Clipper organisers stage false start before three boats return to port for generator maintenance

The eight 60ft boats taking part in The Times Clipper Race 2000 have departed Mauritius bound for the Tavern of the Seas – Cape Town.

Mauritian President M Cassam Uteem carried out the official starting honours at 1200 local time today to begin the 12th race of the 16 that comprise the Clipper Race. The wind was light, as it will be for much of this leg, and it was Martin Clough’s Portsmouth Clipper that took the start and rounded the wing mark first. Plymouth, Leeds and Glasgow Clippers gave chase.

After their glorious start, the crew of Portsmouth Clipper will have been especially reluctant to return to Port Louis, along with Bristol and London Clippers, for engineering work on their generators that couldn’t be completed before the start. The fleet milled about in the meantime and the race proper started at 1500 local time, without the President.

The 2,311nm leg begins with tradewinds from the southeasterly quadrant as the fleet heads south through the Indian Ocean. As they approach the Cape of Good Hope, the high pressure stationed at the bottom of the Indian Ocean will throw light, variable, predominantly easterly breezes at the fleet but strong southwesterlies are not unusual in the area as the Southern Ocean rears up to lash the southern tip of Africa.

The primary decision is which side of Madagascar to sail. The outside route promises a little more precious breeze, albeit variable, but the west-flowing Equatorial current splits around the island creating contrary currents along the northeastern coast. Inside Madagascar, the winds are lighter, even more variable, but there is a reliable 1-2kn current, initially the Madagascan Current, later the Agulhas, sluicing the fleet south. That’s the gamble.

The first arrivals are expected beneath the cloud-shrouded Table Mountain around 19 June.