The six-strong fleet that began Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race earlier today are making agonizingly slow progress towards the Cape of Good Hope which is around seventeen nautical miles (nm) south-southeast of the fleet. The first night at sea, after a hectic stopover in Cape Town, appears to be spent inching along the coast, just four nm from the shoreline, in little or no breeze.
At 1900 UTC tonight, race leader Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) leads Franck Cammas/FRA (Groupama 4) and the chasing pack by 0.20 nm, the slimmest of margins and in the most difficult conditions, almost no wind at all and with boat speeds of less than two knots.
However, once clear of the Cape, the teams should be able to crack sheets and enjoy some quicker reaching conditions, although the Wind Gods will be testing the fleet with a complex set of weather and currents and Leg 2 will be no walk in the park.
The Agulhas current, which runs south down the eastern coast of South Africa, meets the cold water of the Beneguela current and turns back on itself about one kilometre east of the Cape of Good Hope. The result, the shallow area of the Agulhas Bank, is a notoriously rough piece of water to be negotiated. Here, the westerly winds along the African coast collide with the typical three - five knot easterly Agulhas current and can potentially produce boat-breaking conditions. By hugging the coast, the worse effects could be avoided.
Two of six teams in the fleet stepped new masts for this leg having dismasted on Leg 1 and both Ian Walker/GBR (Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam) and Ken Read/USA (PUMA’s Mar Mostro) will be cautious of the conditions they expect to find here.
Speaking earlier today, skipper of Team Sanya, Mike Sanderson/NZL said, 'It’s looking like the issue is going to be sea state rather than wind speed. Down by Cape Agulhas there are still three - four metre waves but only 20 knots of wind.
'One of the things about 20 knots of wind is that the boats are already going as fast as they can go upwind, so it’s almost worse because you want to sail upwind at 13 knots but if there’s a leftover sea state left over from the big low out there we could be launching off some beauties.
'Although we were cautious even when we ran into something [the boat was seriously damaged in the early part of Leg 1 and retired], I think the fleet is very conscious of getting through these first couple of days. I think you might even see a whole new level of people buttoning off,' Sanderson said.
Volvo Ocean Race website