Monday, 12 December 2011

You don’t always get what you want

Team Sanya during leg two, from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi
(Andrés Soriano/Team Sanya/VOR).
As if to remind all the crews that Cape Town is perched on the edge of two oceans, and that the weather can change in a shake of an umbrella, race day started cold windy and raining.

By the time the fleet docked out and said their good-byes to Cape Town the sun was shining bright and a light breeze was blowing down the coast into Table Bay.

The excited spectator fleet jostled round the 3pm start. For two of the boats this was time to re-join the race again and show their potential to the rest of the fleet after missing leg one.

Overall leader
Ironically, the overall leader Team Telefonica stalled on the line and didn’t get going for almost two minutes.

It was Abu Dhabi who blasted down the reaching leg to win the race start.

The forecast was for a baptism of fire for the fleet as they headed out into strong winds, possibly up to 30 knots. The other curve ball waiting for the fleet was the Agulhas current flowing against them.

Doing battle
This is the Indian Ocean’s version of the Gulfstream, one of the largest and strongest currents in the world.

Given what happened on the first night of leg one, none of the teams were looking forward to doing battle with huge standing waves and boat-breaking conditions.

As I awoke this morning and eagerly switched on the race tracker I could see that they had had a very quiet night indeed. Presently they are short tacking up the coast in winds only averaging one knot.

No wind
Ian Walker, skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, said: “We made a great exit from Table Bay and built a nice lead before getting swallowed up by the fleet as we sat in no wind further up the coast.

“We have only managed to sail 0.6 nautical miles in the last two hours and have been sitting bobbing up and down looking at the notorious Cape of Good Hope for about 10 hours.”

This must be hugely frustrating for them. To make matters worse, the adverse current is sometimes washing them closer to the rocky shore and dangerous outcrops.

Sluiced backwards
So light were the conditions that Team Telefónica were forced to put down their anchor to avoid being sluiced backwards.

If you expect sun you get rain - expect wind and you get drifting conditions. I guess this is what the Volvo Ocean Race is all about - “life at the extreme”.

Mark Covell

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