Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) second leg from Cape Town to New Zealand will begin on Sunday 27th November 2011.
The fleet of six double-handed Class40s will cross the start line off the main harbour’s breakwater at 14:00 local time (12:00 GMT). Ahead of the teams are 7,500 miles and approximately one month of racing through the high latitudes of the Indian Ocean before the fleet reaches the finish line off Wellington, New Zealand.
Class40 racing yachts have proved to be tough, reliable and highly-competitive and the GOR’s leg one from Palma, Mallorca, to the southern tip of Africa illustrated that skilled and experience crews with strong boats can judge how hard to push themselves and their boat without suffering catastrophic damage, serious injury or compromising performance. The GOR fleet didn’t breeze through leg one unscathed and severe sail damage was sustained by the majority of boats while buckled pulpits and pushpits and exploding blocks were common. However, close and exciting racing has to be balanced with the safety of the teams and the next leg of the 30,000-mile circumnavigation takes the fleet through some of the most remote and brutal sea areas on the planet, far from commercial shipping lanes and beyond the range of rapid-response rescue services.
Despite Class40’s impressive track record of safety and durability, the GOR Race Committee cannot be complacent, especially with the added risk of icebergs, ‘growlers’ and ‘bergy-bits’ drifting increasingly further north into the Indian Ocean from Antarctica and presenting a major threat to the GOR fleet on their classic circumnavigation route through the Southern Ocean. Consequently, the GOR’s Race Director, Josh Hall, and the GOR Race Committee have consulted with the teams and imposed a mandatory southern limit for leg two.
During the inaugural GOR in 2008-09, the Indian Ocean southern limit was at 50 degrees South and included non-scoring safety gates south of Australia, effectively pulling the fleet north from the desolate and demanding seas to the south. Despite rapid advances in satellite radar analysis, the sophisticated system cannot guarantee an early warning or a safe passage through the enormous expanse of the Southern Ocean. Earlier this year, during the double-handed, round-the-world Barcelona World Race, satellite radar located a massive field of ice south-west of Cape Town as the fleet of IMOCA Open 60s dropped down through the Atlantic. A mandatory waypoint was subsequently implemented, forcing the boats north of Gough Island at 40 degrees South, 1,700 miles WSW of the Cape of Good Hope. More recently, in mid-October, shortly after leaving Cape Town on leg three, the skipper of De Lage Landen, a yacht competing in the fully-crewed, Clipper Round the World Race, reported ‘two very large icebergs’ at 44 degrees S, 49 degrees E in the vicinity of the Crozet Islands – a familiar, remote landmark for high latitude sailors.
With this unusual frequency of ice drifting north, the GOR southern limit for leg two has been installed at 42 degrees South on a line stretching from the start, across the Indian Ocean to a point at 120 degrees East, south of Australia, with the Celox Sailing Scoring Gate running north-south along 69 degrees East, approximately halfway along the 42S southern limit, bisecting the Indian Ocean. Tactically, this will mean more miles sailed by the GOR fleet as while the GOR 2008-09 boats sailed closer to 50 South on a shorter route, covering 6,800 miles with the winning Class40 taking 32 days, the current fleet will sail further north, covering more miles.
The possible weather implications of staying above 42S may also mean encountering headwinds spinning off the top of high pressure systems sandwiched between the deep, low pressure systems that roll eastwards around the bottom of the planet – a scenario that may favour the first generation Akilaria Class40s, Financial Crisis, Phesheya-Racing and Sec. Hayai, while the Verdier-designed Tyker 40 BSL has proved formidable off the wind, as have the Pogo 40S² Campagne de France and the Akilaria RC2 Cessna Citation. Global Ocean Race double-handed Class40 crew list for leg two and leg one points:
1. BSL: Ross and Campbell Field (NZL/NZL) 35 points in GOR leg one
2. Campagne de France: Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron (FRA/GBR) 31 points in GOR leg one
3. Financial Crisis: Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon (ITA/ESP) 23 points in GOR leg one
4. Cessna Citation: Conrad Colman*(NZ) 19 points in GOR leg one
5. Phesheya-Racing: Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire (RSA/RSA) 12 points in GOR leg one
6. Sec. Hayai: Nico Budel and Frans Budel (NDL/NDL) 6 points in GOR leg one
*Co-skipper for leg two to be announced on Thursday Global Ocean Race website