Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng Race Team and the Spanish MAPFRE squad were neck and neck leading the Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Cape Town and towards the southernmost point of the African continent on Sunday. It was the eleventh time in the history of the event that the fleet had raced out of Cape Town, this time on a 6,500 nautical mile leg to Melbourne, Australia. The ETA is currently between the 24th and 26th of December.
Conditions were ideal, with the famed Cape Doctor wind blowing at 20-25 knots. The fleet raced around a short triangle course in front of the city, before being freed to sprint off towards Australia.
There was some drama for the Dongfeng team who had to make a late crew change just before leaving the dock. Daryl Wislang suffered a back strain this morning and the team decided not to risk having it flare up more while at sea. He stepped off the boat to be replaced by Fabien Delahaye.
The forecast is for very strong winds on Sunday evening and overnight, which should then ease for a brief respite, before strengthening again as the first of the Southern Ocean weather systems that will pick them up and carry them to Melbourne comes calling.
“It is the worst sailing you can do but it’s also the absolute best,” said Stu Bannatyne, a three-time race winner on board Dongfeng, in reply to a question about the Southern Ocean.
“Fortunately it seems the human mind forgets the bad times and only remembers the good, which is why we keep coming back.”
That is a sentiment that is sure to be shared among the 63 sailors (and seven on board reporters) over the coming days.