With more than 6,000 miles of the planet’s most hostile ocean ahead of them, the Global Ocean Racing fleet left Wellington in unusually benign conditions today.
Despite its daunting reputation for storm force winds and massive waves, overall race leaders Ross and Campbell Field of Team Buckley Systems were looking forward to the Southern Ocean blast to Cape Horn.
'It is fantastic going around the Horn,' said Ross Field, who has sailed past the fabled landmark three times before, twice on his way to victories in the Whitbread Round the World Race.
'It is one of the things you look forward to as a yachtsman.
The father and son pair are leading the race on points after scoring a first and second in the first two legs of the race.
At the start of the third leg today, their Class40 yacht, Buckley Systems, was back in top condition after a month of maintenance. 'We have made some changes to the boat and added some new sails,' said Ross. 'I am really looking forward to getting out to sea and back into race mode again.'
For his son, Campbell, this will be a first experience of Cape Horn. 'I know we will face some pretty tough conditions in the Southern Ocean before we are even halfway there,' he said.
'Then, if we have extreme conditions at the Horn it will be a matter of keeping our eyes open and playing it safe.'
The five 12m yachts competing in this leg of the race left Wellington at 3pm today in light conditions, with a southerly wind change forecast for later in the day.
As the yachts ghosted out of the harbour, Buckley Systems set up close to the leeward shore, clearing the distinctive black and white lighthouse at Point Halswell close enough to exchange quiet conversation with the fishermen on the rocky promontory.
Shortly after the start, their inshore course forced them to put in a tack behind the rest of the fleet, costing them distance.
But, as they cleared the harbour entrance, they had worked their way up into second place. Ahead lie more than 6,000 miles across the Southern Ocean, around Cape Horn and up the east coast of South America to Punta del Este, Uruguay.
'We expect to take about 25 days,' said Campbell. 'Put it this way, that is all we have food for.'