It was a crazy first day on the kings leg of The Ocean Race. In the inshore part of the start, the teams sometimes raced past each other at 30 knots of speed. But when Gauthier Lebec, the second onboard reporter of GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, jumped off the boat to bring the pictures of the start action ashore, he could have swam alongside the yacht for a bit, so much had the fleet been slowed down when leaving Cape Town Bay. The ups and downs continued into the night for skipper Benjamin Dutreux as well as his crew Robert Stanjek, Sébastien Simon, Annie Lush and onboard reporter Charles Drapeau. It took a lot of work to adjust the sails to the ever-changing conditions. After 24 hours at sea, the fleet struggled to break the doldrums in an area of high pressure before turning into the westerly winds of the Southern Ocean. The good news for the excitement in this 12,750 leg from Cape Town/South Africa to Itajaí/Brazil is that teams Biotherm and 11th Hour Racing, who had suffered slight damage during the start spectacle, have rejoined the fleet after their repair breaks, meaning the race will really start in the Roaring Forties.
“The wind was a bit crazy below Table Mountain. Those were epic conditions – completely crazy. You had to be incredibly careful with everything that was going on around you. It was very stressful,” Benjamin Dutreux looked back on the start. “All in all, we did well. We took our time with the manoeuvres, trying to avoid any damage.” Leaving Cape Town Bay, GUYOT environnement – Team Europe had actually positioned themselves well against the competition from the skipper’s point of view. “But Malizia and Holcim somehow managed to pull away. We don’t know why. Maybe it was because of the current.”
After that, the race continued with changing conditions and many sail changes, so that the crew hardly had a chance to rest. “It’s been quite stressful for everyone, plus the emotions at the start, everyone is tired. I’m very happy, there’s a good atmosphere on board and a good working rhythm,” said Dutreux.
Annie Lush also emphasised the good atmosphere on board: “We were quite calm on board. We were not trying to push to win the start. There’s nothing to win at this point. It was just important that everyone was okay and the boat was okay at the end of it.” After less than a day at sea, the crew had experienced two phases in which the yacht was only drifting in the doldrums, but also two phases in which the wind was blowing at 35 knots. “So we’ve been to reefs, the smallest front sail we have. And now we’re full main, the biggest front sail we have. But to be honest, I’m just enjoying the fact that the sun shines and we are in shorts and t-shirt outside. It’s pretty easy to make tea and coffee. In about two days time, I think all of this is over for a very long time.”