Tomorrow morning the eight VOR teams are facing a 6650-nautical mile leg to Sydney, Australia
The eight teams are facing a 6650 nautical miles long leg to Sydney Australia. Only one more night of dry sheets, normal food and a full night sleep in a solid building before they will be charging towards the most desolate parts of the world in their Spartan high tech downwind flyer.
From Sunday on it promises to be a wet and wild ride to the east. Maybe not straight from the Cape Town start, but the navigators will do all they can to find the depressions as quickly as possible. George Caras, the teams’ onshore meteorologist thinks the first few days are crucial. Caras is talking about a high-risk course. Going straight south will get them in the new wind and depressions, but they might be blocked off by the building “high”. “It will be a race between them and the high pressure,” says Caras. “If they can beat that they are in good shape, but if they get caught by it they can be parked for days.”
Once the teams will have past the first crucial hurdles they will run in to the Southern Ocean lows. These storms, caused by fierce depressions, blow along the Antarctic from west to east, not hindered by land thus causing huge mountainous waves. So all comfort will soon be gone and the foul weather gear and maybe even the survival suits will come out of the bag not to be stowed away again closer to Australia.
Neal McDonald looks forward to going back to sea again. “That will be a welcome change to standing on the dock with a mobile phone in my hand. This will be the toughest leg of the race to come. And taking on the skippers role leaves me in far from relaxed. But the task ahead is a challenge I relish and I’m ready to take it head on – we’ve got a great sponsor, a fantastic sailing team and shore team and there is no doubt one of the best boats, so take it on I will.
The Southern Ocean is the most desolate stretch of water, where no commercial shipping or land is to be found. The only things the teams can run into are storms, icebergs, huge waves, whales and other extreme wildlife. There is only one piece of land in the middle of nowhere between South Africa and Australia called the Kerguelen Islands but that is it. After that island the ocean racers will have to come North again to pass between the Australian mainland and Eclipse, an island of the South Western Australian coast. From there on it will be another 10 days of racing through the Australian Bite and Bass Strait, before they are estimated to arrive in Sydney.
This last day before the start, the energy is almost electric on the docks of Cape Town Waterfront. More and more gear is being stowed in the boats. Crews are hanging in the top of the mast or are taking apart a last piece of equipment again to be sure it will not break when it is needed most.
The start from Cape Town is at 13.00, local time, Sunday 11 November (11.00 GMT). It promises to be a spectacular start with south-easterly winds of 20 knots building to 35 knots during the day.