Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) double-handed Class40s have spent the first full day at sea on leg 2 from Cape Town to Wellington. The fleet were beating close inshore towards the Cape of Good Hope in strong headwinds before the breeze slackened.
At 09:00 GMT on Wednesday as dawn broke, the New Zealand duo of Ross and Campbell Field with BSL took the lead from Conrad Colman and Artemis Offshore Academy sailor, Sam Goodchild, with Cessna Citation, as Colman and Goodchild took the inside track, sailing just six miles off Quoin Point, a rocky headland west of Cape Agulhas.
By 13:00 GMT, the Franco-British duo of Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron had moved into the lead with Campagne de France, rounding Cape Agulhas at the southern tip of Africa, entering the Indian Ocean with Cessna Citation and BSL hard on the chase under one mile astern. As the south-easterly breeze began to build, the leading trio dropped south on port tack away from land while a duel continued 20 miles behind the leaders between the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire in fourth on Phesheya-Racing and the Italian-Spanish team of Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon in fifth on Financial Crisis with the two Class40s separated by just six miles.
Throughout Wednesday, the fleet continued the dive south led by Campagne de France with Cessna Citation and BSL within visual range as average speeds increased to over seven knots until, shortly before midnight, Colman and Goodchild broke away, tacking onto starboard and taking Cessna Citation east and moving into the lead. As the five Class40s drop through the high latitudes, Ross Field looked back at the stopover in Cape Town and the 48-hour, Leg 2 start delay: 'The hanging around waiting for the start was frustrating, but necessary for the weather - it was blowing dogs off chains - a good 50 knots and it was nice to be ashore,' he reports from BSL. 'Just like to thank Cape Town - a great city and the South Africans are the most friendly people in the world and love New Zealanders.'
In the 06:00 GMT position poll on Thursday, Campagne de France and BSL continue south separated by two miles as Cessna Citation pushes east with a lead of just over 30 miles: 'We’re battling again with Halvard and Miranda, plus Cessna,' Ross Field continues. 'The French [Mabire and Merron] are quick on the wind and so is Cessna, so we are happy where we are.' As the GOR fleet slides into the Indian Ocean below Africa, the Class40s are crossing the meeting point of the westerly-flowing Agulhas Current and the northern-flowing Benguela Current which feeds the South Atlantic Ocean Gyre west of Africa. The area is immensely rich in wildlife: 'There are mountains of sea life – fish all over the place and whales blowing everywhere,' says Ross. 'One whale was diving out of the sea and crashing onto its back, an incredible sight.'
As part of the Eyes of the Ocean research programme co-ordinated by the GOR and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the teams have been asked to log and - when possible – photograph wildlife and any evidence of debris and floating rubbish. 'We didn't get a photo because it was right in our path and we were bloody worried that it was going to leap aboard,' he explains. 'It was leaping out of the water only 30 metres from the boat - sorry I couldn't ID it, but it was white underneath and had sea growth on its back - wasn't very well groomed and had bad breath!' adds Ross of the likely Fin or Sei whale.
Holding fifth place, 73 miles behind the race leader and a handful of miles behind Phesheya-Racing with co-skipper Hugo Ramon on Financial Crisis, Marco Nannini also reflected on the Leg 2 start: 'My mood the day of the start was far from relaxed,' admits the 33 year-old Italian. 'I was apprehensive and my mouth was dry as we’re venturing towards the mysterious Southern Ocean,' he continues. 'The first night was tough, after a light patch of wind west of Cape Town in the lee of Table Mountain, the dreaded South-Easter was blowing 25-30 knots right on our noses and beating into the horrible seas was many degrees of separation away from the word ‘pleasant’.'
Both Nannini and 26 year-old Ramon tasted the Roaring Forties in Leg 1 in the South Atlantic, but currently dropping down through 36 degrees South is a very different game: 'My confidence was knocked hard when I heard Sec. Hayai had dismasted,' he explains. 'Only a few months ago the same happened to me at the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race, so all my thoughts went to Nico and Frans and I hope they can deal with what surely is a great disappointment.'
During the Cape Town stopover, Nannini’s Leg 1 co-skipper, Paul Peggs, returned to the UK for personal reasons and Hugo Ramon swapped from his role as co-skipper on Cessna Citation to join Financial Crisis. Heading into the Southern Ocean on a powerful 40ft boat with a relative stranger may not be ideal, but the duo are working well: 'I’m lucky I found in Hugo an excellent partner for this race,' says Nannini. 'The communication between us is very good, we did an excellent start and were leading in the very early part of the race,' he adds. 'Later, the offshore option taken by BSL, Campagne de France and Cessna paid off, so we dropped behind them, but the way to Wellington is still very, very long indeed.'
Meanwhile, back at the V and A Waterfront Marina in Cape Town, plans for the Dutch duo of Nico and Frans Budel with their dismasted Class40 Sec. Hayai have advanced rapidly. The team are investigating replacement rig options and aim to rejoin the race in Punta del Este, Uruguay, and compete in GOR Legs 4 and 5. GOR Leg 2 leaderboard at 06:00 GMT 1/12/2011:
1. Cessna Citation: DTF 6,729nm. Av Sp 6.9kts
2. Campagne de France: DTL 34nm Av Sp 7.4kts
3. BSL: DTL 37nm Av Sp 7.6kts
4. Phesheya-Racing: DTL 65nm Av Sp 7.6kts
5. Financial Crisis: DTL 73nm Av Sp 6.4kts
6. Sec. Hayai: RTD Global Ocean Race website