|Crossing the ocean: Teams start the third leg of Clipper Round the World Yacht Race from Cape Town in the 4,845 nautical mile Southern Ocean crossing to Western Australia. — Photo courtesy Clipper World Race
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (VNS) — The twelve-strong Clipper Round the World Yacht Race fleet has begun the third leg of its 14-race global series in an energetic start from Cape Town.
The 4,845 nautical mile Southern Ocean crossing to Western Australia, named by host port Albany as the ‘Wardan Whip' – was inspired by the traditional Noongar language, which translates as ‘ocean of southern winds'.
"Many sailors see this leg as one of the biggest challenges of the race," said Justin Taylor, race director. "The conditions are massively testing and those who get it right will see exactly what the Clipper Race yachts are made of, surfing at more than 25 knots on swells bigger than buildings."
The fleet paraded into Table Bay following a colourful departure ceremony from the V&A Waterfront. There was a stiff 20 knot breeze from the south on the start line, with strong gusts measuring over 35 knots.
First over the line was Qingdao, followed by LMAX Exchange, with Visit Seattle in hot pursuit. They headed in-shore towards the first mark at Paarden Eiland before turning north up the bay to the Milnerton mark.
From there it was back out to sea and the critical tactical decision on how far out to sail, while avoiding becoming caught in the calm seas of Table Mountain.
Heading home is Australian Wendy Tuck, Skipper of DaNang–Viet Nam: "Heavy downwind sailing is going to be a big challenge in this race, as well as knowing when to make the call to drop the spinnaker and just go with white sails.
"We are improving as we go along, so we want to keep that momentum going. I've got a good feeling. I'm really looking forward to arriving in Australia. I haven't actually been to Western Australia before, but I can't wait to get home," said Tuck.
"Cape Town has been amazing. It is effectively our home port and I've loved every minute of it. It's a shame to leave, really," said Darren Ladd, skipper of IchorCoal.
"I think the last race was really good preparation for the Southern Ocean. We did go a long way south, and we deliberately did that for the stronger winds, and we had them."
Winner of Race 2 and joint first on the overall leaderboard is the yacht Great Britain. Skipper Peter Thornton is looking forward to his first outing in the Southern Ocean: "It's my first time sailing in the Southern Ocean and something I have been looking forward to. The crew is anxious about the conditions to come.
"The Southern Ocean is notorious for a reason, when we first get out there we'll be heading into some southerlies which will sort the men from the boys, and then try to get south into the Roaring Forties conveyer belt," noted Thornton.
"It's going to be tough. The important thing is to get the boat well set with the right sail plan and a feeling that we are racing at our optimum."
Eager to perform well in this race after winning the first leg to Rio is the team aboard LMAX Exchange. French Skipper and Southern Ocean novice Olivier Cardin stated, "We had some variable conditions in the last race, and the important thing is to sail fast and safe. We need to win the Scoring Gate points for a good place on the leaderboard.
"I have been dreaming of this day for a long time. I remember when I was eight years old and watching the Whitbread Race and, finally, now it is my time. The most challenging thing will be tiredness after relentless sail changes, so we will have to be mindful to keep up our morale on board with each other," added Cardin.
Race Director Taylor added, "At the start of this race the crew will pass under the first of the World's great capes, The Cape of Good Hope. At the end of the race they will pass under the second great cape of Leeuwin in Western Australia."
The estimated arrival window into Albany is between 22 and 26 November. — VNS