Jeff Ayliffe - WorldsportCape Town - July 21 marks 100 days until the opening blows of what is arguably the toughest race on planet earth, the Volvo Ocean race. Twenty-four hours, night and day, crossing four oceans and 39 000 nautical miles, 10 countries. It’s about men racing through 15m waves and hurricane force winds in a world that few have ever seen. It’s about men operating so far outside of any comfort zone, and on state of the art racing machines where the engineering and structure of the open 70 footers are absolutely red-lining.Both above and below deck, the crews push themselves to the limit, and they are part of an exclusive club for which the stakes of membership are often extremely high. This club will include two South Africans in 2011/12. Michael Pammenter is Bowman and boat captain on Team Camper, and the KZN-born sailor brings experience from the 2008 Volvo where he raced with Telefonica Black.The second South African forms part of Puma Ocean Racing. Jono Swain is Helmsman and trimmer on the spectacular ‘Mar Mostro’ boat, and Jono also brings last season’s experience to PUMA. He raced in the previous race as a crewman aboard Telefonica Blue. Swain’s sailing story also goes back to Durban and the Point Yacht Club. His father was a keen sailor and it influenced the young Jono. Jono is now 43 and living comfortably in Florida with his wife and two children. He says this will be his last crack at the event.More than one billion people will tune in worldwide to witness a human drama unfold in high definition, with each team now having a compulsory ‘media-man’ aboard. The visuals that come the boats are nothing short of spectacular, and each moment is followed in real-time by millions of fans. It’s a far cry from the idea that apparently started in 1971 in a smoky pub in Portsmouth, when Colonel Bill Whitbread, and Admiral Otto Steiner, of the Royal Naval Sailing Association, met to enjoy a beer and discuss the proposal of a crewed race following the old square rigger routes around the world. Seventeen boats left Solent for Cape Town on September 8, 1973 for the first ever race.Cape Town is one of the most popular stopovers for the race, and it marks the end of the first leg, with the race getting underway in Alicante, Spain, on October 29, 2011. The opening leg produced high drama three years ago, Torben Grael’s Ericsson 4 managed 596.6 miles in a 24 hour period, setting a new record in some of the most extreme conditions ever seen in off-shore sailing.In Cape Town, two In-port races will give local spectators the opportunity to witness the world’s most advanced racing yacht’s in anger in Table Bay, with a legends event planned to get many of the local legends of the past back onto the water. Sailing fans can expect the fleet to streak over the horizon towards Table Mountain close to November 25, and it's my advice to start following the race on live-tracking via http://volvooceanrace.com. Believe me when I say it will make the Tour de France look like a ride in the park!