Clipper Round the World Yacht Race – Drag race to the finish

Gold Coast Australia set sail in race two (from Madeira to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-2012 second race in leg one, which started in Madeira and will finish in Rio De Janeiro, is currently underway. Leaders anticipate lighter winds in next 24 hours.

It could be an interesting day’s watching on the Race Viewer today as, with fewer than 600 miles to go, the lead yachts are expected to reach an area of lighter winds which will slow their pace slightly and allow those chasing to close the distance between them.

'We are working hard to lead the fleet down the east coast of Brazil and we are constantly re-assessing tactics to ensure that we maintain our lead over Welcome to Yorkshire until the finish in Rio,' says Gold Coast Australia’s skipper, Richard Hewson. 'Although it is basically a drag race from the southern sprint gate to the finish there are a few tactical elements to keep in mind, including currents, wind direction and wind strength that we are likely to experience ahead. The winds are set to lighten off over the next day or so and we need to ensure that we approach the area of lighter winds in a position that enables us to sail our best angles. We also have to consider the currents and ensure that we don't go so far inshore that we are affected by the back eddies up the Brazilian coast.

'Welcome to Yorkshire is still hot on our heels and has made some good ground on us over the last few days. As the leading boat it is very easy for the crew to become complacent and too relaxed. I imagine that Rupert and the crew are pushing their boat very hard to try to catch us and we must not only match their performance but work even harder as we approach the lighter winds ahead to ensure that he does not close the gap too much in case we sail into an area of little wind and get caught out.

'Gold Coast Australia will continue to fight to stay ahead of the fleet and we have got some cold beers and another yellow pennant waiting for us in Rio as our reward.'

The Welcome to Yorkshire crew are indeed working hard to keep their Australian rivals in their sights. Skipper, Rupert Dean, and his crew are concentrating on maintaining their momentum in the right direction. 'Another day of reaching down the endless Brazilian coast,' he reports. 'The south east trades regularly vary in direction by 20 degrees, increasing and decreasing by around five knots. This requires focus from our team to make adjustments to helm and trim accordingly. Squalls are more evident too, so a weather eye and contingencies to deal with them when they strike are important in this area, too.'

After the events of the last couple of days which tried the team’s patience, Ben Bowley, skipper of Singapore, says the last 24 hours have been much better. 'Having made our way back offshore and out into the more consistent wind we have been making good progress toward Rio. The sea state has calmed a little allowing us to open some hatches. A cool breeze has been blowing through the boat, helping to clear away much of the stress and sweaty frustration of losing a place to Welcome to Yorkshire. A look at the weather over the coming few days has also filled us with a little hope. There is a chance that the leading two yachts will succumb to lighter airs earlier than us and hopefully allow us to eat into the 40nm lead that Welcome to Yorkshire has on us right now. Forty miles initially seemed to be an unassailable lead but we have to keep reminding ourselves that anything could happen in the next 700 miles.

'In other news, in an effort to minimise wind induced drag the team barber and his trusty clippers were in session again this afternoon. The male contingent of crew at least is starting to look like a batch of new marine recruits on day one of boot camp.

'We are now also starting to look ahead to the Rio stop over and come up with a plan of action for our first full inter-leg stop. The various heads of department have been coming up with jobs lists and crew have been given opportunities to give input into the meal plans to ensure a more varied menu for the next leg. Now that we are comfortable with the menu plan rota we can tweak and expand it a little to suit people's personal preferences. Our intention is to be as prepared as we can for the stop over to ensure maximum efficiency and therefore maximise our down time to explore such a vibrant city and re-charge the batteries. It is essential that we start the next leg calm, focused and well rested. We want to win Leg 2.'

While Singapore’s crew have resorted to the clippers in a bid to increase speed, Visit Finland’s team have been trying a more conventional method – hot bunking. Navigator, Tomi Lintonen, explains, 'This means that instead of each crew-member sleeping in his or her own designated bunk, the off-watch have rested in whatever bunks have been free on the windward side of the boat. This has been done in the name of increasing boat performance by increasing the righting momentum, counteracting the force of the wind trying to push the boat on its side. Admittedly, the measure has gone quite a bit further in reducing the little possibilities there are of establishing a private space on the racing yacht.

'Little shipping has been observed on our way south along the Brazilian coast. As an unexpected sign of how fast these racing yachts really are, we actually overtook a cargo vessel yesterday. The past few hours have seen us in close ‘competition’ with the 559-feet-long freighter, Sea Honest, which is due in the port of Santos (south of Rio) on 2 September. We hope to make it to our destination, Rio de Janeiro, the same day or, preferably, even before that date.'

They are chasing New York who are maintaining their fourth place – but would really like to go one better.

'With under 900 miles to go we do not intend to give up the podium spot gained on the run to Madeira without a fight,' writes crew member, Andrew Priest. 'Two tacks as the wind switched onto our nose as the Ocean Sprint drew to a close meant we likely failed to match Gold Coast Australia but our average speed of just under ten knots over the ten degrees of latitude showed us that we are still hard to match in a straight drag race. ‘Never say never’ is our approach to closing the gap to the front boats, all of which took a more direct, and ultimately successful, route through the Doldrums where we lost time earlier in the leg. No-one has any regrets though - it was great to experience the mysteries of sailing off the dry sands of the Western Sahara north of Dakar as well as the Doldrums' tropical weather systems and in many ways both were a highlight of Leg 1 so far.'

Geraldton Western Australia is coming towards the end of their Ocean Sprint and has gained two places in the last 24 hours but, says skipper, Juan Coetzer, 'Our plans were foiled yesterday. The original plan was to follow our rhumb line we had plotted all the way to Rio. There was a big wind shift. For most of the time we had been sailing on a beam reach, now we are close hauled, crashing into every wave again. At least we are sort of still heading to Rio. Soon we will be done with our Ocean Sprint – there’s about 70 miles to go.

'The coolest things to watch at the moment are the flying fish. There are loads of them – all heading the same direction as us. They are like the African swallows surfing in the breeze, just above the swell doing amazing distances.'

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, De Lage Landen and Qingdao are all mid-sprint between the latitudes of five and ten degrees south. It’s a time trial with a bonus point awarded to the team which covers the distance in the quickest time.

While De Lage Landen and Qingdao are having trouble with the wind coming from a direction they weren’t expecting, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s skipper, Gordon Reid, says his crew have been working hard day and night to close in on the boats ahead.

'Taking everything to the limit, the boat, the crew and the sails, takes dedication, focus and a certain amount of faith,' he explains. 'Especially on board a 38-ton ocean racing yacht with massive loads on ropes, winches and other deck equipment. The ocean racing team on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital can today hold their heads high and with quiet reflection. They know they have what it takes!

'Even the numerous ocean squalls, intense hard rain, with winds up to 40 knots and another visit from our arch enemy, the chafe monster, were all taken in their stride. Sheet snapped, quick bear away, sail back under control, sail dropped, sheets retied, boat inspected and up she goes again, back on track... the purple beastie is today taking it to the limit one more time on the big push towards sunny Rio.'

De Lage Landen set sail in race two (from Madeira to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race

De Lage Landen, meanwhile, has dropped a place to eighth.

'The wind has built and headed us slightly which has adversely affected our speed, meaning we've lost out to some of the other teams - frustrating! I'm confident we'll get it back but for now it's a little painful,' reports skipper, Mat Booth. But despite that, the learning and laying the groundwork for the rest of the 40,000-mile Clipper 11-12 Race continues.

'Team spirit is something we value highly aboard and to keep harmony we have a daily ‘happy hour’ at 18:00. We talk about race progress and get anything that needs airing out in the open and discuss it as a group. This has allowed us to develop a really happy boat.

'One of the things that has come out of these meetings is our very own Team De Lage Landen Academy. With the race we are constantly learning with trim, boat husbandry and whatnot. However our own on board ‘academy’ allows structured learning to develop people individually, polishing their skills in any area they want.

'Each crew member has picked five subjects to enable them to tackle the areas they lack confidence in or just want to know about. So, over the last week, lessons in ocean passage planning, astro-navigation, heavy weather helming, spinnaker peeling to name a few have been going on. It's a pleasure to see the crew grow and grow every day. At this relatively early stage in the race the crew can already perform all evolutions without me on deck and with confidence – it's a pleasure to witness and be a part of.'

Qingdao’s crew are feeling some of the recent frustration of the Singapore team as skipper, Ian Conchie explains. 'We entered the sprint zone with a good course and boat speed to try to set a competitive time but yet again the weather gods are not being kind to the purple dragon. We are slowly getting pushed closer to the coast of Brazil where we don't want to be and despite the forecast for the wind to back, it has actually veered on us. We remain upbeat though and continue to push on as hard as we can. It is getting close between our pack of four boats so lots still to play for and we want to hang on sixth and catch up the boats ahead. Life down below is tough as we cannot have the hatches open to cool the accommodation and galley so it remains very hot and humid.

'All focus is still on getting to Rio and the guide book has produced lots of ideas of things to do, places to eat and so forth and I think I can speak for the whole crew when I say a large fresh steak is top of my list.'

Derry-Londonderry set sail in race two (from Madeira to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race

Derry-Londonderry’s team should begin their sprint today as they reach the five degrees south latitude and they’re hoping their rather messy ‘crossing the line’ ceremony will have satisfied King Neptune sufficiently to allow them to keep their new-found boat speed.

'We awoke on our first day in the Southern Hemisphere to perfectly blue sky, consistent winds and good boat speeds – this has been something of a luxury of late,' says Mark Light, wiping away the foul evidence of King of the Deep’s court.

'We all eagerly awaited the arrival of King Neptune and his Royal Clerk of the Deep, Davy Jones. At precisely 1500UTC we were honoured to accept our guests aboard. Davy Jones (Baz the Bosun) addressed the Pollywogs (the whole ship’s company) and summoned them all to the Royal Court of the Deep, while King Neptune (skipper) looked on silent and unamused, trident in hand. Next came the address from the supreme ruler of the oceans himself. Pollywogs (all adorned in fancy dress) sat quivering on the side decks as one by one, they were waved forward, kissed the hand of queen Amphitrite, knelt before the monarch of the waves and duly drank his medicine (a truth serum made of Tabasco, gravy, Branston pickle and condensed milk). A list of accusations and insults were read out, each Pollywog cowered, pleaded guilty and was duly initiated into the Order of the Deep by having food slops (pasta, porridge, mayo, beans, milk and flour) handsomely poured over heads. The skipper was the last to be initiated and by that time the disgusting truth serum had miraculously turned into an ultra-strong version with much more volume. (Never trust your crew!) The final bucket of slops was emptied onto the skipper’s head and certificates of crossing the line were presented. We are all fully paid up Shellbacks.'

Positions at 0900 UTC, Sunday 28 August
Boat / DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia / 582nm (position at 0800)
2 Welcome to Yorkshire / 646nm (+64nm DTL**)
3 Singapore / 689nm (+107nm)
4 New York / 861nm (+279nm)
5 Visit Finland / 948nm (+367nm)
6 Geraldton Western Australia / 1,034nm (+452nm)
7 Qingdao / 1,107nm (+526nm)
8 De Lage Landen / 1,126nm (+545nm)
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital / 1,173nm (+592nm)
10 Derry-Londonderry / 1,299nm (+717nm)

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