Wellington and Cook Strait: the second part begins
Wellington is the final city that the Barcelona World Race skippers pass before setting course for Cape Horn, in the Chilean Patagonia, and before crossing the International Date Line. This may not be the exact halfway point in the regatta, but it is the gateway to the Pacific Ocean, where the skippers will cease to push away from Barcelona and will start moving towards the city. The geographical positioning of Cook Strait, where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet means that there are often winds in the area of over 50 knots.
Wellington, New Zealand's capital, conjures up tales of great ocean adventures. It couldn't possibly be any other way for a city located on the curve between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, just miles from the fierce wrath of one of the most difficult seas on earth and from the famous 'Roaring Forties'. It is also the natural gate marking the finishing line of the Indian Ocean Trophy, the third in the Barcelona World Race. Down at Cook Strait Giovanni Venturi's theory is regularly on display, with anemometers shooting up above the 50 knot mark, leading locals to have named their city 'Windy Wellington'.
The good economic fortune of Wellington's population and a maritime history soaked up by the city and deeply embedded in New Zealand's culture has meant a popularisation of the sport of sailing. The country's sailors are among the most highly valued in the world, both in in-shore and offshore racing. The immense talent of the boat builders and shipyards in the country are the reason that many of today's racing yachts with the latest technology are built in the country. The Port of Wellington has also become almost an obligatory passage for many of the round the world regattas, such as the Around Alone, the Global Challenge, and the Volvo Ocean Race, whose third leg in the 2005-2006 edition finished with a leg victory for Movistar and was the first for a Spanish entry competing in a round the world race. Now, of course, there is also the Barcelona World Race.
During the first edition of the Barcelona World Race three of the entries were forced to make a pit-stop in Wellington. It is geographically the last place where repairs can be carried out before Cape Horn. It is always best to focus on repairs before heading right into the Pacific, even though it might mean a 48 hour penalty, set by Race Organisers for those who make a technical stop after the 140º East parallel.
The first entry to stop in 2007 was Hugo Boss. In the middle of a titanic battle with Paprec-Virbac 2, Alex Thomson and Andrew Cape's entry made a stop to dismantle the generator and to replace elements of the rudder boxes. Days later, Temenos II with Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret did the same in order to carry out keel repairs, meaning a New Year's Eve on dry land. Finally Mutua Madrileña, who had moved 60 miles closer to the Swiss entry, was forced to dock at the Wellington pontoon to carry out various repairs, such as to spreader pivots, the mast rotation system, one of the port side stanchions, the carbon batten casing, a piece of the daggerboard, and two of the five autopilot devices.
Windy, wild, welcoming and the perfect host... Wellington is all of this to the offshore sailor. Above all it's a magical city. Having sailed hundreds of miles and after crossing the International Date Line en route to the legendary Cape Horn (Chile), the ocean adventurers must turn their clocks back some 23 hours, back to the day before. It is almost as if time wishes them to relive or keep close the experience of these illustrious waters.