Friday, 5 March 2010

An epic second leg! Sidney Gavignet joins the A100 ‘Majan’ crew…

Oman Sail’s A100 trimaran ‘Majan’ has reached their second stopover in Cape Town, South Africa, after another epic leg full of drama, myths and one legendary Cape. The Indian Ocean 5 Capes Race is a new race, conceived by OC Events, that links the Middle East, Africa, Australia and Asia, and Majan is tracing out the new course ahead of the first official edition planned for spring 2012

Sailing Majan. Image copyright OC Events Asia.

by Lou Newlands

French sailor Sidney Gavignet will be joining Majan's crew in Cape Town and will sail onboard the new A100 for the final three stages of the Indian Ocean 5 Capes Race. A very experienced offshore sailor, Sidney has just been announced as the skipper of Majan for the next edition of the solo Route du Rhum, starting from Saint-Malo in France this November.

Paul Standbridge on board Majan. Image copyright OC Events Asia.

Paul Standbridge and his five crew on board Majan left the paradise of the Maldives on 16th February for the 4,200m second leg, taking 13 days and 6 hours to reach the longitude of Cape Aguhlas at 16:02:57 GMT on Monday (1.3.10) marking the finish of leg two.

Daybreak at sea. Image copyright OC Events Asia.

The big dive South proved eventful aboard Majan, after thousands of miles at sea, a crossing of the Equator with due respects paid to Neptune, a grinding halt due to the threat of a hurricane, Cape Agulhas in her wake, and up to 50 knots on the final night speeding Majan to the dockside below Table Mountain with her ‘memories tank’ brimming.

Mainsail repair on Majan. Image copyright OC Events Asia.

A fierce Indian Ocean weather system - Hurricane Gelane, to be precise - played with the sailors' nerves and forced them to take counter-intuitive measures. Paul Standbridge and his troops had no idea they would be forced to pull the handbrake on hard in order to avoid nature's wrath on their way South. But their caution paid dividends as they avoided the worst of the hurricane until she was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Cloudy sun. Image copyright OC Events Asia.

A cry of liberation welcomed the weather report downloaded last Wednesday as the tropical storm was replaced by a perfect breeze under glorious skies. "With 20 knots under our wings, amidst deep blue ocean rollers and a bright sunny sky, we were back on the quest like Knights of the Round Table, going South,” wrote Covell. But Majan was entering a whole new world on this challenging Indian Ocean 5 Capes Race course, getting the first hints of the feared and revered Southern Ocean. As Mohsin described it: “The waves have changed from being those ‘bumps in the road’, to large show-jumps, and now they are looking more like the side of a stable block!”

Inside the cabin on Majan. Image copyright OC Events Asia.

By Monday (1.3.10), the crew were only 150 miles away from Cape Agulhas - the southernmost tip of the African continent (read below), separating the Atlantic and Indian oceans that marked the end of the second leg. This cape is set in a famously treacherous part of the world navigation-wise, and one of the most significant landmarks of the Indian Ocean 5 Capes Race.

Pleasant sailing conditions. Image copyright OC Events Asia.

All weather considerations put aside, arguably the most important aspect of the second leg has been the “transformation", witnessed by media crew Mark Covell, of Mohsin Al Busaidi whose metamorphosis into a pure offshore racer now seems complete. "I asked him how he was doing," Mark reported, and Mohsin replied on behalf of the boat rather than himself, "thinking the language of a sailor and dealing in the international currency of boat speed - his conversion is almost complete." This episode marks a real milestone in the life of the campaign - a year on since Mohsin became the first Arab to circumnavigate the globe non-stop, and earning his way into the great confederacy of wave chasers is a moment to be proud of! The new A100 multihull not only has a great pedigree – designed by Nigel Irens and Benoit Cabaret, constructed by Boatspeed and assembled in Salalah, Oman, under the expertise of Offshore Challenges’ Neil Graham – she was created for fully crewed inshore and offshore races whilst providing a training platform for up and coming novice sailors, as well as the option to be campaigned single-handed, all within a one-design rule.

Looking down on Majan from up the mast. Image copyright OC Events Asia.

As Majan skipper Paul Standbridge commented: “This has also been a good sea trial for Majan. We have just safely completed ten thousand sea miles [Note to Editors: since the launch of Majan last year]. We have had some damage and some wear and tear but nothing we can’t fix on the water. Structurally she is sound, she has been a very good boat and we are very happy with her. I’m very pleased with the two trainees - Mohsin continues to steer the boat well and the most improved is Mohammed. Leg 3 will be a much tougher leg. We are moving into the Southern Ocean with consistently higher winds and consistently bigger waves. We’ll hopefully do more than 600-miles in a day. I’m looking forward to it!”

Moonlight at sea. Image copyright OC Events Asia.

Oman Sail’s Majan will remain in Cape Town until 9th March, then depart on the 4,800-mile Leg 3 for Fremantle, Australia, via Cape Leeuwin. Unfortunately for Oman Sail’s 75-ft trimaran Musandam, a boat that took Oman Sail’s crew non-stop around the world a year ago, was forced to return to Muscat. The intention was for Musandam to complete the entire course but technical problems with the mainsail prompted the decision to return to their Muscat base early to undergo a refit before handing the multihull over to a new owner who will also be competing in the Route du Rhum.

Cape Agulhas, between two oceans

Route of the 5 Capes race. Image copyright OC Events Asia.

Lying 90 nautical miles southeast of Cape Town, Cape Aghulas (“Cape of the Needles”) is the official dividing point between the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean - whose eastern border is marked by the southern tip of Tasmania. The region is notorious for being extremely dangerous for ships, notably because the Agulhas current (flowing from east to west) opposes the prevailing winds, allowing for the sudden formation of massive and steep waves… The area is now known as one of the high-risk zones as far as rogue waves (that can seem to come out of the blue and reach 30 metres in height) are concerned. Geologically speaking, Cape Aghulas’ mountainous formations are part of the Table Mountain Group. Its lighthouse was the second one built in the country, following a long series of shipwrecks, and was erected in 1848. Geographical Coordinates: 34° 50’ S - 20° 00’ E

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