Abu Dhabi leads out of Cape Town
By the start time, 1300 UTC, the morning’s rain had passed, with a sunny blue sky creating a picture perfect day, while a westerly breeze created dream conditions to charge up the fleet in the close-quarter inshore combat.
The start was slow, in light breeze in the shadow of Table Mountain, but the Ian Walker-skippered Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing was first to the top mark, followed by Groupama, Camper, Puma, Team Sanya and Team Telefónica, which had stalled on the start line.
As the westerly wind eased to five knots, the fleet made their way around the 11-mile inshore course and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing extended her lead.
Before leaving Ian Walker commented: “For us, to get back to winning ways and to do this coming back into our home at Abu Dhabi would be perfect. We spent six months sailing there last winter so we know a lot, which we hope to use to our advantage. But we are under no illusions, this is a very long and testing leg, and anything could happen between now and New Year. What we can be sure of is that Abu Dhabi will pull out all the stops for its welcoming and hosting of the fleet. If that is not incentive to make sure we get there as fast as possible, I don’t know what is.”
Puma skipper Ken Read said: “I think we’re a little tired, but anxious to get back out there. We know where we were on the last leg was not a fluke, so now we have to make up the points. Our team motto is we want to be the first team to ever win this race without finishing every leg. Nobody has ever won the Whitebread or the Volvo doing that.
Puma navigator Tom Addis added: “We’re looking at 14-16 days on this first stage of Leg 2. It will be pretty typical for the first 12 hours – upwind out of here, and it doesn’t look like we have to go too far south. A lot of races you’re going directly south out of Cape Town, but we’ll likely be able to stay pretty close to land and save some distance due to a little low that’s just south of the country. We’ll be into some downwind sailing much sooner than normal. But, it won’t last that long – only a day or so. We’ll find some breeze at times. We have to sort of battle our way to the trade wind reach.”
Mike Sanderson said: “We are just dying to be out there long enough to get into the full swing of things. I am still amazed at the efforts of all involved over the last few weeks to repair the boat and make all this possible. It really has been something special and shows just what this team is made of. For Leg Two I am hoping for a good solid leg, for Team Sanya to get some good points on the board and to get properly into race mode to show what this boat and team can deliver. In a way I feel this race is only really starting for us now, this is our opportunity to shine and we are ready to take it on.”
Iker Martinez, skipper of race leader Telefonica said: "This is a tricky leg on many fronts and among those there's the sense of anticipation surrounding the whole subject of piracy. In sporting terms things are difficult, as the starts here are usually given with a lot of breeze. In fewer days you're South and there's a lot of wind down there, as we saw at the end of Leg 1, so you have to really run with it and try not to break anything, which is a difficult balance to strike.
"After the first leg the boats are always more prepared. The crews are always in better shape and it will be tough physically and tough on the boat, which you also have to keep in mind. Further ahead we'll reach an area with less breeze and it'll be a different sail there, so this will be a pretty all-round leg in terms of meteorological conditions.
"Then there's the whole issue of the pirates, which obviously we're not to happy about, but we are trying not to think about it too much. We try to focus on the fact that the organisers have the issue under control and that no problems are going to crop up. The first stretch of the leg will make up 80% of the total points on offer, so that means we are preparing for that first stretch, which is a start with more breeze, later we'll cross the Equator and then a small stretch up to the safe haven port where she'll be loaded up.
"After that there's a pretty significant logistical challenge. We've got to get the boat loaded, the ship has to leave and in a few days the boats have to be unloaded. The crews have to be flown out, we'll all be taking planes to the set down point where the boats will be unloaded and then there'll be a second scored stretch which will be worth 20%.
"We don't usually have to this sort of thing when we race, but if that's what the organisers think is safest and best then we have to get on with it and adapt to the situation. Yet again it's a case of taking care of the boat, and not just whilst sailing. A crane isn't the best thing for a boat – her natural habitat is the water or her cradle on shore and even when we go from water to cradle we are always careful and pretty scared... We'll just have to do things as best we can.
"I only have positive things to say about the fact that we are leading, really. The pressure on Team Telefónica today is no greater or no less than the pressure before starting the whole regatta or after the in-port at Alicante. We've always wanted to do this race really well and we've demanded the maximum from ourselves as a consequence. We want to do well, and that's it. Everyone demands the maximum from both themselves and from the others.
"For me it's like we are at the start again. The points we've got are goof and it's been a boost and we are all very happy, but as soon as we got in here we were already thinking about the next leg and we don't want to underestimate our rivals at all: their talent and their preparation. We've got to think that we are back where we were when we left Alicante and the aim has to be the same that we had then: to make the podium and to be up in the front three throughout, which is where you can win. So that's what we are going for!"