And after some short course racing off the beachfront of Alicante, the seven crews will depart on the first leg of a 45,000 nautical mile race around the world.
The race opens with a sprint (relatively speaking) from Alicante to Lisbon for Leg 1. It’s going to be 1,450nm of flat out action, with the teams fighting for every inch as they aim to get some points on the board early on.
“After all the build-up, at last we are ready to race,” said Xabi Fernández, the skipper of the hometown MAPFRE. “We are looking forward to getting into the rythym of the race.”
Conditions at start time in Alicante (12:00 UTC), 14:00 local, are forecast to be moderate, with weather models suggesting Easterly winds of 7 to 15 knots. This is somewhat lighter than forecast earlier in the week. Nonetheless, the favourable direction means the fleet will make good progress off the starting line.
After 12 hours of racing, the fleet will be sailing fully downwind and should be gybing in towards Cabo de Gata to benefit from an acceleration and bend in the wind at the headland.
24 hours into the race and teams will be lining up for the Gibraltar Strait, the Rock of Gibraltar looming on the western horizon. As teams file into the narrow strait, wind strength could double from 14 to up to 30 knots, leading to frantic sail changes as teams negotiate accelerating wind, choppy waters and one of the world’s busiest shipping channels all at the same time.
On Tuesday, 48 hours after the start, the sleigh ride comes to an end at the end of the acceleration zone and the fleet will be required to negotiate a ridge of high pressure, and its associated light winds, continuing onwards.
Where to from there? Race Director Phil Lawrence has reserved the right to lengthen the route with additional waypoints, if necessary, in order to secure an on-time arrival into Lisbon for the weekend.
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.