The wind Gods were smiling today for the start of the 6,550 nautical mile leg two of the Volvo Ocean Race to Sydney, providing spectacular sailing conditions in Table Bay, under the watchful gaze of Table Mountain.
A freshening westerly 24-knot breeze blew out of a clear and cloudless blue sky, declaring a true beat to windward towards the 200-metre wide gate set three miles to the west, 2000 metres offshore northwest of Green Point.
Long before the crowds gathered, at 6.30 this morning, as the sun rose, the illbruck crew were observed making last minute checks to their boat; Grant Dalton was the next skipper to be seen on the dock at 7.30 am.
Father Sergio, the Port Chaplain held a blessing of the waves, and the Siveli Primary School Choir sang the Lord's Prayer and the National Anthem in front of a huge crowd which lined the dock and perched precariously on the wharf walls. The fleet was waved away accompanied by the now-familiar rock music specifically chosen for each boat and huge cheers.
Once out in Table Bay, the eight-strong fleet, set up with full mainsail, number one jib and full water-ballast, jostled for position in the starting area which was positioned approximately 500 metres to the north west of Cape Town Harbour entrance, with two blue and yellow Volvo buoys as inner distance and outer distance marks.
At the ten-minute gun, fired by Robert Norrman, managing director of Volvo Cars South Africa, a large fog bank was seen on the horizon, temperatures dropping rapidly. Two hundred spectator boats were pushing close to the fleet, churning up a huge wash, while above, eight helicopters circled like vultures.
The whole fleet made a clean start on starboard tack with djuice choosing the favourable pin end of the line, next to the breakwater. Tyco was the first boat to tack onto port, the rest of the fleet followed, forced by the shoreline to tack out. Djuice continued to work the shoreline, sailing into clear air, Amer Sports One and News Corp hard on her heels, with illbruck and Assa Abloy covering each other. The wind dropped to 10 knots as the fleet sailed into the fog bank, but the fight continued, the lead changing with every tack, Amer Sports One losing precious distance as she bore away hard to give way to illbruck now back on starboard tack.
News Corp was the first Volvo 60 to reach the gate, three miles up the race track, followed by illbruck 30 seconds behind her and djuice 5 seconds behind illbruck. SEB rounded one minute behind djuice with Assa Abloy right on her transom 10 seconds behind. There was a gap of one minute 20 seconds before Tyco turned through the gate followed by Amer Sports One five seconds behind her and Amer Sports Too a further two minutes 10 seconds later.
The fleet continued to sail on the wind, the wind still decreasing, News Corp was leading illbruck, djuice, SEB and Assa Abloy inshore on starboard tack, while Tyco, Amer Sports One and Amer Sports Too opted for offshore route on port tack.
Finally, as the fleet unfurled their Code Zero sails, it was News Corp leading the pack with illbruck in second place and djuice in third.