“The start will be as challenging and spectacular as ever,” the British navigator continued. “We’ve been preparing intensively ahead of the racing in Cape Town and leg start, with the assistance of our full navigation team, including Vestas Meteorologist, Thomas Alsbirk, who has provided vast knowledge of local meteorological phenomena.” Table Mountain, the iconic landscape that surrounds the South African city, can cast a wind shadow blocking their exit but also produced huge gusts that can drop off the hill into the bay so the variance in the wind speed can be drastic.
The Vestas 11th Hour Racing crew will quickly encounter challenging conditions in the first 18-24 hours. Together with the powerful winds, there will be turbulent seas as they head down to the Cape of Good Hope and into the Southern Ocean.
“It will be all about balancing performance with looking after the boat and crew,” said skipper, Charlie Enright (USA). “We do not want to damage anything or anyone as we head down into the Southern Ocean where we may well meet extreme conditions for many days on end.”
“The Cape Town stopover has been amazing,” said team director, Mark Towill (USA). “We got a chance to get out of the race village and meet local community members who are making a difference in the devastating drought facing South Africa. It is humbling to be part of a team that highlights and takes action on local environmental issues. We are leaving a legacy by giving back to the communities that host us.”
WHY? It is a little known fact that Port Elizabeth has been approached TWICE to bid on becoming a stopover for the Volvo Ocean Race – the first attempt was stopped by our local Port Authorities and we await the outcome of the second. The home of Volvo Cars is Gothenburg – the second-largest city in Sweden which is twinned with Nelson Mandela Bay and which has provided incredible support and promotion for our Metropole.
MyPE is running a series of articles about the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race to: 1. Acknowledge and thank Gothenburg for their support, 2. Showcase a sport that Alan Straton is passionate about, 3. Demonstrate to citizens of Port Elizabeth just how much exposure a city like Cape Town receives from the VOR and 4. As a gentle reminder to the TNPA and our city of the great value that such an event can bring to our city.
The start city of the VOR – Alicante, Spain – estimates the economic value of each leg to be R960 Million. Click here to read very Volvo Ocean Race published on MyPE.
The local Algoa Bay Yacht Club has hosted many international sailing regattas, the most recent being the 60th 5O5 World Championships and, along with requests from the Volvo Ocean Race, have also recently been asked to host the 2019 stopover for the Clipper Around the World Yacht Race.