Clipper Round the World - Geraldton Western Australia maintains lead

Geraldton Western Australia - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.
Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are currently on day twelve of race seven, from the Gold Coast to Singapore.

Geraldton Western Australia’s crew are maintaining their lead over the rest of the fleet as they sail towards their goal, Marina at Keppel Bay in Singapore. The last 24 hours have seen the disappearance of lighter, more fluky winds and the return of a steady breeze. All of the teams should benefit from the steadier north easterly trade winds within the next 48 hours.

Juan Coetzer, the skipper of Geraldton Western Australia writes that the crew are gaining confidence in their sailing skills which enables them to try more complicated sail evolutions.

'Yesterday the wind died down to a mere two knots. It resulted in us dropping the mainsail, just so we could keep the lightweight kite full. Then the wind shifted, so we had to put in a gybe. Putting up the second pole would have resulted in us piercing a hole through our kite, so we went for an unorthodox outside gybe, keeping the original pole. Once done, we put up the windward pole and reconnected the lines. Great result, when it works. The breeze picked up during the night, so the crew did the first kite peel to the medium weight,' he comments.

Geraldton Western Australia was the first of the ten teams to cross back into the Northern Hemisphere.

'Around midnight a pod of dolphins escorted us across the Equator, and we thanked Neptune. Today during happy hour the crew dressed up to celebrate the momentous occasion.'

After wallowing around for most of the day, trying to make the most of every zephyr of wind in their bid to reach the Equator, Gold Coast Australia finally found some light breeze about an hour after sunset.

'At 1315 UTC we crossed the Equator from south to north. For all on board this is a fantastic milestone,' says skipper, Richard Hewson. 'For the round the worlders it meant crossing the Equator from south to north for the first time, and for the crew who joined us in the Gold Coast it is the first time they have ever crossed the Equator by sea.

'King Neptune made a delayed appearance and demanded explanations as to why the Pollywogs should be allowed into his realm and held court for each member to give explanation for their sins and be punished accordingly. Tribute was paid to King Neptune in the traditional fashion as the court turned into a celebration.'

The gifts to Neptune must have been received with pleasure as, says the Tasmanian yachtsman, 'This morning the trades increased and we finally had some good wind for a few hours before the storm clouds began to develop again, sucking the air from around us. Later in the day the wind increased to a pleasant breeze and we sailed with our lightweight spinnaker up trying to catch our Aussie competition who have been making some fantastic progress on us over the last few days. Thankfully at the moment the wind, though light, seems to have steadied and we are finally able to make ground to the west.'

The third yacht to cross the Equator was Singapore who, while north of third placed Qingdao, are further to the east and therefore further from the finish line, so currently lying in seventh place.

The team is anxious to have a good result on the race to their home port where the striking new Reflections at Keppel Bay, designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, dominates the award-winning marina.

'After another frustrating night of very light winds the wind swung round rapidly to the north east early this morning,' reports skipper, Ben Bowley. 'This has allowed us to start to make a little progress to the north west today; indeed, with the wind slowly veering throughout the course of the day we now find ourselves running north west under lightweight kite making between seven and ten knots, ideal!

'I think that we still have a fair bit more north to make before we see the trade winds proper but it does feel wonderful to be moving in the right general direction for a change. We also anticipate being the third boat to cross the Equator at around the time of our 1700 meeting today. With five uninitiated Periwinkles and ten confirmed Shellbacks aboard, preparations are underway for the welcoming of Neptune and his courtiers. There are some nervous looking members of team Singapore and some knowing smiles being exchanged by those who have crossed previously! The significance of returning to the northern hemisphere is not lost on those of us who have been with the boat since Southampton. I for one will feel that we have started the journey homeward once I see the GPS clock over to 000 00.1'N.'

Qingdao arrives at race 10 finish in San Francisco - 213-14 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race
Clipper 13-14 Round the World Yacht Race

Qingdao’s skipper, Ian Conchie, tells the Race Office, 'I anticipate an Equator crossing sometime this evening when Neptune will hopefully visit us again and the crew who haven’t crossed the Equator (we have five) will be inducted by Neptune to become Shellbacks.

'It’s been a frustrating 24 hours, but one the rest of the fleet has already had to deal with,' he continues. 'Last night the wind dropped and we drifted very slowly all night. The breeze filled in slightly this morning but it has been slow going until this afternoon when it built and went around to the east, allowing us to hoist our heavyweight kite and start reaching north west towards the Equator.'

New York, like Qingdao, is on the western side of the course and has been making good ground on the rest of the fleet.

'We have been very lucky with the wind until first light this morning when the wind dropped out to around three to five knots,' he explains. 'At this point we would normally put up the windseeker or lightweight kite but with squalls still on the radar we just have to sit there and wait until the wind builds or until a squall hits us so as not to rip any sails. This means we have only sailed half the distance we needed to catch up with the leaders to the north and hope that they still won’t be in the north easterly trade winds until we get there. If we can keep heading towards the north west at good speed we may be able to close down the miles on them.'

Derry-Londonderry has also had a pretty good 24 hours on the whole, despite spending some time bobbing around becalmed – which wasn’t wasted time, as Mark Light explains.

'In the fairly consistent wind we managed to claw our way north and west into some more consistent weather… or so we thought! Today we were back to being becalmed in the stifling heat and during the morning we tried everything to get our boat moving - Yankee 1, staysail, lightweight spinnaker and windseeker and every combination you could think of.

'When the wind finally died off completely I gathered our crew together on deck for a refresher rope work and knots class. Just as the class finished, the wind filled and we were moving again only to stop within the hour. We are now sailing along quite nicely, due west under full main, Yankee 1 and staysail achieving about nine knots. There is plenty of rain and the on watch team are enjoying (enduring?) fresh water showers. I can hear their shrieks of utter delight as I type down below.'

Visit Finland’s crew are making the most of the fresh water showers as well. With temperatures in the high 30s, the respite from the heat and sun is most welcome.

'The weather has certainly dealt us a mixed hand during the last 24 hours, with long spells of calm, punctuated by the ever present rain squalls,' notes the Chichester-based skipper of the Finnish team, Olly Osborne. 'Everyone enjoys the rain showers that pass during the day as they often have wind with them, and more importantly it’s a chance for a good fresh water shower and a cool off! So with the trade winds now tantalisingly close, and the Equator well within a day’s run to the north of us we are hoping that our time in the convergence zone is drawing to a close.

'We enjoyed a fantastic reach northward yesterday morning which saw us flying along at ten knots for several hours, covering nearly 90 miles. Today we have not been so lucky, but our progress north westward is continuing slowly but surely and it is good to have the close competition with Derry-Londonderry, albeit in fits and starts!'

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital has moved up to eighth place, by virtue of their more westerly position than that of De Lage Landen and Welcome to Yorkshire. This part of the race is all about getting into position to make the most of the trade winds when they arrive – the question for Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is whether they need to get more north into their course.

Skipper Gordon Reid doesn’t think so, saying, 'Our course if not our speed is bang on the mark and with a bit of luck we should continue to close on the fleet. We have made it out of the Solomon Sea after doing an average of one knot for almost 12 hours, a combination of riding squalls and drifting. We eventually found the wind and are moving again.

'Today has brought us some spectacular squalls with the customary massive wind shifts and heavy rain, since the last one the wind has veered 90 degrees and dropped to less than five knots so up goes the lightweight spinnaker; maybe not for long as we can see more black clouds off in the distance. The conditions are challenging and the sail plan is constantly changing, but the crew are all over it and loving the intense activity, a welcome change from drifting in the baking hot sun.

While life on an ocean racing yacht takes on a rhythm of its own, people in the world outside the confines of the 68-foot boat go about their everyday lives – whatever that might entail – and Gordon and the crew have had a glimpse of what it’s like in the South Pacific.

'Earlier today we passed west of the Tanga Islands within one mile of Tefa, Nokin and Lif the three south westerly islands. We saw people on the beaches and admired the lush green vegetation and golden sandy beaches. We saw a small, long power boat transporting good and people between the islands as we cruised past at over nine knots,' he describes.

'Another day of bobbing around in the South Pacific. What is one of the mightiest oceans of them all has once again surprised us with its serenity,' Stuart Jackson reports from on board De Lage Landen.

'The last 24 hours have been very slow. After a good start to the day leaving New Ireland behind we had hoped for the best, only to find ourselves in the same agonising position as before. In the meantime preparations for Neptune's arrival are well under way. Crew who haven't crossed the Equator aboard a sailing vessel will soon be greeted by the god of the oceans himself.'

And it’s the milestone of the Equator crossing that is the focus of attention on the English boat as well.

Welcome to Yorkshire at the start of the race from the Gold Coast to Singapore - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race
Steve Holland/onEdition

'It's not far away now: Welcome to Yorkshire’s second Equator crossing will soon be here. For the round the worlders, veterans of the first, also known as Shellbacks, they know what to expect. For our Equator virgins, also known as Pollywogs, all will be revealed... that's if we ever get there of course.

'Out here in the South Pacific the winds remain very light and fickle indeed. Sweltering under unrelenting heat, the Welcome to Yorkshire crew are having to concentrate and work hard to keep our 'Pink Lady' moving. Every tack, evolution, trim change and helm movement demands scrupulous concentration and attention to detail. Keeping this up day in day out is a significant challenge and currently feels very tedious indeed. Roll on the trades!

'All of us are beginning to realise that this race is going to take a lot longer than anticipated so, wherever possible, the team are doing maintenance jobs on board to reduce the time required for this essential work to be done in port. That they continue to do so in good spirits and in good humour is a great credit to them all.'

The fleet is expected to arrive in Batam, Indonesia, between 24 and 27 January, where they will muster before a ceremonial arrival at Marina at Keppel Bay in Singapore on 28 January.

You can find out how to get on board for the Clipper 13-14 Race at the London International Boat Show from 6 to 15 January. Visit us on stand G102 in the North Hall to meet former crew members and to discover more about the exciting new Clipper 70 fleet which will enter service in the next edition of the race. You can also try your hand at the Harken Coffee Grinder challenge to see just how much effort it takes to hoist the mainsail, and there are presentations each day at 12.15pm in the Knowledge Box, next to the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race stand.

Positions at 0900 UTC, Thursday 5 January
Boat - DTF*
1 Geraldton Western Australia 2,946nm
2 Gold Coast Australia 2,959nm (+13nm DTL**)
3 Qingdao 2,984nm (+38nm) Position at 0800 UTC
4 New York 3,009nm (+63nm)
5 Derry-Londonderry 3,022nm (+76nm)
6 Visit Finland 3,034nm (+88nm)
7 Singapore 3,044nm (+98nm)
8 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 3,078nm (+132nm)
9 De Lage Landen 3,082nm (+136nm)
10 Welcome to Yorkshire 3,086nm (+140nm)

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

Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website