With a heavy cloud shrouding Table Mountain the six boats participating in the Portimão Global Ocean Race set off on their 7,900 nautical mile voyage to Wellington, New Zealand. Executive Deputy Mayor, Cllr Grant Haskin fired the start gun and seconds later Michel Kleinjans aboard Roaring Forty crossed the line, sails sheeted in tight and wide grin plastered on his face. Moments later the German team of Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer crossed followed closely by Nico Budel aboard Hayai. The wind, a steady northerly, made for an upwind beat to the first obligatory mark, Fairway buoy No 2 off Sea Point.

The fleet immediately split tacks with Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson aboard Team Mowgli heading offshore toward Robben Island, and Kleinjans on Roaring Forty choosing instead to head for land hoping to pick up a nice lift off the wind bending around Signal Hill. The rest of the fleet chose a middle ground with Beluga Racer and Desafio Cabo de Hornos already locked in a neck and neck match race, the German yacht slightly ahead of the Chilean team of Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz.

A large spectator fleet was on hand to watch the boats tussle their way out of Table Bay. The entire racing fleet for the Crock’s Regatta, a local regatta also taking place this weekend, was on hand to give the Portimão racers a rousing send-off with local sailors Peter and Lenjohn van der Wel surrounded by well-wishers waving and cheering. Earlier in the day it was an emotional scene at the Royal Cape Yacht Club as hundreds of cheering people gave each yacht a fitting send-off. The fog slowly lifted and by the time all the boats were away from the dock there were peeks of blue sky forcing their way between dark rain clouds.

Portimao Ocean Race

Portimao Ocean Race

Currently, Belgium sailor Michel Kleinjans is once again handing out sailing lessons to his rival Portimão Global Ocean Race skippers. At the most recent poll (11:20 UTC) Kleinjans aboard his Open 40, Roaring Forty, had a 60 mile lead over his closest competitor Desafio Cabo de Hornos, but that’s likely to change over the next 24 hours as he enters a transition zone between two high pressure systems. Roaring Forty, the easternmost boat in the fleet, was still managing a very respectable 6.8 knots while the Chilean entry skippered by Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz was well into the windless zone and had slowed to a frustrating 2.7 knots. Cubillos and Muñoz were dealing with fickle headwinds and feeling the pain with each passing hour.

Michel Kleinjans is nothing if not modest. When he shot into an early lead on Leg 1 he attributed his success to the fact that he was carrying less supplies than the double-handed entries. “Less weight equals more boat speed and since I am only carrying food and other supplies for one person, I am at a distinct advantage,” he said. True except for the fact that he is sailing alone while the others are able to take watches and get some rest, so while Michel may be modest about his success, he has worked extremely hard with very little sleep to take such a commanding lead just two days into the race.

While Beluga Racer, co-skippered by Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme are in second place in the double-handed division, they are being chased hard by the South African team of Lenjohn and Peter van der Wel aboard Kazimir Partners. While the Chileans deal with painful conditions and slow speeds, Beluga Racer and Kazimir Partners are both steaming along at 6 to 7 knots and by the next poll it’s likely that there will be a leaderboard change.

On a distance-to-go basis Nico Budel on Hayai and the Brits aboard Team Mowgli are level pegging with Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson the westernmost boat in the fleet. They have stuck firm with their strategy of getting south as quick as possible and it may well pay off as the outer edges of a low pressure system will bring them favourable westerly winds by late tomorrow afternoon. Being the westernmost boat in the fleet they will get the new breeze first. The big question is always how much sooner and for how much longer will they enjoy the westerly wind before their rivals get into the same conditions.

The mild weather has allowed all of the sailors to ease into the leg and to settle into the rhythm of life at sea. Hopefully they will be rested and well sorted before they meet their first Southern Ocean blow due later in the week. The low pressure that will give Team Mowgli a boost tomorrow will just be the outer edges of the system. On Friday evening or Saturday another low pressure system will sweep below the fleet, however this time the centre of the low will be further north, and the boats will be further south. The time for a fast ride into the Roaring Forties is getting closer.

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