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Clipper Round the World Race - Geraldton take final Scoring Gate point

by Heather Ewing on 20 Mar 2012
Geraldton Western Australia - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are on the fifteenth day of race nine from Qingdao to Oakland, California. Never underestimate the competitiveness of ocean racing. In the last 24 hours two more teams decided to race for the final point to the Scoring Gate, seeing Geraldton Western Australia moving up to fifth place in the overall leader board.

After crossing the Scoring Gate at 03:08.12 UTC today, Geraldton Western Australia’s skipper Juan Coetzer says, 'It’s one point, but it could make the world of difference in the final stages of the race. We may have lost out on positions on the race nine leader board for now, but there are some 3,000 miles still to go, and there is still all to play for.

'We celebrated our little crossing with a bacon fry up. Our next task is to make the most out of this weather front coming in, and its coming quickly, with the barometer dropping a bar every hour.'

Right behind them, was Visit Finland who lost out on bonus points, as they passed the gate in fourth place. They are now preparing for more rough conditions awaiting in the mighty Pacific Ocean.

Skipper Olly Osborne says, 'We are expecting another good battering as a cold front approaches from the west giving us gusty and unpredictable winds. So once again we have set our storm trysail as the weather builds to ensure we don't get caught out and damage our main. Setting the trysail is no mean feat in these conditions as it involves climbing the mast steps and dragging down the small amount of mainsail still flying whilst it is flogging violently.

'Then the boom is lowered and the folds of sail have to be lashed down before we can wrestle the small plastic sliders into the trysail track and hoist it. All this is done whilst being pelted continuously with sea water and without speaking as we are not able to hear each other anyway. But it is always good to have it done, and we know now that we can cope with whatever comes our way during the night.'

Following their Scoring Gate win on Saturday, the Gold Coast Australia team has seen a spur of incidents including an injury to crew member Wayne Reed. The Queenslander is suffering from a suspected broken right ankle, attained during a Yankee sheet change on Saturday.

Wayne is in a stable condition, good spirits and well looked after by fellow crew members that include two nurses and a physiotherapist. Given there is more than 1,000 miles to the nearest shore and that he is not in any immediate danger, Gold Coast Australia will continue racing. However, they will of course monitor Wayne’s condition and are in on-going contact with the Race Office.

Besides looking after Wayne, on board the Australian entry, they’ve spent the last 24 hours looking after the boat.

Skipper Richard Hewson says, 'With the wind abating this morning and remaining under 15 knots it enabled a few members of Gold Coast Australia to climb the mast and inspect the track. There was no way of straightening the existing track, so today we have spent problem solving working out ideas to re-set the mainsail.

'One idea has been developed and we spent the day refining the solution, however with the approaching weather we had a very important decision to make as a crew, and the vote was made against running the risk of further damaging the mast track or sail by hoisting it today and rather wait until we can hoist it in under 15 knots for a full day’s trial.

'Therefore it is unlikely that the mainsail will see a hoist until the next lot of wind passes over us. The situation with the main is frustrating but at least we are still out in front. It will require some careful tactics, as we are unable to sail as fast as the other boats in the fleet, so we will just have to sail smarter i.e. less brawn more brain.'

Having come out of Stealth Mode yesterday further down the fleet, New York skipper Gareth Glover reflects on their race nine tactics.

'After being pushed some 100 miles south of the Scoring Gate, tacking north for the gate was going to add miles on our distance to finish. In the wind we had at the time it was going to be a hard beat to the Scoring Gate, so like some of the other yachts we moved on to get a better position for the up-coming wind from the south.

'We now find ourselves as one of the windward yachts and hope this is going to stand us well in the next 48 hours. We are going to push hard to get back into the top three yachts and chase down Singapore and Gold Coast Australia.

'We are now pushing to the North West and looking ahead at our overall tactics for the next part of this race. We were hoping that going into Stealth Mode would make the yachts closer to the gate tack to the north whist we headed more to the east than them but it did not work as planned this time.'


Derry-Londonderry opted for the same plan and are doing all they can to maintain a podium place.

'I think our decision to ignore the Scoring Gate bonus point and concentrate on the grand plan will pay dividends. It seems that we were not the only boat to come to this conclusion and we now have a new sparring partner in Qingdao - my old mate Conchie (Ian) will be trying his utmost to catch the ‘ferry from Derry’.We will use his boat as the motivation to up our game and try to increase the gap,' says skipper, Mark Light.

'It is great that after over 2,500 miles of ocean racing and being out here in the North Pacific, that we find ourselves so close to another Clipper Race boat. At the midnight UTC position report we were barely 20 miles apart - no distance at all in this vast wilderness of ocean. Our nearest land is the Island of Midway (750 miles to the South East of us) and as the name suggests this is approximately half way across the largest ocean on the planet.

'All in all, I am very happy with our progress, really enjoying this North Pacific Ocean race and looking forward to sailing underneath the finish line - The Golden Gate Bridge - in one of the podium positions,' concludes Mark.

Rival Qingdao is working on their 'game-plan', as they are racing close to the podium positions.

Skipper Ian Conchie says, 'The next weather system coming through would be giving us strong southerly winds. So as it builds today we have been slowly changing sails to suit and preparing the boat and the crew for the strong winds.

'We are now down to three reefs, the staysail and the storm jib and ready for the strong winds. This system is at least allowing us to point the boat in the direct we want for the best course towards the finish. Last night however the wind refused to veer in time to allow us to go for the Scoring Gate and we had already decided as a crew to focus on our race strategy.

'We have secured anything that can move and removed all the items from the deck we don't need like the spinnaker sheets and guys. We have taken extra caution this time as we do not want to damage our pull pit any further. We have been checking the cracks we found and they haven't changed but the more we can reduce the drag of waves on it the better.

'We now await the next weather system which will hopefully give us downwind sailing conditions again as life at 30 degrees is starting to get hard on the crew and you can see that sleep is becoming more of a priority as off watch crew rush for their bunks.'

Preparation for the storms seems to be the theme across the fleet, including the only English entry in the race, Welcome to Yorkshire, that has been focussing on sail changes.

Skipper Rupert Dean says, 'A busy day on board, as we make our final preparations for the next big blow. The storm jib is hanked on under the Yankee 3, ready to go and the trysail is already positioned in its dedicated slot on the mast.

'Crew members Jim Stamp and Les Hartley did a heroic job perched on the boom this afternoon, making a repair to the mainsail. That's successfully complete, so we now hunker down and wait for this big blow to hit.'

Meanwhile the upbeat report from Edinburgh Inspiring Capital skipper Gordon Reid says, 'It's always darkest before the dawn! The dawn has come for the ocean racing team on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital as the onslaught relents for a wee while at least, after another hammering from the elements yesterday the wind has eased to below 30 knots and the sea state has settled to merely rough allowing us to shake the third reef out for the first time in three days.

'As we did so we noticed a problem with reef 2, so with crew member Baz on the boom suspended from a halyard and me balancing on the cuddy, we managed, with a bit of persistence to reconfigure the line, no easy job when you are slamming off waves but with a bit of solid team work involving the Dragon watch, it was job done without any loss of speed or course.

'The break in the weather has allowed us to do some repairs to other equipment damaged during our recent Pacific Ocean kicking. The force of the waves crashing over the bow has bent the stantions and caused the guardwires to loosen, I found myself on the bow this morning, semi submerged in cool seawater as we ploughed through wave after wave, whilst I retensioned the wires and re-secured the life raft which had made a bid for freedom.

'Happy days with only around 20 odd miles separating us from Singapore and the Derry-Londonderry, we are pushing hard to take more places, so for all our supporters 'keep the faith' we are on our way to San Francisco and fast!'


Also reflecting on the mighty Pacific storms is Singapore skipper Ben Bowley.

'Today has been a day of holding our breath. Waiting for the next pressure system to make its presence felt and delivered us another wet punch in the kidneys. We were able to increase sail a little earlier and have now tacked over onto starboard as the wind veers round. Soon we shall be cracking sheets and reducing sail as the wind starts kicking us to straight to San Francisco Bay at pace.

'Life inside the 68 foot washing machine will start another cycle again but at least when we get spat out the other end we shall be considerably closer to our destination! Many are starting to feel the length of the voyage now as we approach the half way mark; let's hope that the ride home is downhill most of the way.'

But it seems like the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race entries aren’t alone on the water. De Lage Landen skipper Stuart Jackson reports a stint of whale spotting in his 0600 report to the Race Office.

'After what has been a fairly brief reprieve from the strong winds, we are yet again bashing through the waves with plenty of white water coursing down the deck. It's looking like we are in for a blustery night, as we are expecting the tail end of the front to pass over us from the large low to our north.

'After this passes we will hopefully have some more settled conditions with a little less wind and hopefully some much missed sunshine.This morning we were privileged enough to see a large whale around a boats length from us, which has been the first wildlife we have seen on this leg, but hopefully not the last.

'We are not quite sure what species it was, it was light grey in colour with a long small dorsal fin similar to a pilot whale, and it was roughly the length of the boat. Answers on a postcard please!'

Positions at 1200 UTC, Monday 19 March 2012
Boat - DTF*
1.Gold Coast Australia - 2802nm*
2.Singapore - 2903nm (101nm**)
3.Derry-Londonderry - 3028nm (226nm)
4.Qingdao - 3033nm (231nm)
5.New York - 3046nm (244nm)
6.Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 3056nm (254nm)
7.Geraldton Western Australia - 3072nm (270nm)
8.Welcome to Yorkshire - 3090nm (288nm)
9.Visit Finland - 3104nm (301nm)
10.De Lage Landen - 3138nm (336nm)

*DTF = Distance to Finish, **DTL = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found online.

www.clipperroundtheworld.com/" target="_blank">Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website

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