The Ocean Globe Race fleet sets off to race 7,250 nautical miles through the treacherous Southern Ocean from Capetown to Auckland

At 1400, November 5, South African Naval Vessel SAS King Sekhukhune 1 and French Navy Frigate Floréal signaled the start of Leg 2 of the Ocean Globe Race.

The Cape Town to Auckland leg is seen by many as the most daunting of the eight-month retro round-the-world race: It’s long, cold and, of course, there’s the Southern Ocean.

Competition is fierce amongst the fleet, with Pen Duick VI and Maiden gunning to dominate Leg 2. Marie Tabarly, skipper of Pen Duick VI and daughter of legendary sailor Eric Tabarly, another Whitbread veteran, has stated on more than one occasion that Leg One was ‘just a warm-up’.

Seven of the fleet are former Whitbread competitors, including L’Esprit d’équipe which won the Whitbread in the 1985/86 edition.

The 2023-24 Ocean Globe Race

Hundreds of spectator boats cheered the start of the Ocean Globe Race on Sunday 10 September, as 14 iconic yachts…

Only 11 of the 14-strong fleet started Leg 2 of the Ocean Globe Race, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Whitbread Race. Racing in the spirit of 1973 means no computers, no GPS, and no high-tech materials.

Sextants and paper charts will guide those about to take on the Southern Ocean South. With the fleet arriving later than expected into Cape Town the stopover was a lot shorter than many of the yachts would have liked, with crews under pressure to complete necessary maintenance work and provisioning on time.

In Leg One, the Swan 65 Translated 9 was the overall winner of The Ocean Globe Race from Southampton to Capetown as well as taking first place in the Flyer Class winner. Triana (Swan 53) and Spirit of Helsinki (Swan 651) each won their divisions.

The Finnish Swan 651, Spirit of Helsinki, took line honours in the 7,305 mile first leg from Southampton, winning the Sayula class and taking second place in the IRC ranking after 39 days of hard racing.

The French legend, Pen Duick VI, considered by many to be the firm favourite, lost the lead on day 37, when Spirit of Helsinki dipped further south picking up more favourable winds for their final push east to Cape Town.

The Italian entrant, Translated 9, was third across the line after 40 days at sea but earned a well-deserved first in IRC ranking and first in the Flyer Class. The Swan 65, co-skippered by Vendée Globe veteran Vittorio Malingri, crossed the line in 60-knot gusts and has a two-day advantage within the IRC rankings over Spirit of Helsinki. The yacht is currently replacing its mast in Capetown.

A protest hearing saw the 73-foot Bermudan Ketch Pen Duick VI awarded a 72-hour time penalty for opening the seal of the crew comms back with Marie Tabarly’s WhatsApp account active after the start in Southampton (UK) on September 10.

As the fully crewed, retro race is in the spirit of the 1973-74 Whitbread Round the World Race, permitted onboard technology is severely limited, with all personal electronic devices kept sealed onboard for crew use in ports only.

But the biggest cheers on arrival were reserved for UK’s Maiden and her all-female crew. Ranking 2nd on IRC ranking for the previous five weeks, she lost the title just minutes before crossing the finish line, slipping to 3rd place in IRC after 41 days of racing. The last two days had proved particularly tough for Maiden with strong winds of 35-40 knots making her final approach to Cape Town arduous.

The crew of Maiden celebrate arriving in Cape Town. Photo: Ocean Globe Race 2023/Aida Valceanu

Helming over the finish line was 25-year-old South African, Vuyisile Jaca, who found the welcome home overwhelmingly emotional. ‘It’s just amazing to be here. It’s the best feeling ever! I can hardly describe how wonderful it is to see everyone,” said a tearful Vuyisle.

After 45 days of sailing, the former Whitbread winner L’Esprit d’équipe FR (85) skippered by Lionel Regnier, claimed 5th in line honours in Leg One. Light winds, which have dogged the crew throughout the Ocean Globe Race, slowed their progress once again as they crossed the line in Table Bay Harbour, Cape Town on Oct 25.

The French yacht is no stranger to these waters having first participated in the 1981 Whitbread under the name 33 Export, later going on to win the 1985 Whitbread under the name L’Esprit d’équipe then competing again in 1989 sailing as Esprit de Liberté.

Australian entrant, Outlaw AU (08), skippered by Campbell Mackie, blew out their historic 40-year-old spinnaker seconds before crossing the finish line after a classic and unique 45 days of sailing. The crew of the Baltic 55, were granted a 32-hour compensation to their finish time after they diverted to rescue a stranded mariner drifting in a 20ft canoe, 90nm off the coast of Dakar, Senegal. They now sit sixth in line honours, a provisional sixth in IRC, and second in Adventure Class.

Fickle winds since the fleet left Southampton on September 10 have proved a real challenge with at least two yachts, Explorer, which is taking on water, and Godspeed, which are not expected to reach Cape Town in time for the start of Leg 2, Cape Town to Auckland on November 5.

The 14-strong fleet are competing in the spirit of the 1973 Whitbread, with seven former Whitbread yachts taking part. They’re racing without GPS or computers and only using celestial navigation and charts.

The top spots on the leaderboard are at present all held by former Whitbread yachts, including Spirit of Helsinki who sailed as Fazer Finland in the 1986 Whitbread, Pen Duick VI from the 1973 race skippered by French legend Éric Tabarly, father of Marie Tabarly.

Translated 9 formerly ADC Accutrac competed in the 1977 Whitbread, then skippered by the British sailor Clare Francis, and Maiden which raced in the 89/90 Whitbread was then skippered by Tracy Edwards MBE.

The eight-month challenge, split into four legs, races around the world taking on the three great Capes, Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, Australia’s Cape Leeuwin and South America’s notorious Cape Horn. The fleet are expected to start arriving into Auckland mid-December. The Ocean Globe Race will finish back in the UK next April.

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