The ‘puny’ and ‘insignificant’ BT Global Challenge fleet has departed Cape Town bound for the penultimate port of La Rochelle

In a moving address delivered shortly before departure from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, Archbishop Desmond Tutu hailed the BT Global Challenge fleet as “a scintillating example of human capacity to succeed when we collaborate and work together as a team,” and he wasn’t just talking about LG Flatron.

He had evidently passed among the crews because he was struck by the effect the Southern Ocean had on these charter crews. “They realised powerfully their own puniness, almost insignificance and became aware of their utter dependence on God when faced with the daunting challenges of this gruelling race.”

With the South and North Atlantics to traverse, both relatively benign by comparison, it was a slightly less puny and more significant fleet that crossed the startline off Mouille Point in the 10-12kn wind. Save the Children made light of the trouble she encountered in the previous two legs to track into an early lead under full main, Yankee and staysail.

Leg six is the last oceanic leg of this year’s event but for the crews, it’s the leg that will take them back into the arms of the friends and family who couldn’t join them at the more remote stopovers. Jasmine Georgiou explains: “It’s wonderful, the most fun leg out I bet. We’re going home for starters and won’t be fighting the elements as much. I’m looking forward to enjoying the sailing and the wildlife.”

This enthusiasm will be sorely tested as the fleet heads north, round the South Atlantic High and into the northeast tradewinds south of the equator. Then there’s a choice to be made: the Doldrums are at their narrowest in the west but they will approach from the east.

Nearer the time, navigators and skippers will be scouring the forecasts for the slightest sign of an easterly bridge across the Doldrums and guessing whether it’s strong enough to carry them across to the southeast trades north of the equator.

After that, there’s the Azores High to dodge and, as Team SpirIT navigator Jeff Overfield so sagely pointed out: “There are gales up north.”

With 72 points, LG Flatron is no more than a distant blip on the competitive radar. If Compaq, second on 60 points, wins this leg and LG Flatron finishes last (she’s yet to finish out of the top three) Flatron will still hold the lead. The main scrap will be for the remaining podium positions and BP, Quadstone and Logica will be pushing Compaq all the way.

“We’re racing full on,” said BP’s Tony Botterill, “because of the close points situation with Compaq and Quadstone, and want to take points out of Compaq. Watch out!”