Green Dragon Racing reviews Volvo Ocean Race Leg 1

Green Dragon, skippered by Ian Walker competing in the Volvo Ocean race in-port race in Alicante, Spain.
Green Dragon Racing reviews Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race, Alicante (Spain) to Cape Town (South Africa).

Leg 1 - Alicante to Cape Town
Estimated days at sea: 23
Nautical miles: 6,500
Estimated arrival in Cape Town: 3rd November 2008


The first test for the crews on Leg 1 will be the Straits of Gibraltar. This stretch of water is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and the Straits will provide plenty of challenges for the eight boat fleet. The winds funnel through the Straits between the high land either side, as a result the local effects can mean shifty conditions. There is great the potential for the first leg to be won or lost right here.

After the west coast of Spain and Portugal which can produce a range of weather at this time of year, the crew will need to negotiate the various weather systems on the way. On this route the boat will pass in range of the Canary Islands, where lighters winds will be encountered, especially at night. The crew will be hoping to pass through the archipelago during daylight hours and hook into the Trade Winds. The next major hurdle ahead is the Doldrums.

The doldrums, or more accurately known as the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, is an area of extremely variable weather. Mostly characterised with light winds interspersed with big storms, which can stretch over thousands of square miles and are fairly hard to predict. Once through the Doldrums, the crew will be looking to hook into the south-east trade winds, passing close to Brazil in order to avoid the St. Helena High. From here the fleet will race south and look to tap into the westerly breezes and then head east to Cape Town. If they are lucky, they will hold the breeze to Cape Town, but the famous Table Mountain has the potential to park boats within sight of the finish.

Overview: The Strait of Gibraltar

On a net basis, water continually flows eastward into and through the Strait of Gibraltar, due to an evaporation rate within the Mediterranean basin higher than the combined inflow of all the rivers that empty into it. The sill of the Strait of Gibraltar acts to limit mixing between the cold, less saline Atlantic water and the warm Mediterranean waters. The latter are so much saltier that they sink below the constantly incoming Atlantic water and form a highly saline (thermohaline, both warm and salty) bottom water, called the Mediterranean outflow. A density boundary separates the layers at about 100 metres (330 ft) depth. It flows out and down the continental slope, losing salinity, until it equilibrates after mixing at a depth of about 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). The Mediterranean outflow water can be traced for thousands of kilometers before losing its identity.

Internal waves (waves at the density boundary layer) are common in the strait. Like traffic merging on a highway, the water flow is constricted in both directions because it must pass over a shallow submarine barrier, the Camarinal Sill. When large tidal flows enter the Strait, internal waves are set off at the Camarinal Sill as the high tide relaxes. The waves—sometimes with heights up to 100 metres (330 ft) travel eastward. Even though the waves occur at great depth and the height of the waves at the surface is almost nothing.

Overview: Cape of Good Hope

Discovered by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Diaz in 1488, the Cape of Good Hope initially bore the self-explanatory name 'Cape of Storms', before being given its current denomination by João II, King of Portugal. The monarch decided that this landmark, symbol of new commercial routes towards the East, should be seen as the threshold of new and promising horizons… hence its optimistic connotation. Nevertheless, the area quickly became quite well known among sailors for its dangers, and the legend of Adamastor, the spirit of the Cape of Storms, was established in Luis de Camoes’ epic poem 'The Lusiads' in the late 1500s.

Warning intrepid sailors against the wrath they would unleash if attempts were made to enter the Indian Ocean, this mythical figure embodies the power of nature reacting against the mortals who try to challenge and master it. Geographically, and despite the common misconception, this cape is not the southernmost tip of the African continent, since Cape Agulhas, some 90 miles to the south-east, lies further down in terms of latitude – it is also the official dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian oceans. But the historical importance of Good Hope, which had for many years been simply referred to as 'The Cape' by sailors, make it the most significant of these two African landmarks.

The Cape of Good Hope is the legendary home of The Flying Dutchman. Crewed by tormented and damned ghostly sailors, it is doomed forever to beat its way through the adjacent waters without ever succeeding in rounding the headland.

Visit http://www.greendragonracing.com/ for more information on Ian Walker and his Green Dragon Racing crew.