Monday, 7 November 2011

Baptism of water as Volvo Ocean Race gets under way

The fleet is finally racing, on leg one from Alicante
Photo: Mark Covell/Volvo Ocean Race
After many months of meticulous planning, race day finally arrived. The talking was over - it was time for action.

Boats were loaded with all the sails, food bags and spare parts needed for leg one to Cape Town and thousands of spectators arrived to watch the start, including a who’s who of sailing.

Alicante had welcomed the great and the good from past races for a veterans' regatta in the proceeding week and 16 boats from past races descended on the regatta village.

Legends Regatta
More than 400 competitors took part in the Legends Regatta, some dating back to the inaugural Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973-75. I will come back to this great event in a future blog.

Knowing more about the past events helps us understand the race today. Good fun was had by all, and many stories were told of daring acts of seamanship.

But as the legends week drew to an end attention turned to the next chapter of the race.

Six boats with 66 crew left the dock to sail the 6,500 nautical mile leg to Cape Town.

As the race boat crews waved at the huge crowd, I could see that beneath those happy faces, all keen to go racing again, they were nervous.

The forecast for the next 24 hours was bad - very bad. Thirty-five knot winds on the nose and short sharp standing waves were waiting for the fleet.

Speed bumps
Sailing into that sea is like driving at never-ending speed bumps, way too fast, in a sports car with low suspension.

Day one, leg one would be a baptism of fire and water - lots of water

Mark Covell

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