The Volvo Ocean Race - The Octopus and the Mountian
Table Mountain has correctly predicted the winner of the Volvo Ocean race ever since the event has used Cape Town as a stopover port, and the issue is really taken seriously. PUMA Ocean Racing's 'Mar Mostro' skipper Kenny Read told me last week " We understand that that jinx is still on, if you don't win that leg into Cape Town then you not going win the race, that's certainly in the back of our minds.."
The 2011/ 12 Volvo Ocean Race departs from Alicante in Spain on November 5th, and the leading boat is expected to appear over Cape Town's horizon and into view of the psychic mountain on the 25th November. The first leg is 6300 nautical miles, an estimated 23 days at sea. The first test for the crews on Leg 1 will be the Straits of Gibraltar. This stretch of water is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and the Straits will provide plenty of challenges for the seven boat fleet. The winds funnel through the Straits between the high lands either side; as a result the local effects can mean shifty conditions. There is great the potential for the first leg to be won or lost right here.
Many different weather systems will be experienced before passing through the archipelago during daylight hours and hooking into the Trade Winds. The next major hurdle ahead is the Doldrums.
More accurately known as the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone,) it's an area of extremely variable weather. Light winds interspersed with big storms, it can stretch over thousands of square miles and is fairly hard to predict. Once through the Doldrums, the crew will be looking to hook into the south-east trade winds, passing close to Brazil.
From here the fleet will race south, and if fortunate, will hook into the powerful weather system that took Ericsson 4 to a 24 hour world record in 2008. Skipper Torben Grael's team obliterated the 24-hour record run for a monohull when they recorded a run of 593.23 nautical miles. The run took them not only to a victory of leg 1, but possibly more importantly, it took them over the horizon and allowed them to be the first vessel spotted by Table Mountain.
They went on to win the Volvo Ocean race, for that is the way of the oracle-mountain. If it transpires again, it will be very hard to dissuade crews of future Volvo Ocean Race's that it's purely coincidence.