OGR Yachts Racing Towards Cape Horn

Imagine, 12 iconic yachts powering down Auckland Harbour with real purpose made for a thrilling start to Leg 3 of the Ocean Globe Race.

Next stop, Yacht Club Punta del Este, Uruguay but first CAPE HORN. In perfect North Easterly 15-20 knot winds it looked easy. A tight start line in front of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron delivered great pictures as yachts fought for the line. Tight tacks, ducking and diving, making it difficult to tell who’d actually crossed the line first.

The French Swan 53 Triana FR (66), skippered by Jean D’Arthuys currently sitting 4th in IRC ranking overall, burst through and succeeded in clinching first spot, just seconds ahead of the Finnish yacht Galiana WithSecure FI (06) and Australian entrant Outlaw AU (28). For an around the world race where a few seconds do not make much difference, this was seriously close racing.

The pontoons of Jellicoe Harbour buzzed with anticipation, nerves and excitement as the first yacht, Translated 9 IT (09) current IRC leader, slipped lines at noon, followed by the fleet at three-minute intervals. With a short stat line right in front of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, many spectator boats and onshore spectators enjoyed the fantastic nautical performance, much like the scenes witnessed back in 1977 when the Whitbread first visited Auckland.

The OGR yachts, including seven former Whitbread yachts put on a display befitting the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the original Whitbread races, with many Whitbread veterans cheering on the fleet from the decks of the legendary Steinlager 2 and Lion New Zealand.

At 14:00 hrs local time Sunday 14th, Sarah-Jane Blake, daughter of the much-adored late Sir Peter Blake, who won every leg on the Whitbread onboard Steinlager 2 fired the start cannon from the traditional wooden brigantine Breeze.  Curated by the New Zealand Maritime Museum, she was the official start boat on the 1990 Whitbread.

Speaking before the race start Sarah-Jane admitted she holds a special place in her heart for ‘old style sailing’ – and the Ocean Globe Race, whose yachts are sailing like it’s 1973: “It’s always exciting being on a start line and there’s some breeze out there so it’s going to be great. And I’m sure during the day I’ll be feeling emotional as it brings back memories, it’s amazing to still have the Whitbread connection and that it’s still going so strong. I’m really happy people still want to sail old style – it’s way more adventurous.”

Just seconds separated the yachts crossing the start line, and despite initial fears, none crossed early. A spaghetti junction of crisscrossing helms and sterns made for breath-holding tense viewing in the last 10 seconds, exactly what you want for the start of such a momentous adventure. Fortunately, no collisions.

Don McIntyre, OGR Director and Founder was naturally delighted with the start. Earlier in the day during the official crew photograph he told the sailors of the pride he felt in their achievement to date, recognised the challenges they faced ahead in the daunting sail around Cape Horn and instructed them in no uncertain terms – to stay safe.

“Wow, the start was everything you could hope for. These sailors have worked so hard to get here and they have a lot of sailing ahead of them to get around Horn Cape. Anything can happen over the next 6000 miles to Uruguay. Auckland’s Whitbread history has become part of the OGR story now and has proven to be just as fantastic as we knew it would be. So, a start like today is befitting this stopover. Almost like a thank you to our great hosts.”

With the 12 yachts across the start line, the fleet raced towards the Royal Akarana Yacht Club, leaving a marker to port then across towards the gate at North Head. It didn’t take long before the familiar patterns of leaders emerged – Spirit of Helsinki FI (71), Pen Duick VI FR (14), Translated 9 IT (09) and Maiden UK (03) were all battling for the first spot. By sunrise on the first morning of racing Pen Duick VI had taken the lead.

Not all OGR yachts were lucky enough to experience that unforgettable Auckland start line. Explorer AU (28) failed to make the start line. Arriving just a week before the start the crew of the Swan 57 suffered further disappointment with a faulty fuel injection pump just three days before the start. Race rules require an engine. Parts were finally being installed Monday and the following sea should sail Tuesday morning.

With 6200nm to the Yacht Club Punta del Este, the first yachts will arrive between 9-14th of February with a restart scheduled for March 5.

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