Protests and frayed tempers made for plenty of drama at the start of the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Cape Town to Melbourne yesterday

There was little wind, but place changes, protests and frayed tempers made for plenty of drama at the start of the second leg from Cape Town to Melbourne as the crews waved farewell to their loved ones and made their way tortuously out of Table Bay yesterday.

It was at the first mark, situated in the lee of a massive container ship, that skippers and navigators, whose patience had been sorely tested by the light and erratic south-easterly breezes in the shadow of Table Mountain, finally blew their tops. Progress had been slow and the frustration over their lack of steerage way, and the fashion in which the whole fleet came back together in the lee of the container ship, boiled over.

First it was Paul Cayard who threw up his hands in disgust when Pirates of the Caribbean, who looked set to round the mark in second place after languishing helplessly for half an hour on the approach, appeared to brush the Volvo buoy as they passed. The mark became hooked onto their keel and as they struggled to free themselves, the congestion among the other boats waiting in their wake to pass the mark to starboard began to get nasty. ABN AMRO ONE, Ericsson, together with Brasil 1, which had been first to the mark after an impressive start, but took three goes to get round, were all trying to steal a march on each other to get into more favourable winds.

Chaos ensued as rights of way were tossed aside in favour of some plain old argy-bargy. Mike Sanderson’s ABN AMRO ONE made contact with the side of Ericsson, leaving a stanchion bent double and the guard rails in disarray.

Protest flags were raised on both boats though Sanderson later dropped his and completed a penalty turn when he was advised the error had been ABN AMRO ONE’s.

Then it was Ericsson and Brasil 1 that stepped into the ring for a skirmish, the crews being forced to fend off as the boats locked horns. This time it was Torben Grael who snatched off his cap in a fit of pique and threw it onto the deck, knowing that despite all their efforts, Brasil 1 would be last to join the track into the Southern Ocean. Still, there is a long way to go – 6,100 miles or so.

According to a statement issued by Volvo Ocean Race CEO, Glenn Bourke, the three offending boats made their penalty turns, 720 degree turns for collisions for ABN AMRO ONE and Brasil 1, and a 360 degree turn for hitting the mark for Pirates.

“As far as we can tell, all of the boats that had an incident at the first mark exonerated themselves with the correct action. There is always the option for the teams to seek redress, but we will not know that until they lodge a protest with the race committee.”

“At this stage we do not have any knowledge of any further protests.”

The first two hours of the second leg to Melbourne proved to be dramatic and compelling, with start line honours won by Brasil 1, closely followed by the youngsters on ABN AMRO TWO who also eventually won the battle of the first mark and led around.

The very light conditions first spread the fleet, with Brasil 1 and movistar disputing the front spot and ABN AMRO ONE solidly – or perhaps stolidly – at the back, then compacted it after two hours with the only constant being the position of movistar. The big surprise of the day was the performance of ING Real Estate Brunel, slow off the line initially, then making steady progress, picking off all the big bucks campaigns one by one. They had their moments in the lead and after the buoy were disputing the lead with movistar.

After the fracas around the buoy sorted itself out and the wind raised its game a little – well, boat speeds have gone from zero to a resounding eight knots – the fleet shook itself out with Bouwe Bekking’s movistar leading from Torben Grael’s Brasil 1, Paul Cayard’s Pirates and Grant Wharrington’s ING Real Estate Brunel by a mile. Then Ericsson, ABN AMRO ONE and ABN AMRO TWO and listed by the satellite tracking as being a whopping two miles from the leader. In other words, there is absolutely nothing in it as yet.