The start of the bi-annual Cape Town-Rio De Janeiro Race may have been warm and ultra-light as the Maserati Turbo Volvo 70’s video shows, but the 34-boat fleet knew it was in for a major hammering from a deep cold front and its associated low pressure system at the start. No one chose to sit out the start and delay a day or two, though many of the boats chose to sail North rather than West into less breeze and easier seas; amongst those that didn’t was the Bavaria 54 Bille, which paid the ultimate price; one unnamed crew was killed, the skipper and another crew injured, and all crew have now been taken off onto South African rescue vessel Islawana.
Various other boats have sustained major damage; rudders, engines, flooding, and we’re sure there’s plenty more, but at the moment, everyone is accounted for and most of the fleet continues on its way to South America. As a CAT 1 classified ocean race of thousands of miles, the fleet needs to be able to weather this kind of storm, but questions are already arising about the Royal Cape and whether, with the well-forecast front, they should have postponed the start, as we increasingly see in even the most hardcore of offshore races. We’re still on the fence; a delay can easily turn into a budget-busting, month-long drama like the Mini Transat fleet saw in November and can make skippers complacent about their ultimate responsibility, but it’s hard to argue that a human life is worth more than all that. One thing is for certain: This race is yet another reinforcement that robust trackers like the Xtra-Link stuff used by much of the commercial shipping industry is no longer an option, but an absolute necessity for any major race; only thanks to the highly accurate GPS info coming off the yachts that Bille could be quickly located in the 8 meter seas that would otherwise make her almost invisible from the water until a mile or so away.
Get in the thread for more info, and hit the tracker for the fleet position or to replay some of the bad parts. The Cape2Rio Facebook page is the best source for the latest news from the event organizer.