The great thing about one-design racing is that the competition is tight – once you’re in the lead you know that no other boat is physically faster. The bad thing is that if you’re last in the pack your chance of catching up diminishes. This first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Alicante, Spain, to Cape Town, South Africa, has seen some tight racing, but now the boats are spread out, with the leaders in a 100-mile radius and the trailers searching for a passing lane 250 miles away as they approach the St. Helena High.
Just a few days ago, it looked as if the fleet might compress, but a lane of wind has split the High and offers the leaders a chance to head south to catch the prevailing westerlies. If some of the teams were thinking of going way south to avoid the St. Helena High altogether, that possibility has been eliminated, as race officials have set up an ‘ice gate’ in their path to keep them away from icebergs. This means more holes to avoid and tricky racing all the way to the finish at Cape Town.
Bouwe Bekking’s Team Brunel is the current leader, with the Spanish team MAPFRE and Swedish team SCA bringing up the rear.
For a nifty tracker that is easy to use see http://volodiaja.net/Tracking. And to watch the race videos, visit the VOR YouTube channel at: www.youtube.com/user/volvooceanracevideos/videos. We’ll have a comprehensive overview of the race in the Sightings section of the November Latitude 38, coming out on Friday.
It’s a rare Baja Ha-Ha start when San Diego doesn’t serve up the sun the Mexico-bound cruisers are seeking on their southern migration, and this year was no exception. Clear skies, warm air and brilliant sunshine lit up cruisers who we suspect partied all night, since they crossed the starting line wearing the same costumes they’d worn at the kick-off party the day before.
Amazingly, folks who just hours before were carefully stowing eggs and fresh veggies also managed to pull together an eclectic array of costumes. Shopping list: two dozen eggs, 12 tomatoes, green hair, cat costume, etc.
Paperwork and other logistical details have dominated a lot of this year’s cruising conversation, but Alejandro Santander of Mexico Tourism was on hand to assure cruisers that all would go smoothly for the season ahead.
For most of the Ha-Ha’s history the event slipped in and out of San Diego without creating too much of a public stir, but a few years ago, with local leadership from Ken Franke of the Sportfishing Association of California and Sharon Cloward of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, a more celebratory and organized departure parade was created, bringing news media, dignitaries, and Mexican officials, including Remedios Gomez, Consul General of Mexico, who wanted to wish all cruisers a great trip to Mexico and noted that, despite Hurricane Odile, "The Baja Ha-Ha sends an important message that Cabo is ready and able to welcome all the cruisers and other tourists to enjoy the upcoming tourism season."
The only thing missing for Monday’s start was wind, but since it’s a cruising rally and fuel tanks are full, who cares? The America’s Cup starting gun fired off four warnings and then the final blast to send the mothership, Profligate, and Patsy Verhoeven’s Gulfstar 50 Talion, an eight-time Ha-Ha veteran, across the starting line first.
Continue on for an update on the progress of Leg 1, phoned in from Profligate this morning.
Day 3 of the 21st Baja Ha-Ha dawned with patchy clouds, as the 131-boat fleet approached Turtle Bay, 360 miles south of San Diego. Since the 11:00 a.m. start on Monday, winds have been uncharacteristically light, fluky, and frustrating, forcing every boat to switch on their engines at least occasionally. But the mild conditions have given first-timers a mellow introduction to offshore cruising, and everyone is getting plenty of sleep.
At this morning’s net, most boats reported sailing at least part of Day 2, yesterday, and last night, and many reported catching dorado, yellowtail, and other game fish.
The weather gurus at Commander’s Weather, a longtime sponsor, have alerted the fleet to a weather system developing south of Acapulco, which is expected to continue north toward Cabo, then arc toward Mazatlan on Monday or Tuesday. The system has not formed substantially enough to become a named storm, but it will be monitored closely nonetheless.
Meanwhile, fleet leaders are expected to arrive at Turtle Bay this evening — possibly in time to catch part of the final game of the World Series at the town’s main restaurant, the Vera Cruz. An all-generations’ baseball game is scheduled for Thursday, and a beach party on Friday. Barring threatening weather, the 240-mile Leg 2 to Bahia Santa Maria will begin Saturday morning. Stay tuned for additional updates.