After a stunning stopover in Cape Town, the eight-boat Clipper fleet has set sail from Cape Town bound for Salvador, Brazil – the first race in the final leg to Portsmouth

After a glorious stopover in the shadow of Table Mountain, hosted by the Royal Cape Yacht Club, the eight boats of the Clipper Ventures fleet have once again packed their bags and slipped their lines. This time the fleet is heading across the South Atlantic to Salvador in Brazil.

The first race in this final leg started off Green Point at 1030 LT when Paul De La Haye’s Jersey Clipper nudged across the line a few seconds after the gun in light, fluky conditions. Bristol Clipper looked set to follow close behind but skipper Bob Beggs’ call for the lightweight spinnaker proved ill advised. They bore off to fill the sail and ended up in a hole, watching the fleet crawl past.

Jersey Clipper’s No1 yankee, staysail and full main kept pulling however, and she was soon tracking well to windward. Liverpool and London Clippers crossed second and third respectively. Plymouth Clipper’s appalling timing but excellent boatspeed brought her across fourth. In eight minutes, the eight-boat fleet had started.

Jersey’s windward strategy paid off. By heading for Robben Island, she was first to escape the lee of South Africa’s southern tip and romped off over the horizon. A mere 45 minutes after the start, Jersey Clipper was fully three miles ahead of second-placed Liverpool with Plymouth close behind. With the first confrontation of this leg already won, the trailing five boats opted to hoist spinnakers and make some westing.

Current positions give Portsmouth Clipper the lead but these are misleading. The leader has the shortest distance to finish, true, but Jersey Clipper is further north, will reach the Southeast trade winds first and when she does, she will be better positioned to deal with the South Atlantic high pressure system – the same one that made the sixth leg of the BT Global Challenge such an epic.

With light headwinds forecast for the next 24 hours, the temptation will be to ride the Benguela Current, moving north at two knots along the western coast of South Africa.