Maserati leads out of Cape Town

Cape to Rio fleet in store for 50 knot headbanger

Saturday January 4th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: South Africa

The 14th Cape to Rio Yacht Race started at 14.00 hours local time today. At 3,300 miles, it is one of the longest races in the southern hemisphere, taking contestants from Table Bay in Cape Town across the south Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro.

The 36 boats taking part in the race lined out under a clear sky in Table Bay in the shadow of Table Mountain.

The fleet includes the modified VO70 Maserati, skippered by Giovanni Soldini and manned by a highly experienced, international crew comprising Italians Guido Broggi, Corrado Rossignoli and Michele Sighel; German Boris Herrmann; Spaniard Carlos Hernandez; French sailors Jacques Vincent and Gwen Riou; Dane Martin Kirketerp Ibsen; and, for the first time, Pierre Casiraghi of Monaco.

The start took place in a light 6-8 knot northwesterly wind. Organisers the Royal Cape Yacht Club placed the first mark just in front of the port and then two others further out in the bay. Once these were rounded the fleet made for open sea.

Maserati led at the start, but the Australian R-P 52 Scarlet Runner was first around the second buoy, as she is a force to be reckoned with in the light breeze. However, the larger Maserati was nipping at her heels all the while, quickly bridging the gap to round the third mark 10 minutes ahead of the Australian monohull.

The situation will take a dramatic turn tonight when the fleet meets a cold front with steady 50 knot southerly winds gusting to over 60, conditions that will test both boats and crews to the limit.

“We’ll have to be very careful indeed,” explained Soldini just before casting off. “We’ll be getting a lot of wind on the first night. We will have to make a huge effort to avoid making any mistakes and pick our way out of it without any damage. But both crew and both are really primed for the race and we can’t wait to get going.”

Now on its 14th outing, the Cape2Rio Yacht Race was launched in 1971 in the wake of South African sailor Bruce Dalling’s impressive second place overall and first place in adjusted time finish in the 1968 South Atlantic Singlehanded Yacht Race. Dalling became in an instant national hero and ocean sailing quickly gained huge popularity amongst sailors and enthusiasts in South Africa.

The first Cape to Rio attracted 59 boats and was won by Robin Knox-Johnston and Ocean Spirit in a time of 23 days and 42 minutes. Pen Duick III, skippered by Eric Tabarly, finished in fourth position.

The third edition in 1976 saw a massive 126 boats from 19 different nations lined out at the start.

In 1979, the finish line was moved to Punta del Este in Uruguay, 4,500 miles from Cape Town. However, in 1993, it returned to Rio once again. The race’s name changed to the Cape to Bahia in 2006 to reflect its new finish in Salvador de Bahia before being reinstated as the Cape to Rio once again in 2011.

The race record for the present course is held by Zephyrus IV, a 74ft American maxi which completed the race in 12 days, 16 hours and 49 minutes in 2000, in particularly favourable conditions (a very southerly St Helena high) that allowed her to take a very direct course.

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