Cape Town - The Volvo Ocean Race left port here on Sunday for 24 hours of treacherous sailing which could make or break years of preparation and millions of dollars of investment for the six teams.
The fleet sails straight into the notorious waters off Africa's Cape which can produce office-block sized waves which could fatally damage their highly-tuned vessels if not negotiated perfectly.
Fans of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team Sanya (China) already know their boats are anything but indestructible - both came to a shuddering halt after less than a day's competition in leg one from Alicante in Spain on November 5.
Abu Dhabi had her mast snapped in three after crashing off a giant wave and Sanya's hull was holed by Mediterranean storm debris off the Spanish coast.
Puma's USA skipper Ken Read will also be proceeding with extreme care after his rigging also failed after just over a fortnight's sailing in leg one.
His mast-less Mar Mostro boat was forced to take refuge in the world's most remote settlement at Tristan da Cunha before she was shipped to Cape Town last week.
To add to the skippers' headaches, a mixed weather forecast overnight on Sunday left their navigators unsure whether to head north and hug an African coast protected from the worst of the conditions or go for broke by going east with the possibility of a flying start.
France's third-placed Groupama skipper Franck Cammas summed up: "First nights are always tricky, we saw it in Alicante.
"We try to find the good balance between prudence and attack. We always try to look after the boat but on the other hand it's never good to lose miles the first night," he told AFP.
Abu Dhabi's Ian Walker showed no obvious inhibitions early on when he led the fleet out of Cape Town after an hour's exciting racing close to port. Puma, in third, were also cruising along nicely behind Camper. Groupama were fourth, Sanya fifth with Telefonica bringing up the rear.
Telefonica, however, are the form boat having won Saturday's in-port race and taken leg one with half a day to spare. They lead the overall classifications on 37 points, three clear of Camper who in turn are 10 ahead of Groupama who have 24. Puma and Abu Dhabi have nine points apiece and Sanya are on four.
At a point during leg two on the Indian Ocean which the organisers are not revealing because of the threat of a piracy attack, the boats will be halted and shipped to a point near the Sharjah coast in the Northern Emirates as a safety measure.
From there they will "sprint" the relatively short distance into Abu Dhabi around the turn of the new year.