The Start One fleet exited Table Bay safely and cleanly in champagne sailing conditions on Saturday afternoon.
After all the excitement, farewells, and fervent support of a one-hundred boat spectator fleet, and countless people ashore at the various excellent outlooks like Signal Hill, the Promenade, Granger Bay, V&A Waterfront and Milnerton beach, the boats have encountered light westerly and south westerly winds since then.
The Start One fleet comprises of heavy displacement cruisers and catamarans, and some small cruiser racer boats.
It’s a compelling mix of adventurers, some taking the racing aspect more seriously, and others taking on the adventure of a lifetime aspect with open eyes, minds and hearts.
Leading the pack out of Table Bay were Mojie, followed by JM Busha 54, San Salvador, Sulanga, Umoya, and the braaing Argonauts.
As the boats fetched or close-reached past Robben Island and on to Dassen Island in a moderate westerly, they knew a time would come during the first night when the wind was predicted to shut down. The weak frontal system passing below Africa, coupled with a weak South Atlantic High just to the west, is making the going slow for the first few days, and you will see from the tracker that the boats are weaving left and right as they progress slowly up the west coast of South Africa in search of valuable local puffs of breeze and swirls of current. Heavily disadvantaged for power to get going in these light conditions, you will notice the heavy cruisers are towards the back of the fleet. Some even reported dropping sails in the windless conditions, where terms like steerage and making way seem alien!
Currently, many in the fleet are sailing offshore, about 200 miles northwest of Cape Town, in search of breeze and favorable current, but that too has risk attached, because the high pressure system is wafting wide and windless further west, and could a swallow them whole! A split at this stage would set the cat amongst the pigeons, and those in it for the overall race handicap honours must be sweating heavily strategizing ways to get away.
Doing particularly well in the conditions is the lowest handicapped boat in the fleet, the van der Stadt 34, Indulgence, from the Vaal Dam. Vaal sailors typically know how to get the best out of light winds. Also performing well is the Argentinian Victory 43, San Salvador, which is a classic IOR type design.
Watch the west! Who is brave enough to stay north?
by Luke Scott