What To Expect on Leg 1

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PUMA navigator Tom Addis gives us his thoughts on what to expect for Leg 1.

For the start of the race, it could be quite light inshore. But about 2 hours in, we’ll be sailing into better pressure – up to 22-25, maybe 30 knots to get us out of here.

Heading out of the Mediterranean, it’s going to be westerly, so headwinds for us. It might be dying off by the time we get there, but it still looks like it will be upwind through Gibraltar. Pretty quickly after that, the breeze starts to come right, and we turn left, then we’re under spinnakers down into the trade winds past the Canaries again. Once we’re into the trades, it’s downwind and getting warmer.

These boats actually go upwind pretty well, but they’re uncomfortable. Life is at 20-30 degrees of heel, and there’s lots of banging and crashing, making it hard to rest, hard to eat, really hard to do anything. But, it’s not for long – just a couple of days.

After you get into the trades, there’s nothing too extreme and smoother sailing. It’s warm and downwind, so life is easier on deck. But, it’s a race, so we tend to make it as complicated as we can to get that advantage.

We’ll sail with the trades for around a week, then we’re approaching the doldrums. That’s where the trade winds meet a lot of vertical motion in the air, and it’s very unstable, creating areas of squalls and flat calms. Fortunately, in these fast boats, it’s possible that you’re only in the doldrums for about one or two days. If you’ve got good pressure for 6 hours, you can make a good dent in it.

Getting to Cape Town should take around 21 or 22 days – I treat those as the same. Sailing is a sport of so many variables, and it’s impossible to tell at this distance exactly how long it will take.

Tom Addis