Start line prang
California had another cracking start in the stiff south easterly breeze in Table Bay and was first across the line to massive cheers from the crew on board.
California was followed by Spirit of Australia, looking for a win on this race to their home port, and Team Finland. The skippers of both California and Team Finland live in Cape Town so may have been able to call on a little local knowledge to press home their advantage as they led the fleet back into the South Atlantic. As they sailed into the lee of Table Mountain, which looked magnificent in the South African sunshine, the winds dropped slightly.
The Clipper Race is hard fought and, as in any sport, the adrenaline is pumping for the crews on the start line.
Race Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, was watching the action on the water and said, “This is a closely contested race and this kind of thing happens in fiercely competitive racing. The race is underway – eight boats are racing off towards Geraldton in Western Australia. For the two damaged boats, repairs will be effected as speedily as possible so they can catch up.”
The Clipper maintenance team, headed up by Justin Haller, has already begun assessing the damage and is in contact with local marine surveyors who will be called in to assist. Both yachts have been taken from the V&A Waterfront to Royal Cape Yacht Club for the work to be carried out.
Hearing of the incident, the Irish Ambassador to South Africa, who was in Cape Town today, has stayed in the city to support the team and is commiserating with them at the yacht club.
Cape Town has proved a huge hit with the crews who have enjoyed climbing Table Mountain - and abseiling down its sheer granite rock face - visiting Robben Island, the gardens at Kirstenbosch. And a few even had the chance to take an exclusive, behind the scenes tour of the brand new Cape Town Stadium which is being built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
As much as they love visiting the stopover cities and countries, the crews are here to race and this morning they were anxious to get back out on the water. As the eight teams who crossed the start line, which was marked at one end by a South African Navy minesweeper, headed back out into the South Atlantic, the current overall race leader Team Finland was just ahead of California. Spirit of Australia, in second place overall, was just behind them in third place, followed by the eagle-emblazoned Cape Breton Island, Uniquely Singapore and Qingdao. Jamaica Lightning Bolt and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital were not far behind.
The teams will round the Cape of Good Hope before heading down into the treacherous waters of the Southern Ocean where the first three boats to reach the scoring gate can gain some precious extra points. The fleet is expected to arrive in Geraldton, Western Australia, between 14 and 18 December.