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World ARC Circumnavigators head into the South Atlantic

By Sue Richards last modified Jan 04, 2009 07:27 PM

Published: 2009-01-04 19:27:42
Topics: Rallies
Countries: Brazil , South Africa , St Helena

Cape Town, South Africa: 04 January 2009

Farewell Cape Town - Hamba Gahle Afrika!
World ARC Cruisers combine with the Heineken Cape to Bahia Race

It was farewell to Cape Town for the World ARC fleet yesterday (Sat 03 January), eight wonderful weeks after arriving in South Africa at Richards Bay, Kwazulu-Natal. Ahead lies a voyage of 3,330nm across the South Atlantic Ocean, which will see the yachts call at the isolated mid-Atlantic island of St.Helena, before making landfall at Salvador de Bahia on the Brazilian coast.

For this long trans-ocean leg, the World ARC has joined together with the Heineken Cape to Bahia Race, run in conjunction with the Royal Cape Yacht Club, doubling the size of the cruising division of this historic race. Together with 16 other cruising division yachts, mostly from South Africa, the World ARC cruisers will cross the South Atlantic, calling at St.Helena for a 72 hour stopover, weather conditions permitting, en route to Brazil. The Heineken Cape to Bahia racing yachts, which leave on 10 January, will sail direct to Salvador.

Since its inception in 1971, the race has become an offshore classic, and following the easing of political tensions in the 1990's when the race was restarted and then moved from Rio to Salvador, it has attracted some top-notch racing yachts with the dream of ocean records. This year's racing fleet includes Mike Slade's 100-foot super maxi ICAP Leopard (GBR) and George David's 90-foot Rambler (USA), both vying for line honours.

Even with their seven day head-start, the cruising division yachts won't be finishing first, since for them, participation is more about taking part and enjoying the benefits of sailing in company, than racing. However, with the chance to win prizes and just a little glory, even the cruisers enjoyed their start yesterday.

In the gently building 18 knot WNW breeze, with Table Mountain making a stunning backdrop, the 32 strong fleet were a fine sight closing the line. At precisely 1400 local time the South African navy ship Umkomaas, gave the starting signal, and the voyage commenced. There was some keen sailing on the line, with front runners Kealoha 8, Faraway and local boat Summer Love all tight at the start, with Luis Abreu Freire's Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 49 Faraway just squeezing ahead at the gun. For the entertainment of spectators ashore, there was a turning mark laid off Mouille Point just over a mile from the start, then it was time to point their bows to the Northwest and bid farewell to Cape Town and to Africa.