Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) is now underway. At 14:00 local time (12:00 GMT), the six double-handed Class40’s crossed the start line in Palma, Mallorca, with leg one and 7,000 miles to Cape Town ahead of them.
Following overnight rain, the sky cleared at dawn on Sunday and a very light breeze trickled through the Marina de Mallorca and the GOR Race Village as the teams, their shore crews, friends and families arrived at the dock to prepare for the start.
At 10:30, Father Miralles from the San Sebastián Church blessed the GOR fleet before the six boats headed out into Palma Bay at 11:00 led by Marco Nannini and Paul Peggs on Financial Crisis with the dock lines for the entire fleet let go by GOR Race Ambassador and round-the-world yachtswoman, Dee Caffari, assisted by fellow IMOCA Open 60 sailor, Alex Thomson.
As the six Class40’s milled in the competitor-only exclusion zone just south-east of the Camino de la Escollera, the team from the Real Club Náutico de Palma (RCNP) laid the start line close inshore. While the course was laid, the spectator fleet of around 100 vessels ranging from a 95ft classic ketch to a fleet of Lasers, including a party from the GOR’s host yacht club in Uruguay, the Yacht Club Punta del Este and the club’s Commodore, Horacio Garcia Pastori, fell into a holding pattern further offshore, south of the RCNP’s committee boat.
In the final 30 minutes before the start, the GOR’s Co-Race Director, Sylvie Viant, boarded each competing Class40 to ensure that the engine seals were in place and a team of support RIBs plucked shore teams from each yacht. With the afternoon sea breeze failing to arrive and a southerly breeze of around seven knots, the joint RCNP – GOR committee opted to shorten the inshore course from a nine-mile triangle to a single starboard rounding just under two miles from the start, allowing the fleet to clear the bay swiftly.
Former President of the Class40 Association, Jacques Fournier, fired the start gun with the Franco-British duo of Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron and their Pogo 40S² Campagne de France crossing first, swiftly unfurling their gennaker. Close behind, Ross and Campbell Field crossed second with BSL opting for an inshore route close to the beach, their bright orange, windward rudder raised and Field Senior helming down to leeward. In close order, Nannini and Peggs with Financial Crisis and Nico Budel and Ruud van Rijsewijk on board Sec. Hayai crossed in third and fourth, with the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire with Phesheya-Racing crossing ahead of Conrad Colman and Hugo Ramon with the new Akilaria RC2, Cessna Citation.
The Field’s inshore option paid well with BSL rounding the single mark and hardening up six minutes ahead of Campagne de France and the New Zealand father-and-son team held this lead as the fleet exited the bay. Behind Mabire and Merron, Nannini and Peggs with Financial Crisis arrived at the turning mark first, but Cessna Citation squeezed into the gap, forcing Financial Crisis off the mark and allowing Phesheya-Racing through ahead of Nannini and Peggs who swiftly lodged a protest against Cessna Citation via VHF and email.
The GOR fleet has around 450 miles of sailing through the Mediterranean before reaching the Straits of Gibraltar and the busy Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) between Gibraltar and Morocco. Weather models predict an easterly airstream in the middle of the Mediterranean and the teams will head south to grab a good ride to Gibraltar. Having left the Med, the next turning mark is the Fastnet Marine Insurance Scoring Gate at the Brazilian Island of Fernando de Noronha, 2,800 miles to the south-west of Gibraltar.
During the two days prior to the start, Yellowbrick trackers were fitted to the six Class40’s and have been synchronised with the GOR’s Geovoile Race Viewer to provide position, speed and heading data for each yacht every three hours; information that will be sent simultaneously to the six teams at sea. In the GOR’s first position poll at 15:00 GMT, three hours after the start, the lead trio were separated by under one mile making slightly less than six knots with BSL leading, Campagne de France in second and Cessna Citation in third.
The GOR website will be updated twice each day throughout leg one with reports from the boats while offshore racing enthusiasts can race Class40’s along the same route as the real fleet via the GOR’s Virtual Game. Global Ocean Race website