A fast and furious start sequence out of Cape Town
After beating upwind into the teeth of a gale on Sunday evening, things have slowed down for The Ocean Race fleet - now back up to a full complement of five racing boats - on Monday morning.
The five IMOCA crews are bumping into a small ridge of high pressure and the light winds associated with it. They’ll have to push through this to get south and into the higher latitudes of the Roaring 40s to pick up the train of low pressure systems that will deliver them around Antarctica and towards Cape Horn on this longest leg in race history.
But there is another obstacle as well. A very strong eddy from the Agulhas current - has at times been pushing the boats north at up to four knots. 11th Hour Racing Team and Team Malizia appear to have been particularly punished by this.
Finally, when the teams do make it to the south, they’ll face some of the strongest winds and fearsome seas they’ve seen in the Race.
By noon on Tuesday 28 February, the wind is forecast to be near 40 knots, with waves of up to six metres. It will be very challenging conditions.
On the race course, both 11th Hour Racing Team and Biotherm rejoined the race after making repairs. Skipper Charlie Enright had his 11th Hour Racing Team ready to go as soon as the mandatory two-hour period expired.
For Paul Meilhat, it took longer to source supplies and start the repairs, but he was able to leave the dock just before midnight in Cape Town and restart a few minutes later at 22:21 UTC. The light conditions have allowed Meilhat and his team to close the gap significantly already, showing the wisdom of the decision to take a short break to ensure his boat is ready for the rigours ahead. Repairs continue on board.
Kevin Escoffier and his Team Holcim - PRB are in a familiar position at the front of the fleet, perhaps just nosing through the ridge, with Benjamin Dutreux and Robert Stanjek’s GUYOT environnement - Team Europe very close behind.
“The wind has been a bit lighter than expected,” said Escoffier during the night. “We are also in the ‘current loop’ which is pushing against us.”
The next 24 to 36 hours will be a fascinating period in this race.
Log from Amory Ross, OBR on 11TH Hour Racing Team:
"We spent a good deal of time yesterday morning reminiscing about crazy Cape Town In-Port Races and leg starts, fully aware that it was likely to be another memorable one. It certainly was! Three short laps on a reaching course in building breeze, 25 knots on the first, 35 on the second, and 40-45 on the third, made for a fast circuit of Table Bay, but not without a last-gybe hang up and a full shut off of the wind. I’m sure much has been said by now, but it was a rational decision to hit pause and make sure we leave for the South as prepared as we can be, and spares are a big part of that.
Once finally out from under the wind shadow of Cape Town, we again had almost 40 knots of wind on the nose and another early test for the crew and the boat. Those winds gradually eased off overnight and now we sit, becalmed, as we have for most of the morning. We are however being pushed around by the Agulhas current, which would explain for the funkiness in the tracks. The goal is to get south but if our boat speed isn’t greater than the current, which is impossible to model accurately, then we instead slide east, west or north, and that’s a little of what’s happening.
Nobody is super stressed about it because we’ll have a massive low and 40-plus knots to soon contend with, and more opportunities to catch up with the fleet down the road. We are where we are and we don’t have the same conditions as the rest of the fleet, so we have to make the most of what we currently have and really work on settling in. It’s going to be a long month onboard!"
From The Ocean Race and 11th Hour Racing Team
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