The first leg of the world’s toughest bluewater race, the Volvo Ocean Race, began Saturday morning with the seven-yacht fleet setting off on the first leg from Alicante, Spain, to Cape Town, South Africa.
The fleet will stop at 11 ports and log 38,739 nautical miles, girdling the globe from Europe to Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Americas (including a stopover in Newport, R.I., in May) before finishing in Europe next June.
The dueling crews of professional sailors will race in the new one-design Volvo Ocean 65, which has been designed for durability. The breakages of the previous edition in 2011-12 are still very much on the minds of organizers.
“We have spent the last six months trying very hard to break it without success,” racer Ian Walker said at a press conference Friday on the eve of the race. “Now we’ll have to make sure we don’t. But it’s up to us to try to judge how hard to push and when the new boat may or may not break.”
The opening leg is something of a classic, racing from north to south into the trade wind belts, with an equator crossing and the Doldrums to negotiate in the middle — and, of course, the final dash into the Southern Ocean to ride the big breezes and waves to South Africa.
The organizers of the race are multimedia-savvy, making it easy to follow the race through the website, email and social media. Crews post online logs and onboard videos throughout the race.