After the Dardanelles, the final battle! Here we are in the Marmara! After a 60 mile delivery under motor through the Dardanelles, the fleet of the 'European Capital of Culture – Cap Istanbul' has made it to the start zone of the 5th leg.
They are all set to go in this ultimate battle and the conquest of Istanbul. In a light 6-7 knot NE’ly, the 27 solo sailors hoisted their sails and took the start of this hard fought solo Trans-Mediterranean race at 1648 hours this Wednesday afternoon…
A symbolic reference to history: the fleet, which left the island of Bozcaada in the early hours of this morning, put down their weapons as they passed through the Dardanelles Strait under motor. A break in the race and a truce in the competition in an area which has an enduring memory of the pitiless battles fought here. The 27 solo sailors were nonetheless relieved to grant themselves a small respite, and the chance to look back at what has already been a rich course. The Thracian Sea and the Mediterranean are now in their wake and before them lies the Marmara Sea: another maritime world between the orient and the occident. This is where the competition takes centre stage once more with the kick-off of this ultimate, final leg.
'It’s a short 60 mile cruise under motor from Bozcaada, where due to the intense shipping in this zone, sailing through the strait is prohibited. We left very early, at around 0430 hours and benefited from a superb sunrise behind the Turkish coast', confided Race Director Christian Gout. 'The skippers relished the occasion even though it’s not much fun making headway under motor: they passed some incredible sites and the countryside is very beautiful here. It’s a great moment for relaxation.'
The truce was only fleeting though and after the Dardanelles the armistice couldn’t last! Hostilities began again with the start of the last leg spanning just over 100 miles. Offshore of the arid, desert plains of Thrace, 5 miles to the east of Gelibolu (Gallipoli), the 15 préparateurs disembarked from the one designs and climbed aboard the support boats. At 1600 hours, the class measurers began the huge task of sealing the engines, whilst the Race Committee tried to track down the lost wind to mark out the start and set the fleet going on this 5th and final leg to Istanbul. On zone, the committee eyed up a light 5 knot zest of air as it began to fill…
With the sun at its zenith, the wind Gods were doing their utmost to prevent the fleet from getting going. This added to the pressure in what is set to be the shortest leg of this 1,650 mile Trans-Mediterranean race, where nerves and tension will be at their height. Along with the wind’s nasty tricks, the various ambitions of each of the skippers will also be in play of course.
Beating across a still rather unfamiliar sea, tactical coups will be much in evidence amongst the front of the fleet in particular, some of whom are just minutes apart from each other after 1,550 miles and a host of wind and sea conditions which only the Grande Bleue knows how to provide.
Christian Gout bears witness to this atmosphere: 'You can smell the finish. The conclusion is fast approaching so there’s naturally a lot of tension. Though the leader, Nicolas Bérenger, would seem to be protected, there are a number of skippers who are separated by a small amount of time in the general ranking and will be playing hard in this final leg: they’re playing for the podium and they’ll certainly have a knife between their teeth'. www.capistanbul.com