The seven-strong fleet of yachts competing in the Round-the-World Volvo Ocean Race set sail on the 10th leg of the event this afternoon – heading for Gothenburg.
This leg of the round the world event was supposed to start at 16:00 and in anticipation large crowds were thronging Cardiff Bay Barrage, Penarth Head Viewing Platform and Penarth Esplanade – where the event coincided with the second day of ‘Picnic Penarth’.
However at 16:00 there came a problem – not enough wind. The start was postponed until 16:10 in the hope that some sort of a breeze would spring up.
There was no such luck. The yachts sat almost totally be-calmed and the start was postponed a second time .
It was a long hot wait for spectators who were straining to make sense of what on earth was going on at the start area – more than a mile a mile away.
Many of those watching did not know that the advertised “inshore loop” which the competitors were supposed to take immediately after the start, had been cancelled because of the light winds,
Eventually the fleet DID get away with Vestas/11th Hour Racing leading a very spread-out field down channel with MAPRE in second place, Brunel 3rd and AkzoNobel 4th.
Two helicopters hovered overhead shooting video and – somewhat surprisingly in the almost flat-calm conditions – no less than 3 RNLI lifeboats escorted the fleet for the first couple of sea miles. The RNLI said they were carrying out “safety duties”.
Before the fleet reached Flatholm, MAPRE had overtaken Vestas/11th Hour Racing by dint of tacking earlier than her rival and opened up a wide gap between by the time the two yachts reached Lavernock – with Brunel a close 3rd.
Bringing up the rear were Dongfeng and Regus/Scallywag – which for some reason had elected to go on the Somerset side of the sandbanks.
The departure of the seven yachts brought down the curtain on the Volvo Ocean Race in Wales – and upon Volvo itself which is now aiming to hand the event over to a new sponsor.
The hugely expensive – not to say extravagant – race pits seven yachts (each costing between £10,000,000 and £20,000,000) against each other. Helicopters and drones film from overhead, dozens of official vessels patrol the race areas, support crews criss-cross the world and burn up thousands of air miles.
Environmentalists say it’s all in the cause of selling fossil fuel-powered vehicles and they’ll be asking the Welsh Labour Government whether – in retrospect – it was really justified in spending £3,000,000 of taxpayers’ money to host the event in Cardiff.