There is one feature of an around the world race that all sailors will tell you stands foremost in their memories. It ranks up there with the best sunset and the fastest surf down a wave. That feature is their very first sight of Table Mountain.
If the sky is clear you can see the flat top of this distinct landmark from a 100 kilometers away. It looks like small loaf of bread on the horizon and teases sailors as it refuses to get bigger unless the wind is blowing hard from the west. If the wind is light, or from the southeast, it takes a lifetime to get to Cape Town, but once there sailors can enjoy the traditional hospitality of the Tavern of the Seas, as Cape Town is known.
Sometime during the late afternoon today Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group/Armor Lux will be treated to his first glimpse of this magic mountain. If he maintains his current speed he could possibly see the outline of the table just before the light fades and plunges him into darkness. It's only right that Stamm be the first Around Alone competitor to see the dark outline of the mountain.
He has led this leg from the moment the fleet sailed past Berry Head off Torbay, and with a single-mindedness he has kept the pace and pressure on all the way. Stamm, along with three other Class 1 competitors weathered the massive storm in the Bay of Biscay, and when the 70 knot winds had died down he emerged with an even greater lead. Once into the trade winds south of Portugal he pushed his Pierre Roland design as fast as it would sail and opened up his lead just a bit more. Dodging squalls in the doldrums and fighting for every last knot of boat speed Bobst Group/Armor Lux maintained his lead, but it was once the yachts were into the South Atlantic that the afterburners really opened up and Stamm rocketed south. With Emma Richards on Pindar and Thierry Dubois on Solidaires pushing every inch of the way, the determined Swiss sailor held onto his lead and now with victory almost in sight, the moment will be one to savour.
The weather forecast is good for a fast finish, and if all goes well Bernard could be in during the early hours of Wednesday morning. We hope he will seize the opportunity to have his blue boat outlined against the backdrop of this beautiful mountain and wait until daylight to arrive, but we also know that Stamm is not one to easily give back a hard earned mile. He only has to finish a second ahead of the boat behind him to claim his points for the leg, so maybe, just maybe Bernard will make a daylight appearance.
Below are the best ETA estimates for the first four boats (local time - GMT +2hrs). They are based on current speed and distances to go, and do not take into account wind shadows and other weather anolomies. They will be updated throughout the day and night.
Bobst Group/Armor Lux - Wed 9 am
Solidaires - Thurs 4 am
Pindar - Thurs 8 am
Hexagon - Thurs 11 pm