Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are on the seventh day of race nine from Qingdao to Oakland, California. De Lage Landen’s crew are focused on catching up with the fleet after their diversion and medical evacuation yesterday of one of their crew members.
De Lage Landen - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.
'It all started when Cath James was thrown from her high side bunk and went airborne until she arrived with a crash on the low side,' explains Stuart Jackson, skipper of De Lage Landen. 'Fortunately one of our doctors was close at hand to assess her and we soon had her braced in another bunk. After close monitoring, Cath's condition was failing to improve and we deemed the situation to be unsustainable on board from a pain management and safety point of view. We contacted Falmouth MRCC who put us in touch with a doctor who also recommended immediate evacuation.'
In the middle of the night the yacht rendezvoused with a Japanese Coast Guard vessel and transferred Cath so she could be airlifted and taken to hospital in Tokyo. Cath is in good spirits and the prognosis is a recovery time of six weeks. She is already asking the doctors when she will be able to get back on board!
'In the early hours of the morning, with the wind significantly abated we left the lee of the island and have now rejoined the race, albeit a little behind the rest of the fleet,' continues Stuart.
'We have been given strict instructions from Cath that we are not allowed to finish the leg in last place, so we are striving to start making gains on the fleet again. The weather is being kind for another 12 hours or so until the next low pressure system is due to arrive, so we are making sure the yacht is in A1 condition for the big task ahead.'
Paying tribute to those involved in the medevac operation, Stuart says, 'It has been great to see all the crew working so well together during these trying times and the support we have received from the office and the Japanese Coast Guard has been exemplary.'
De Lage Landen has already set about the task of bringing themselves back in touch with the rest of the fleet, heading to the north of the course so as to be among the first to benefit from the next low pressure system which should reach them in the next six to eight hours, according to meteorologist, Simon Rowell, who provides the teams with a stack of information on wind, weather, wave height and local currents every day.
Welcome to Yorkshire, before they went into Stealth Mode for 24 hours at 1800 UTC yesterday, were also taking that northerly option. We will have to wait until 1800 UTC today to find out whether they are sticking to it.
In the meantime skipper, Rupert Dean, reports that the team is making the most of the first rays of sunshine since leaving China in the sleet and snow a week ago.
'The depression has now swept through and we're waiting for the new wind to fill in from the north west. We saw the sun for the first time since leaving Qingdao today, a welcome boost after the oppressive grey skies to date. We hope our more northerly position will allow us to get the new breeze before the rest of the fleet. In the meantime, this period of calm is a welcome opportunity for all on Welcome to Yorkshire to recharge their batteries, get some essential maintenance jobs done and dry out below before the big winds arrive.'
They are not alone in drying out, carrying out essential rig and equipment checks and generally catching their breath after the storm of the last few days. Qingdao, too, has some matters to attend to in the lighter airs.
'From having too much wind the tables have turned,' reports skipper, Ian Conchie. 'Over the last 12 hours we have progressively gone through our entire sail wardrobe from storm jib to Yankee 1. And now we find ourselves almost becalmed in a rolling sea, making the sails slop back and forth as we hunt for steady breeze.
'It has allowed the crew to take stock, though, and carry out some important maintenance and cleaning. The maintenance included some open heart surgery on one of our primary winches after some internal bolts sheared off, some inspirational heads (toilet) repairs using some leather, as well as routine sail repairs and maintenance checks.
'All we can hope now is the that wind fills in as forecast to allow us to catch up the boats ahead after losing so much time yesterday.'
Geraldton Western Australia and New York are getting back up to strength after a stomach bug swept through both boats. Despite seriously reduced watch numbers at times, both teams have maintained their place in the top five.
'You’ll be glad to know most of the crew are feeling better today and we had all 17 crew up and able for today’s meeting,' Gareth Glover reports from on board New York. 'Now the wind and sea state has calmed down we are giving New York a day of drying out and deep cleaning. The crew’s kit is pegged out on the rail and our broken heads that we have been waiting to fix are being looked at.
'Now we are seeing wind of less than ten knots for first time since the start of this race. We hope it’s not for too long and we are waiting for the next low to build and rocket us along our way. Trying to make good headway in this light wind and stop the lead yachts pulling away from us again is just as hard as when there is over 30 knots of wind.'
Gareth’s thoughts are echoed by Gordon Reid on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital. He says 'After a decent run last night, starting as the sun set with three reefs in the main, the staysail and alternating between the Yankee 3 and the storm jib in winds gusting over 40 knots, we have been steadily increasing sail throughout the night and this morning find ourselves in less than ten knots of breeze with the maximum amount of white sails flying.
'Stuck between two areas of low pressure, it is a waiting game for the next low to drop off Japan and we should then pick up around Force 4 to 5 and more as the pressure system descends upon us from the north west.
'We are working hard to squeeze every bit of speed out of the breeze we have and this inevitably involves frequent adjustments to the sail plan and constant trim; slightly frustrating after the excellent progress we have been making over the previous few days.'
Geraldton Western Australia’s crew, feeling much better, are also waiting for the next weather system to reach them, says skipper, Juan Coetzer.
'We have made it into the big blue yonder. Last night the wind started to die off and throughout the day we have been changing sails. Currently we are bobbing around with the Yankee 1 up and full main, waiting for this new cold front to come by and push us along. The sun is out, it has stopped raining and there are smiles on the crew’s faces. Today is a good time for a boat tidy up, dry some kit and regroup,' he says.
You can almost hear the sighs of relief and sense the relaxing of muscles in the skippers’ reports to the Race Office today after what has been likened to three days in the spin cycle in a 68-foot washing machine. Boats and crews have taken a pounding in the sustained high winds and heavy seas.
'Today is almost the complete opposite to yesterday’s high winds and storm sails as we are rolling slowly in the long swell left over by the receding depression,' notes Olly Osborne, Visit Finland’s skipper. 'We've experienced our first Pacific gale. High winds combined with the Japanese Current produced a vigorous sea state. This has now passed as we sit in a trough and await the next system to push us further into the Pacific proper.
'We have taken the opportunity to work on the steering and mainsail whilst the light airs persist and I am hoping that it will not impact on our position too much. The ten bolts holding the main steering cross member have worked loose and so we are currently dismantling the quadrant to access them, but we are able to keep our course using the emergency tiller system. The main is on the deck for a quick batten swap and then we should be on our way and racing again.'
Up at the front of the fleet, where Gold Coast Australia is in the lead and Singapore and Derry-Londonderry refuse to let up the pressure on them, Richard Hewson describes how his crew is making the most of the let up in the weather.
'Yesterday afternoon saw the storm at its peak with one wave noticeably higher than the first spreader and with wind gusts up to 48 knots. As the evening went on the winds began to abate, and this continued throughout the morning as we have taken down the storm sails and gradually changed through our sail wardrobe. We are now sailing in nine knots of wind with our Yankee1, staysail and full mainsail.
'There are also a few cuts and bruises that need to be seen to as people were smashed by waves and knocked down to the deck as Gold Coast Australia was jostled around. There have been a few mighty falls but apart from bruising there are no serious injuries and, thanks to everybody wearing harnesses, life lines and always being clipped on, everybody is safe.
'Inside and outside of the boat is saturated and this afternoon we have seen our first blue sky and sunshine since Qingdao. The deck of Gold Coast Australia now looks like a Qingdao laundry and is covered in mattresses, sleeping bags, wet weather gear and clothes. The crew have shed layers of damp gear and are trying to make the most of the sunshine to air out their skin. Everybody is cheerful and deservedly proud of their achievements so far in the race as we continue to lead the fleet to Oakland.'
Singapore’s exhausted crew are dry for the first time in many days, reports skipper, Ben Bowley, who adds, 'Praise Neptune and his magic rising barometer!'
But while the conditions have slackened off, the crew have had to work just as hard adjusting the sail plan to keep the yacht moving as the breeze gets lighter.
'The last 24 hours has been a blur of sail changes to keep the boat in the right gear for the steadily improving conditions. Yesterday afternoon we left you charging along on a reach with a triple reefed main, storm jib and a fully furled ensign. We are now sailing under full main, staysail, Yankee 1 and all our wet clothes and boots flying from the guard rail. The sun is shining and the seascape is still rather spectacular with the occasional huge (no longer breaking) wave to throw the helm off balance for a few seconds.
'Coaxing speed and height out of the big red bus in this rolling countryside of confused sea, with barely enough wind, is tricky to say the least. We are having to wait a while before our tack northwards as the angles are quite large presently. As the wind continues to veer however, starboard will soon be the making tack; this is where we shall start to see a gradual decrease of the amount of canvas flying before too long.
'For now though the 12-strong crew of Singapore are resting, exhausted by no less than eight full sail evolutions in around 18 hours. We are enjoying the chance to get dry, eat and sleep well, in preparation for our next charge at the Scoring Gate.'
'This is one thing that makes sailing great,' comments Derry-Londonderry skipper, Mark Light. 'No two days are the same! There is always something different to challenge, contend with, endure and enjoy. Yesterday: brutal conditions, deep reefed sails and soaking wet crew. Today: blue skies, bright sunshine, moderate breeze, full sail and a dry, happy crew.
'We are currently 215nm south east of Japan and are beginning to stretch our legs out into the open waters of the North Pacific Ocean. Today is a day of maintenance, cleaning and drying the boat and equipment.
'While all these tasks are happening we have also exited ‘survival’ mode and have re-entered ‘race’ mode. Our aim, as always, is to keep our Derry-Londonderry moving as fast as possible in the most efficient direction while keeping a wary eye on both our competitors and the latest developing weather conditions.
'We feel that we are in a good position strategically to push on to the Scoring Gate and beyond. We will make sure that we are all well fed and rested and ready for the next and inevitable onslaught from Mother Nature.'
The fleet is expected to arrive in Oakland, California, on the east side of San Francisco Bay, between 1 and 7 April. The yachts will be hosted by the 2012 Strictly Sail Pacific Boat Show in Jack London Square.
Positions at 1200 UTC, Sunday 11 March 2012
Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 4,301nm
2 Singapore - 4,341nm (+40nm DTL**)
3 Derry-Londonderry - 4,386nm (+85nm)
4 New York - 4,389nm (+87nm)
5 Geraldton Western Australia - 4,400nm (+99nm) Position at 1112 UTC 11 March
6 Qingdao - 4,438nm (+137nm)
7 Visit Finland - 4,449nm (+148nm)
8 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 4,485nm (+184nm)
9 De Lage Landen - 4,499nm (+197nm)
10 Welcome to Yorkshire - 4,527nm (+225nm) Stealth Mode: position at 1800 UTC 10 March
*DTF = Distance to Finish, **DTL = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found online.
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website