Up and away
The six Class40s taking part in the Global Ocean Race 2011-12 set sail this afternoon on the opening 6,700 mile leg from Palma de Mallorca to Cape Town, South Africa. At 1400 local time (12:00 GMT), the international doublehanded crew crossed the line set in the Bay of Palma, in the shadow of the Mallorcan city's famous landmark, the Cathedral of Santa Maria.
Following Saturday's torrent rain, the sky cleared at dawn on Sunday and a very light breeze trickled through the GOR Race Village in the Marina de Mallorca and as the teams, their shore crews, friends and families arrived at the dock to prepare for the start.
At 10:30, Father Miralles from the San Sebastián Church blessed the GOR fleet before the six boats headed out into Palma Bay at 11:00 led by Marco Nannini and Paul Peggs on their newly renamed Akilaria Financial Crisis with the dock lines for the entire fleet let go by GOR Race Ambassador and round-the-world yachtswoman, Dee Caffari, assisted by fellow IMOCA Open 60 sailor, Alex Thomson.
As the six Class40s milled in the start area just southeast of the Camino de la Escollera, the team from the Real Club Náutico de Palma laid the start line close inshore. While the course was laid, the spectator fleet of around 100 vessels, including a party from the GOR’s host yacht club in Uruguay, the Yacht Club Punta del Este and the club’s Commodore, Horacio Garcia Pastori, fell into a holding pattern further offshore, south of the RCNP’s committee boat.
With the afternoon sea breeze failing to arrive and a southerly breeze of around seven knots, the joint RCNP – GOR committee opted to shorten the inshore course from a nine-mile triangle to a single starboard rounding just under two miles from the start, allowing the fleet to clear the bay swiftly.
Former President of the Class40 Association, Jacques Fournier, fired the start gun and it was the Franco-British duo of Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron and their Pogo 40S² Campagne de France which crossed first, after swiftly unfurling their giant asymmetric spinnaker. Kiwi father and son, Ross and Campbell Field crossed second with their BSL opting for a more inshore course, the bright orange, windward rudder raised on their Verdier designed 40 and Field Senior helming down to leeward.
In close order, Nannini and Peggs with Financial Crisis and Nico Budel and Ruud van Rijsewijk on board Sec. Hayai crossed in third and fourth, with the South African duo of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire on Phesheya-Racing crossing ahead of Conrad Colman and Hugo Ramon with the new Akilaria RC2, Cessna Citation.
The Fields' inshore option paid off well with BSL rounding the single mark and hardening up six minutes ahead of Campagne de France and the they held this lead as the fleet exited the Bay of Palma. Behind Mabire and Merron, there was a traffic jam with three boats rounding simulatiously - Nannini and Peggs with Financial Crisis arrived at the turning mark first, but Cessna Citation squeezed into the gap, forcing Financial Crisis off the mark and allowing Phesheya-Racing through ahead of Nannini and Peggs, who swiftly lodged a protest against via VHF and email.
From here the Global Ocean Race fleet has around 450 miles of sailing through the Mediterranean before they reach the Strait of Gibraltar and the busy Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) between Gibraltar and Morocco.
While the start was light, weather models predict an easterly filling in tonight, with the teams likely to head south to the new breeze to ensure they have a good ride towards Gibraltar.
Having left the Med, the next turning mark is the Fastnet Marine Insurance Scoring Gate at the Brazilian Island of Fernando de Noronha, 2,800 miles to the southwest of Gibraltar.
During the two days prior to the start, Yellowbrick trackers were fitted to the six Class40s and have been synchronised with the GOR’s Geovoile Race Viewer to provide position, speed and heading data for each yacht every three hours; information that will be sent simultaneously to the six teams at sea. In the GOR’s first position poll at 15:00 GMT, three hours after the start, the lead trio were separated by under one mile making slightly less than six knots with BSL leading, Campagne de France in second and Cessna Citation in third.