Leg 3 consists of 12,750 nautical miles of cold, wild and unpredictable ocean racing. It’s a lot to prepare for mentally, perhaps more so than physically.
So, with all the chaos and excitement of a stopover like Cape Town, what does it take to get your head in the game before departure?
Well, it’s not quite a ‘game’. This next challenge for our sailors doesn’t last 90 minutes or allow for a half-time break in the changing rooms, and there certainly won’t be thousands of fans present.
However, like any sport, the focus and resilience needed is usually on a level only elite athletes can understand. And we’re not talking about the strongest or the fittest out there, we’re talking about the crazy ones, the ones who are seeking something the rest of us would have nightmares about and will actively do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.
In this case, that goal is a 12,750 nautical mile [14,672-mile/23,613-kilometer] passage race, around three quarters of the bottom of the world, and it will be the longest leg our sailors have ever sailed.
Ravaged nonstop by vicious storms that circle the globe unimpeded, the Southern Ocean is notorious for the world’s strongest winds and largest waves. The extreme weather can make it a difficult and dangerous undertaking, even for experienced sailors. But, to quote our Skipper Charlie Enright, “it’s every offshore sailor’s dream”.
(You can read more about the route the team will take in our Leg 3 preview)
It’s time to go
Although none of the sailor’s families will be here in Cape Town to see them off (for various reasons, keep reading), they have their second family all around them – our team! In today’s team meeting, outside of the team base here in Cape Town, with the iconic Table Mountain as a backdrop, it is apparent that this is a big and rather emotional moment for everyone involved.
Ensuring he catches the eye of everyone present, Enright said, “You have all gone above and beyond. In more ways than we could have imagined or expected. And it’s finally here, the big one. Thank you each and every one of you for all your hard work to get us to this point.”
In true Charlie style he continues, “There’s going to be highs and lows, ebbs and flows, yings and yangs…”
“Lefts and rights!!!” interjects Si Fi.
“Haha, yes! Lefts and rights indeed,” continues Charlie. “Anyway, we’re here now and the only way to do this, is to do this. It’s time to go.”
After a few hugs and a quick team photo, everyone disperses to their various responsibilities. The more experienced in this team know the dockside departure is different when you’re heading into the south, it’s just no one says it.
Untying the dock lines with Charlie
“My family left early this stopover, they won’t be on the dock,” says Charlie. “I can’t say goodbye in front of crowds like that before going offshore to do something like this. Saying goodbye to them on the dock seems so final, it’s a scene, it’s public, and I find it hard.
“For 35 years I feel like I’ve been a relatively unemotional human, but I really needed a moment when they left. Thank goodness there were people around and I had stuff to do, and I didn’t really have a choice. But if that weren’t the case, I could have easily been in tears all day.
“It takes days to get into ‘race mode’ before an adventure like this – you have to be so prepared mentally, physically and emotionally
“When you sign up to this race you sign up for battle, you don’t sign up for the down time,” he says humorously.
“On shore with this race there can be so many obligations, whereas offshore, the schedule is the same everyday, the objective is the same everyday, and life is simple. Once that start gun goes, we’re all good, but the hardest part is getting your head in the game before that moment.
“We have to make sure we’re 100% committed and 100% ready, and that process doesn’t start when you untie the dock lines, it starts way before.”
Untying the dock lines with Jack
“The time before the start is the hardest part of any leg for me,” says Jack. “The waiting is a difficult mental game – thinking about what’s going to happen and what’s coming has a real heaviness that only lifts after we have docked out.
“Personally, I find that the Southern Ocean is the biggest part of a round-the-world race. Everything is harder, the preparation has to be more precise, and it is mentally and physically a lot more taxing and more relentless than any other leg. Every time I have been into the Southern Ocean, it has pushed me to places mentally or physically I didn’t want to go. Living on the edge like that makes everything very clear, and you learn a lot about yourself, and the most unique memories of my life have all been there.
“It feels different to leave the dock to go into the south, it is unspoken, but you can feel it in the atmosphere around the teams. This race is the first time I have competed whilst being a father. When my family left a few days ago, it was the most gut-wrenching thing I’ve ever done. Maybe it just shows how big what we are about to do is.
“I have a huge amount of respect for the south, and I know what it can throw at you. It’s going to be a seriously tough month, and I’m sure we will create some amazing memories.
“I guess it’s time to go.”
You can follow the start of Leg 3 of The Ocean Race from Cape Town, South Africa to Itajaí, Brazil here.