Viva Mallorca

Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) organisers have great pleasure in announcing they have contracted with the Spanish island of Mallorca to host the start and finish of the circumnavigation.

Situated in the Mediterranean, Mallorca will provide a stunning backdrop for the start and finish of this double-handed, round the world race: an event that is on target to attract 20 entries from over 11 nations.

The course for the GOR is now confirmed as: Mallorca – Cape Town (RSA) – Wellington (NZ) – Punta del Este (URY) – Charleston (USA) – Mallorca.

Mallorca is renowned for hosting premium yacht racing events including the Copa del Rey, the Palma Velas as well as the Superyacht Cup and is capable of providing everything an around the world race could wish for: extensive and high-quality marine services, fantastic sailing conditions, stunning scenery, a rich maritime history and a vibrant onshore scene all combine to provide skippers, sponsors and spectators with an exceptional venue. Starting and finishing the GOR in Mallorca will also present competitors with the challenge of two passages through the Gibraltar Straits on Leg 1 and Leg 5, adding a fifth ocean and multiple tactical decisions to the race course, guaranteeing compelling viewing as the event unfolds.

For Race Director of the GOR, Josh Hall, formalising the event’s start/finish port is a milestone: ‘We are thrilled to announce Mallorca as the new home for the GOR,’ says Hall. ‘Quite simply, Mallorca works at every level for our competitors, for the race and boat sponsors and for friends, families and race fans – it is a truly spectacular venue!’ enthuses the Race Director. ‘Together, we shall proudly be promoting this beautiful island to a global audience for the next two years and the event will fully embrace Mallorca’s residents of all ages through imaginative access to the boats and the competitors.’

Due to the busy calendar of existing yachting events in Mallorca, the Race Organisation has agreed to move the start date of the GOR to 1400hrs local time on Sunday 25th September 2011. Consequently, the revised schedule for the GOR is as follows:
Leg 1: Mallorca to Cape Town – start 25th September 2011

The fleet will spend their first days in the Mediterranean, passing through the Straits of Gibraltar and then hooking into the trade winds of the North Atlantic to descend South towards the equator and the Doldrums.

The Doldrums, or Pot au Noir as the French so aptly describe the area, is tactically difficult and mentally challenging as the wind dies away to nothing, interspersed with thundering squalls accompanied by torrential rain. It will be 300 miles of grim hell until the trade winds to the south take over, allowing the sailors to break free of the unsettled weather and set a course for the South Atlantic scoring gate. The gate, set off the Brazilian coast, acts as a point gate but more importantly it serves to keep the boats well to the west of the South Atlantic High.  Those sailors tempted to cut the corner and sail a direct course for Cape Town could find themselves in the grip of perfect beach weather; hot and flat calm.  For the rest it is a fine line south skirting the High, staying in the breeze yet trying to shave off miles by cutting the corner. Finally, at around 38 degrees South, they will pick up a westerly wind on the edge of the Southern Ocean and fly downwind into Cape Town, South Africa.

Leg 2: Cape Town to Wellington – start 27th November 2011

Cape Town, the Tavern of the Seas has welcomed sailors for centuries. Majestic Table Mountain rises out of clear, cold water and offers the sailors a three week respite before they head back out again, this time into the rough and tumble of the deep south. No sooner will the racers have passed Cape Point than the first fringes of the Southern Ocean will be felt.  Cold, damp wind blowing direct from the Antarctic ice pack across a span of frigid ocean will hint at the danger that lies ahead. Strong westerly winds and massive seas will propel the fleet further south, under Australia where the danger of ice lurks. It will be a time for monitoring the radar, keeping a vigil on deck, and praying to the gods. Communication between boats will be constant as each sailor knows that their first lifeline, should anything go wrong, will be a fellow competitor.

Leg 3 – Wellington to Punta del Este – start 29th January 2012

Wellington, the capital city of a nation that is sailing mad, will treat the sailors to a belated Christmas and allow the teams time to regroup before tackling the second half of the race.  Leg 3 takes the fleet back into the Southern Ocean, this time around the infamous Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America.  It will be another turbulent ride dodging the worst cold fronts and riding the best. Those that are lucky will get a glimpse of the famous cape that has intrigued and devastated sailors for centuries: others will give the land a wide berth before turning their bows north and heading for Punta del Este, Uruguay at the mouth of the River Plate – a city with a rich history of hosting round the world sailors. Here the crews will fix their boats and prepare themselves in the comforting knowledge that the Southern Ocean and all its dangers are behind them.

Leg 4: Punta del Este to Charleston – start 1st April 2012

Two tough tactical legs remain and as Spring wakes up the Northern Hemisphere the sailors will head north, skirting the coast of Uruguay and Brazil, passing Fernando a second time and traversing the Caribbean Sea.  Further north, the welcoming shores of North America lie just over the horizon and Charleston, known as the friendliest city in America, awaits the fleet. The final days into Charleston will provide potentially tough weather and the Gulf Stream crossing could be critical as its strong currents have a major affect on the boats.

Leg 5: Charleston to Mallorca – start 20th May 2012

The final leg is back across the North Atlantic with its springtime depressions that will provide fast downwind sailing for the fleet before they once again arrive in the Mediterranean. This leg could well dictate the overall positions of the entire race. Excellent tactics will be crucial as the sailors choose their path through the strong currents of the Gulf Stream, keeping out of the strongest winds of the low pressure areas, staying clear of the light airs of the Atlantic High centred over The Azores and keeping a constant lookout for cargo vessels in the busy shipping lanes. Finally they will arrive at the final finish line of the race – back where they began their circumnavigation at the beautiful island of Mallorca.