The double-handed Global Ocean Race (GOR) fleet started Leg 3 from Wellington, New Zealand, to Punta del Este, Uruguay, at 15:00 local time (02:00 GMT) on Sunday 29 January.
The five Class40s face a 6,200-mile course through the Pacific Ocean, around Cape Horn and through the South Atlantic.
Shortly after 13:00 local time, the Class40s motored out of Queens Wharf – the fleet’s base for almost one month – and into Lambton Harbour followed by a spectator armada of motorboats, sailing yachts and dinghies. While the fleet milled in Lambton Harbour around the start line under the watchful eyes of the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club team on the Committee boat, the five teams self-sealed their engines with instructions to email a time-stamped image of the yellow, plastic tie-wrap in place to Co-Race Director, Sylvie Viant within five hours of the start gun.
In around ten knots of breeze, Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel were first across the line with Cessna Citation, followed by the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire with Phesheya-Racing. Colman and Kuttel led the fleet east across the mouth of Evans Bay as the breeze built fractionally and around Point Halswell, hoisting spinnakers and leaving Ward Island and Hope Shoal to port. For a brief period the breeze died completely before switching through 180 degrees, forcing a beat and short tacking through the gap between the eastern shoreline of Wellington Harbour and the jagged, exposed rocks of Barrett Reef before rounding Pencarrow Head and exiting the two kilometre wide harbour entrance.
Cessna Citation led the fleet out into Cook Strait with Ross and Campbell Field on Buckley Systems in hot pursuit and as the Class40s dropped south into the Pacific, the wind built quickly to 20 knots with a long rolling swell for the first night at sea, forcing the teams to reef as the sun began to dip (see aerial images from Cook Strait here). In the 06:00 GMT position poll, the Fields on Buckley Systems were furthest east in the fleet, closest to the Great Circle route and led the fleet with Cessna Citation furthest west dropping back to fourth and Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron moving up to second on Campagne de France. The South Africans on Phesheya-Racing held third place with Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon in fifth with Financial Crisis with just five miles separating the Class40s.
The GOR’s Race Ambassador, Dee Caffari, explains what is ahead for the teams over the next month: 'This is the big one, but it is also rewarded with the infamous landmark of Cape Horn,' she explains. 'The main difference with this ocean leg is that there are very few options along the way,' Caffari continues. 'The previous leg had the teams cross the Indian Ocean which is littered with islands along the way which can give options. Now, they will have none,' she adds. 'Once they leave the relative safety of the Cook Strait, they enter the Pacific with nothing between them and Cape Horn.'
Compared with the Indian Ocean, the Pacific is potentially a smoother ride for the five Class40s: 'It is a long way, but the good news is the weather can be more enjoyable,' says Dee, who has raced around the world through the Southern Ocean four times; single-handed, double-handed and fully-crewed. 'The waves will seem slightly longer and wider spaced allowing the boats to have more comfortable surfing conditions,' Caffari predicts. 'The bad weather doesn’t seem as frequent as it is in the Indian Ocean, but it is almost guaranteed that there will be a big blow before you leave the deep South and head back into the relative safety of the Atlantic Ocean,' she warns. 'It is almost as if the Southern Ocean wants to say goodbye and leave you with a lasting reminder of how hostile it can be. The sailors will finish this leg exhausted, but also exhilarated and possibly even a little bit sad, as saying goodbye to the South is difficult as it is such a magical place to experience.' GOR Leg 3 positions at 06:00 GMT 29/01/12
1. Buckley Systems DTF 6,040nm 7.4kts
2. Campagne de France DTL 2.6nm 8.1kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 3.2nm 8kts
4. Cessna Citation DTL 4nm 8.6kts
5. Financial Crisis DTL 5.2nm 7.4kts
GOR points table and crew list for Leg 3:
1. Buckley Systems: 64 points. Ross and Campbell Field (NZL/NZL)
2. Campagne de France: 56 points. Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron (FRA/GBR)
3. Cessna Citation: 54 points. Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel (NZL/RSA)
4. Financial Crisis: 42 points. Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon (ITA/ESP)
5. Phesheya-Racing: 24 points. Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire (RSA/RSA)
6. Sec. Hayai: 6 points. Nico Budel and Frans Budel (NDL/NDL) RTD Leg 2, DNS Leg 3. Will re-join GOR for Legs 4 and 5