With the iconic Table Mountain providing a stunning backdrop, the fleet of five international ocean racers crossed the start line beginning a gruelling 7,000 nautical mile sprint across the Southern Ocean through some of the worst weather conditions known to man.
The original start of ocean sprint two had been planned for Sunday 12 December but it was postponed due to gale-force winds and huge seas off the coast of South Africa. The VELUX 5 OCEANS race committee constantly monitored the weather forecasts until they felt there was a suitable window in the weather to allow for a safe race start.
The fleet set sail from Cape Town in their 60ft Eco 60 yachts in around 15 knots of breeze from the South East. Canada's Derek Hatfield on Active House was the first to cross the line, with a strong start that will make-up for his poor start in La Rochelle. He led the five impressive ocean racing yachts out of Table Bay and into open water where the wind dropped considerably in the shadow of the mountain. Tactics will now come into play with all five skippers trying to find some breeze to take them on.
Sprint one winner, Brad Van Liew on Le Pingouin followed Derek over the line, and a smiling Christophe Bullens on Five Oceans of Smiles Too was third, with this his first start with the entire fleet obviously meaning a lot to him. Gutek (Zbigniew Gutkowski) and Operon Racing was next and finally Chris Stanmore-Major aboard Spartan who struggled to get his main sail up and lost momentum on his way to the start line.
Prior to leaving the dock, ocean sprint one winner Brad Van Liew could not be drawn on his tactics for the next leg. The 42-year old American has twice competed in the VELUX 5 OCEANS prior to this event, winning class two in the 2002/3 edition of the race.
"I'm just going to go out there, sail my boat and try to stay safe," said Brad, skipper of Le Pingouin. "Safety is the key to this leg. I'm very competitive by nature so I will just see what happens once I'm there. I'm not going to go out all aggressive with a bone in my teeth. I think I'll just get stuck into it and let the cycle of the leg do its own thing."
Canadian ocean racer Derek Hatfield, skipper of Active House, was facing up to the prospect of Christmas alone at sea. "It will be a bit emotional but I will be able to call in," the 58-year-old father of four said. "It's a special day at home but for me it's just another day racing. All the days meld together so when you're alone at sea there is no real special day. It's just another race day."
Howling winds, freezing temperatures and mountainous seas await the skippers as they head south from Cape Town into the notorious Roaring Forties and Screaming Fifties, named so because of the sheer force of the winds that are found in those latitudes. The Southern Ocean is the only ocean in the world that is not constricted by land allowing waves and wind to mount up as they circumnavigate the globe unimpeded.
Run by Clipper Ventures PLC, the VELUX 5 OCEANS started from La Rochelle in France in October and features five ocean sprints. After heading from La Rochelle to Cape Town, the race is now headed for Wellington in New Zealand. Following that the race takes in Salvador in Brazil and Charleston in the US before returning back across the Atlantic to France. The 2010/11 edition of the race is the eighth its 28-year history. Ocean Sprint One Results
Pos. Name Nation - Points
1. Brad van Liew (USA) - 15
2. Zbignieu Gutkowski (POL) - 12
3. Derek Hatfield (CAN) - 10
4. Chris Stanmore-Major (GBR) - 8
5. Christophe Bullens (BEM) - 7