When the yachts left the pontoons in Cape Town, South Africa yesterday there was virtually no wind and a large swell, making life difficult for the teams trying to plan a precisely timed assault on the start line. As they drifted towards the start line VAIO crossed the line first and timed their run to near-perfection.
Unfortunately they were just one second too soon; enough to incur a 720º penalty turn. Barclays Adventurer was second over the line followed by Imagine It. Done. but the positions had been turned on their head by the first mark, when Samsung took the lead.
The lack of wind caused initial problems hoisting spinnakers and gradually built with the occasional gust. The excruciatingly slow progress was reminiscent of many of the team's painfully slow finishes into Cape Town and Table Mountain - the sight that symbolised the end of a truly gruelling trip from Sydney against the prevailing winds of the Southern Ocean - again played a hand in the Global Challenge.
The shadow cast by the mountain caused the wind to shift through 180º almost instantly, from northwest to southeast, taking teams by surprise and prompting rapid spinnaker drops.
The wind continued to build and eventually became steady and from the south. The whole fleet had the spinnakers flying again in 15- 20 knots after an eventful first phase and VAIO, who had completed their penalty turn, had fought back to the front of the fleet.
BP Explorer had their own problems at the start with localised wind holes seemingly searching them out but have also managed to claw back through the densely packed fleet.
'It was one of our bumpier take-offs,' said BP Explorer skipper David MELVILLE (GBR) shortly after crossing the start line. 'We managed to find every gap and hole in the wind there was going but some aggressive work with the kite has enabled us to fight our way back up the pack.'
'Currently we are lying in about fourth place [at the 0750 poll they had moved up to third - Ed] thanks to an early gybe to the windward side of the pack which gave us a nice amount of power. I am very pleased with the way that the crew reacted to the peel and then the gybe and I'm glad that we are on our way again - looking at sails behind rather than in front.'
Jeremy TROUGHTON, skipper of Logica during the 2000/01 race was watching the start in Cape Town. Talking about the conditions TROUGHTON said: 'It was really tough conditions for them. The boats are very big and heavy so the worst conditions are light winds and a big swell and that's exactly what they had. The wind was only really just enough to be drifting along…'
'At the moment they'll be planning ahead for the next 24-48 hours, positioning their boat to set themselves up for their circumnavigation of the South Atlantic high, which is going to be the predominant weather feature on the first half of the leg. They'll be looking ahead to get their position correct for that and trying to get their crew settled down into their watch systems as early as possible as everyone gets used to being back at sea again after a lengthy stopover in Cape Town.'
Although the Southern Ocean leg from Sydney to Cape Town is widely regarded as the toughest leg of the race, TROUGHTON explained that, 'For all the skippers in the last race, unanimously, this was the toughest leg.'
'This leg will undoubtedly be the toughest leg of all for the crews,' he continued. 'In the Southern Ocean you just knuckle on and you gel as a team because it's really rough out there and you've got to work together to get through it. This leg will really highlight any fractures within the team and it will test relationships to the max.'
'Little niggles will become big issues and I think what we'll see on this leg is really the strongest team coming to the forefront. Obviously the tactics and the sailing side are critical as well but if they don't have a harmonious attitude on board or work together well they're really going to struggle.'