Volvo Ocean Race sailors prepare for rough re-start in Cape Town
Saturday, December 9, 2017 12:04 PM
Strong winds are forecast for the start of Leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Sunday afternoon in Cape Town as the famous ‘Cape Doctor’ – a strong southeasterly wind - pays a visit over the weekend.
On Saturday morning the doctor made a house call bringing a steady 40 knots of wind, and at least one gust of over 60 knots was recorded. This is expected to moderate somewhat for Sunday’s race start, but winds are forecast to remain in the 25 to 35 knot range, with some gusts significantly stronger.
“It’s going to be full-on for the start,” says Vestas 11th Hour Racing navigator Simon Fisher. “Very strong southeasterlies and then when we get offshore it will be a decent sea-state we’re banging into as well. It will soften a bit but then we’re quickly into the westerlies and it’s the proper Southern Ocean. It’s going to be an intense leg in general.”
“It could be very windy for the first week and very high speed,” agreed Charles Caudrelier, skipper of Dongfeng Race Team. “I think it’s going to be a fantastic leg.”
Leg 3, from Cape Town to Melbourne, Australia is a nominal 6,500 nautical miles. The routing takes the teams down into the ‘Roaring Forties’, the area south of 40-degrees latitude where storm systems circle Antarctica, unimpeded by any land mass. Towering waves, steady gale and storm force winds, and ice-cold temperatures are a daily feature here.
“We should remember it’s late spring, just the beginning of summer and the winter has just passed in the Southern Hemisphere so the water is still bloody cold,” said race veteran Bouwe Bekking, the skipper of Team Brunel.
“I think the most frightening thing is that the depressions are still so strong… the amount of pressure that is in the air is just humongous. And of course, the water temperatures – hopefully with the ice limits we don’t encounter any ice -- but if the water is just a few degrees above freezing and you get a southerly breeze, you might be having icicles off the mast some times. We’ve experienced it in the past… When we did this leg in the old days, this was the leg when the most damage appeared. The boats today are stronger than before, but still things can break.”
Deciding when to push for speed and when to throttle back to protect crew and equipment is a delicate balance. The stakes are even higher as this is the first double-point leg. The winner of Leg 3 will collect 15 points (7 x 2 = 14 plus a 1 point win bonus).
“I think we have a lot of experience on our boat and we have to trust that experience in the Southern Ocean,” explained Charlie Enright, skipper of Vestas 11th Hour Racing talking about finding the balance of how hard to push. “It not just about the points, it’s the fact we don’t haul-out in Melbourne, it’s the heavy conditions in the Southern Ocean, because you don’t want to break anything…To finish first, you must first finish.”
For Xabi Fernández, the skipper of MAPFRE, the race leader, the stopover in Cape Town provided a much needed opportunity to recharge.
“After the first long leg (Lisbon to Cape Town), it’s always important to be in the front,” he said. “We’re happy as a team. We had a good stopover. The boat is in great shape and the team is as well, so we’re ready to go.”
The start of Leg 3 is scheduled for 2pm in Cape Town, 12:00 UTC. With the strong winds forecast, the departure from Cape Town will be quick and live links from the race course may be compromised. We will endeavour to bring the best coverage possible for as long as practical.