Leg starts on:
22 October 2017
From the race’s home port of Alicante on 22 October, it’s 700 nautical miles heading south-west to the Straits of Gibraltar. Once through the Straits there’s a right turn towards Sagres on the south-west tip of Portugal, before another northerly swerve for the final stretch up the coast to Lisbon.
Last time around it was a left turn, out into open ocean and southbound for Cape Town – anyone who got a jump coming out of the Straits could potentially hold it all the way. This time they will all restart together from Lisbon, which should make the race south much more interesting.
What are the hurdles?
Flaky weather: The race starts in the autumn equinox, which is always a time of unsettled weather, so the fleet could face anything. This leg has seen days of light winds and slow progress, but there’s every chance of a howling north-easterly breeze and a wild ride down the coast.
The land: The route follows the coast all the way from Alicante to Lisbon, and that will introduce a lot of variability – every time the wind transits from the land to the sea (or the sea to the land) it changes in speed and direction; these changes always open passing lanes.
The rocks: Nor should we forget a succession of capes and headlands that poke out into the race track, sometimes with steep cliffs, sharp rocks and very localized wind conditions – step forward Cabo Palos, Cabo Gata, Cabo de Sao Vicente...
The Straits: And then we have the Straits of Gibraltar, this could be the toughest section. There’s a very strong current running through a channel that’s only about eight nautical miles wide, along with traffic separation schemes (just like a motorway), lots of shipping and exclusion zones. Well tricky.
Any good bar tales?
The winner of the last race, Ian Walker lost his mast on the first night out of Alicante in the race prior to that, so the Mediterranean isn’t all balmy evenings and warm moonlit nights...