From one mountain to another… the ten yachts competing in the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race have started the next leg of the epic 35,000-mile global challenge, leaving behind the iconic Rio backdrop of Sugar Loaf Mountain for the race towards Cape Town, where Table Mountain dominates the skyline.
The 3,300-mile Race 3 will take the teams across the South Atlantic, dipping south towards the Roaring Forties and the treacherous seas of the South Atlantic, before approaching the notorious Cape of Good Hope at the end of the course.
The Brazilian sunshine which had shone so strongly all week was absent as the teams departed the Iate Clube do Rio and headed out into Guanabara Bay. With 12 to15 knots from the south, low cloud cover and heavy rain, the crews donned their waterproofs and hoisted their sails in preparation for the race start.
At 1511 local time (1711 GMT) the horn sounded across the bay for the start of Race 3. Race 2 winners Team Finland and Hull & Humber were the only two boats to opt for their Yankee 1, the largest of the upwind headsails, with the rest of the fleet opting for their Yankee 2 as the ten boats made for the start line. The choice paid dividends for Team Finland who crossed the line first just ahead of Uniquely Singapore and Spirit of Australia.
As the fleet made their way round the final mark at the end of Rio's Copacabana beach and turned towards the African continent positions had altered considerably. Cape Breton Island had moved into the lead, closely followed by California and Spirit of Australia. Lying in fourth was Caribbean entry, Jamaica Lightning Bolt with Hull & Humber in fifth. Having made an excellent recovery from a disastrous race start, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital had moved up to sixth place with Team Finland, Uniquely Singapore and Cork in seventh, eighth and ninth place respectively. Bringing up the rear was Chinese entry, Qingdao, but, with more than 3,300 miles to go to Cape Town, these places are likely to change many times during the next two weeks of racing.
The Rio stopover has been a challenging one, none more so than for the crew of California. They have had just 58 hours to prepare for the start of the next leg after arriving in the early hours of Sunday morning. A herculean effort by California's crew, including those who were waiting to join the yacht who had bought and bagged all the food supplies for the next race, and members of other teams who rallied around in support, has ensured that the yacht and her crew are ready to go.
The race to Cape Town should be much faster than the last one to Rio and the teams will be able to take advantage of the mountainous South Atlantic rollers to speed them on their way – provided they avoid the centre of the South Atlantic High Pressure system. After the light winds of Race 2, the skippers and tacticians will be very wary of getting too near to any wind holes that could slow them down.
Uniquely Singapore's skipper, Jim Dobie, says, “I'm excited about the heavy winds and big seas coming up which is something I'm used to. Hopefully we'll have more wind than on the first leg so I'm feeling pretty confident. We'll be looking to dip down south to get as much breeze as we can whilst being mindful not to cover too much distance.”
Piers Dudin, skipper of Hull & Humber, is expecting a fast race to Cape Town. “You'll see the level in racing really step up now,” he says. “The crews are getting pretty hot on trimming and driving the boats. It's going to be a feisty run into Cape Town and barring any major damage I'm expecting most of the boats to get in within 12 hours of each other. We're looking at a really tight race with a lot of slight variations in routes that will make a big difference to speed.”
Speed is one thing the crew of Jamaica Lighting Bolt know about. The team is named after the world's fastest man, double world record holder and Olympic champion, Usain Bolt, and their result in Race 2 gave them Jamaica's first ever podium position in the Clipper Race.
The sprinter has sent the team a message of support, “I would like to congratulate the crew of Jamaica Lightning Bolt for their very credible placing. I am happy that my name is associated with success and it can only get better. I am honoured to have the vessel named after me and so, therefore, it is important that the level of performance be maintained. I am excited at this opportunity and I am sure you are, too. I would therefore like to wish you all the best.”
With just two of the 14 individual races that comprise Clipper 09-10 completed, the race standings show that the competition is still wide open. Just a point separates the leader, Spirit of Australia, and second placed Team Finland. Jamaica Lightning Bolt, Cork, Ireland and Cape Breton Island all have 14 points each while Qingdao and Uniquely Singapore, with seven points a-piece, are just four points behind sixth placed Hull & Humber and only just ahead of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and California. The Formula 1-type scoring system, which awards points according to the results achieved on each race, means all ten crews have an equal chance of a place on the podium in Cape Town.
Joining Cork, Ireland, for the race to his home town is young South African sailor, Marlon Jones, from Izivunguvungu Sailing Academy in Cape Town. The Academy was established by one of the major investors in South Africa's America's Cup syndicate, Team Shosholoza, in order to give underprivileged youngsters the opportunity to get out on the water and make a difference to their lives through sailing. Marlon, 20, has proved himself a major talent and represented South Africa in the 2009 Laser SB3 World Championships where he and his team finished second.
For two of the Clipper 09-10 skippers, Eero Lehtinen of Team Finland and California's Pete Rollason, the race to Cape Town will be a particularly emotional one as both men have made the city their home. Their families will be waiting on the quayside at Royal Cape Yacht Club to welcome them and their teams to South Africa.
The 180 crew taking part on this leg of Clipper 09-10 aren't the only ones getting ready to set sail for Cape Town. More than 51,000 people are competing in the Virtual Race on www.clipperroundtheworld.com and they will set off from Rio to Cape Town at exactly the same time – racing across the South Atlantic on their computer screens.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race
The Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race started on 13 September from the Humber on the UK's east coast and return there in July 2010 after 35,000 miles of ocean racing. No previous sailing experience is required to take part as full training is provided. More than 40 nationalities an 230 professions are represented by crew competing in Clipper 09-10. Crew can sign up for the whole circumnavigation or one or more legs. The overall race is divided into individual races and points are accumulated according to each individual race position. The yacht with the highest total at the finish wins the race trophy.
Standings after Race 2
1. Spirit of Australia 21 points
2. Team Finland 20 points
3. Jamaica Lightning Bolt 14 points
4. Cork 14 points
5. Cape Breton Island 14 points
6. Hull & Humber 11 points
7. Qingdao 7 points
8. Uniquely Singapore 7 points
9. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 5 points
10. California 3 points