The World ARC Fleet are now well on the way to their first African landfall at Richards Bay, having set off from the French territory of Reunion on 04 November. The rugged volcanic island of Reunion is always a surprise hit with the World ARC crews. Outside of the francophone world, the Indian Ocean island is little known. However, as it takes just 24 hours to sail there from Mauritius, it is well worth including on the island-hopping route to South Africa. It may be small, but it packs a lot in for visitors to enjoy. Mountains, stunning views, historic plantations and idyllic Indian Ocean beaches best explored via Jeep safaris, white-water rafting or simply relaxing ashore, snorkelling and swimming.
The routing from Reunion takes boats around the southern end of Madagascar, hugging close to the island’s southern tip, to avoid the Agulhas Current pushing boats too far to the south. The current is a marine motorway of warm tropical water which squeezes south between Madagascar and the east coast of Africa. Together with its better known counterpart, the Gulf Stream off the US East Coast, it is one of the world’s strongest ocean currents. For sailors this has significance because of the speed advantage that can be gained from riding the current, but at the risk of encountering big waves caused by southern ocean low pressure systems pushing north into the Indian Ocean.
Most boats are now to the west of Madagascar and, despite a low pressure causing some adverse weather over the last few days, are now expecting lighter conditions and a more favourable wind direction as the low passes below their track. However, three World ARC boats still remain south or east of Madagascar due to their late departure from Reunion and some mechanical problems experienced on route. Rally Control are monitoring their progress carefully as some potentially severe storm conditions are forecast to develop along the South African coast during the middle of next week. Based on the advice of the rally meteorologist, and the speed of advance of the weather system, the three boats at the back of the rally fleet may need to divert for shelter and delay their arrival into South Africa. Rally Control are in regular communication with the fleet and are closely monitoring their progress through what was always expected to be one of the more challenging routes of the entire rally.