Within the next 36 hours, the crews of Amer Sports One and illbruck will slowly watch the peak of the majestic Table Mountain come into view on the skyline as they speed into Cape Town and the Republic of South Africa from the southern Atlantic.
After throwing a line ashore for the first time since Southampton, the first two dozen happy but hungry Volvo Ocean Race sailors, dreaming of BBQ's on the dock (known locally as Brie) after a month at sea, will be welcomed by their families, shore teams and the world's media.
Missing from the line up of families for the first time in a very long time will be Grant Dalton's wife Nicki, who has just given birth to a little girl, weighing 3 lbs 10 ounces. Mum and baby are doing well. Dalton said that it was harrowing to be so far from home and unable to be there to assist in the unexpected birth. The baby was born seven weeks prematurely.
For the rest, they will line the colourful Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in the heart of Cape Town's docklands district in the early hours waiting to see loved ones for the first time in five weeks.
The fusion of cultural stores and restaurants offer immediate relaxation and replenishment while a host other amenities will inspire interest in local trade, cuisine, travel and exploration to the surrounding suburbs. Some superb mountain walks, vineyards and endless miles of white sand beaches through to surreal whale watching is all just a few moments away.
But, for the shore crews and a majority of the sailors, there will be limited time to play tourist. The serious business of getting ready for the next 6,500-mile leg across the hostile Southern Ocean has already begun.
"Nick [White] is getting all our data out of the computers on boat speed and angles; Alby [Pratt] is listing changes to the sails for the leg two plus ordering new ones; Gundy [Jon Gundersen] is finalizing his list for food changes; Justin [Slattery] and Shreda [Damien Duke] are listing changes to deck gear and winches; Steve Cotton is working on the rig program; Smiley [Craig Smith] is organizing the work list and Bart [Simpson] is planning whose apartment he is going to live in," reported race veteran Ross Field from third placed Team News Corp yesterday.
A good shore team is worth their weight in gold and will bear the brunt of most of the workload over the next two to three weeks. Over the nine months of the Volvo Ocean Race, the individuals in the support team need to be as committed as the crew racing the boat.
The standard jobs list for each stop over is already as long as the yacht but will undoubtedly grow with the general teething problems that are associated with a long opening leg.
The specialists waiting dockside to rectify any issues will include boat builders, sail makers, riggers and engineers, all under the guidance of a shore manager, plus his secretary, a cook, press officer and some hired local help, to speed up and smooth out the process.
The boat and mast will be stripped and every inch scrutinized. All the running rigging (halyards, sheets etc) may well be replaced. The water maker, engine, generator and water ballast, which can all be temperamental, will have a specialized service.
The leaders will have an extra few days to ensure they are ahead of the game going into leg two and the Nautor and illbruck Challenge teams are poised on the dock. "They are keen to start work the second we get in," said John Kostecki. "It is basically like a pit crew in a car race....hand the boat over and let them do what they do best. We are very fortunate to have a large experienced shore team who knows what the priorities are on these short stop overs. This takes some pressure off of the sailing team, so we can focus on recovering from the previous leg," added Kostecki.
At the rear of the fleet, Team SEB, djuice and Amer Sports Too will all have their work cut out, as they will have a week to ten days less to turn themselves around in preparation for wild ride to Australia.
"Take the scenario that we are beating to Cape Town the last thousand miles or so. This means a shorter stopover and less help from the crew. Higher demand on the shore-team is an immediate effect. I spoke to our shore manager, Scott McAllister today and he said that they are all ready and waiting, all they need is a boat," explained SEB skipper Gurrar Krantz last week.
Throw in sponsor and media commitments, plus some more on water sail testing and days off become hours. No stone can be left unturned between now and November 11th if any team wishes to be first past the Opera House in Sydney three weeks later.
Grant Dalton is still aiming to win leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race but he is still not sure he can hold off the charge of illbruck over the final 449 miles. The two runaway leaders are racing towards South Africa in over 25 knots of breeze.
Dalton has obviously not come this far to hand over the lead but the more developed sail inventory on illbruck may cost Amer Sports One an unexpected, but well deserved, leg win.
Now only ten miles behind Amer Sports One, John Kostecki and his illbruck team are pressing their Farr designed Volvo Ocean 60 to the max in a last 'all or nothing' attempt to win the leg.
Volvo Ocean Race Position Report, Day 31, 10.00hrs GMT:
PS Yacht Latitude Longitude DTF CMG SMG TFHR DTL ROC ETA PO
1 AONE 35 22.12S 009 32.40E 449 083 12.7 13.7 0 00.0 24 OCT 01 8
2 ILBK 35 32.64S 009 22.68E 459 087 14.3 14.4 10 01.2 24 OCT 01 7
3 NEWS 36 21.76S 003 48.24E 734 091 12.2 13.0 285 -00.7 25 OCT 01 6
4 TYCO 34 05.68S 000 53.96E 873 109 12.9 12.8 424 -00.3 26 OCT 01 5
5 AART 32 39.76S 002 44.72W 1064 109 11.5 10.7 615 -01.3 27 OCT 01 4
6 TSEB 26 51.20S 009 43.72W 1514 098 09.1 09.2 1065 -04.4 30 OCT 01 3
7 DJCE 27 04.76S 009 59.11W 1521 089 08.2 08.7 1072 -05.2 30 OCT 01 2
8 ATOO 26 09.84S 010 45.88W 1581 081 09.4 09.2 1132 -04.8 30 OCT 01 1