Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 fourth race from Cape Town, Africa to Geraldton, Western Australia is currently underway.
Gold Coast Australia - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12
The Australian team at the front of the fleet has switched overnight as South African skipper, Juan Coetzer, on Geraldton Western Australia conceded his lead to Australian skipper Richard Hewson on Gold Coast Australia.
As the two teams rounded the Cape of Good Hope at the start the 4,800-mile race to their homeland, the overall leaders regained pole position, a familiar spot for Richard and his team after winning all three of individual races to date.
It has been an eventful 24 hours on Gold Coast Australia according to Richard, who is opting for a more direct line towards Geraldton at the expense of heading south into the favourable westerly winds.
'A high pressure system that seems to be following us from Rio is blocking our path from the westerly winds in the Southern Ocean. It acted like a trap for us as we had no choice but to sail right into it rather than risk the big waves and currents on the Agulhas Bank,' he said.
Following frustration yesterday when his team spent the day drifting around making little ground whilst the mid-fleet pack closed in, the wind filled in overnight allowing the team to log good speeds under the lightweight kite.
'Overnight we had a fantastic light weight spinnaker run towards the east making good speed and we thought we would have made substantial ground on the other leading boats only to find that they have also had good winds and have caught up,' Richard said.
Geraldton Western Australia occupied the lead for a time after skipper and former Cape Town resident, Juan Coetzer, used his local know-how to pick up the south-easterly wind that builds almost every summer afternoon and curls around Table Mountain.
However, Juan and his team later had to deal with a badly chafed main halyard. Using the topping lift as a temporary halyard, they re-ran the new one.
'During all this activity, we sailed into a wind hole but now we’re sailing again under spinnaker. Now we’re out of the wind hole, the challenge is on,' Juan said.
Qingdao is hot on the heels of Gold Coast Australia with just 14 miles separating the two teams.
'The weather has been changeable to put it mildly,' skipper Ian Conchie reports.
'We saw the dawn in yesterday with the Yankee 2 and two reefs and by lunchtime we were under full main and Yankee 1 before getting becalmed,' he said.
'We experienced the strange sight of three Clipper 68s, all trimmed for sailing upwind, pointing in completely different directions as we all searched for wind to keep us moving,' Ian added.
Many of the skippers are reporting a confused sea state as they skirt round the Agulhas Bank, where the strong current flowing over the steeply shelving ocean floor, coupled with opposing winds, can create extreme conditions.
On Derry-Londonderry, skipper Mark Light said his team had been sailing in south south-westerly wind giving them a good course around the Agulhas Bank.
'This is good sailing with lovely conditions and the all too familiar feeling of living at an angle of 30 degrees of heel,' Mark said.
The team representing the UK City of Culture 2013 had a disappointing start to race four as their efforts to sneak out of Table Bay to the south of Robben Island left them stuck in a wind shadow.
'We thought at one stage that we were going to make it through saving lots of miles on the boats that chose the longer but safer route but the door closed and we sat bobbing around for a few hours while other boats made gains,' he said, adding that their misfortune had a silver lining in that they were able to hear Coldplay playing live at Cape Town stadium in the still conditions.
But their luck has now changed. 'We are now making very good progress and we’re doing what this Derry-Londonderry crew do best… sailing fast and chasing down the boats ahead!' Mark said.
Welcome to Yorkshire also had a frustrating time in Table Bay two days ago, but has now managed to head deeper south on a starboard tack to keep seaward the 200-metre contour marking the Agulhas Bank to seek out the prevailing westerlies.
'In doing so we can follow the 1000-metre contour which should keep us clear of the north-westerly flowing component of the Agulhas current and away from the rough seas for which this bank is famed,' skipper Rupert Dean, said.
He added that it is great to have crew member Keith Pickering back on board after leaving the boat in a dramatic last-minute medivac at the race start from Rio. After returning to the UK for treatment, Keith has re-joined his crew to race as far as the Gold Coast in Australia
De Lage Landen has opted for a more easterly position along with Gold Coast Australia and skipper Stuart Jackson said he anticipated an interesting 48 hours with predominantly upwind sailing as he focused on trying to avoid the windless areas formed by the high pressure system.
'On board the good ship De Lage Landen, the respite in the weather let us have a good clean above and below decks,' Stuart said, noting that a number of crew were seasick during a busy first night at sea.
'Hopefully everyone is now back into the routine, but the next rough weather will tell,' he said.
On Visit Finland, skipper Olly Osborne said the last 48 hours have been some of the most tactically challenging racing to date.
'Each boat is using all their cunning to find a path southward through the light and changeable winds,' he said.
'Our choice to go north of Robben Island appeared to be paying off as we enjoyed a fantastic spinnaker run across Table Bay, but we were thwarted once more by the infamous wind hole and watched Gold Coast Australia and De Lage Landen sail away into the distance when they had only been a few boat lengths away,' Olly added.
Olly said he was now hoping to close the gap with the leaders as they strike south toward the prevailing westerlies which lie 'tantalisingly close' beyond a developing slab of high pressure.
All the skippers will be studying the weather files closely to find the best possible route towards these as they spell the beginning of the much awaited downwind sleigh ride that will carry them to Australia, he added.
On New York, Gareth Glover said his team is also focusing on closing the gap on the leaders. With Visit Finland within striking distance and the leaders less than 50 miles ahead, his team are keen to make up as many places as possible.
'This morning we are passing around the south of the Agulhas Bank and making are way east towards the waypoint at good speed,' he said.
'Life is getting back into the familiar routine of cooking, cleaning and racing and some of the seasick crew are getting back their sea legs after the Cape Town stopover,' Gareth added.
After a testing morning yesterday, Gordon Reid reported that his team on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital had managed to make it out of the wind hole and head south, sailing close to the shore to take advantage of the stronger winds.
'As we progressed south the wind increased overnight and with a quick headsail change and eventually a reef in the main the lively ‘purple beastie’ was riding the waves beautifully,' he said.
Despite being almost 200 miles behind the leaders, Gordon is optimistic. 'Team Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is on its way and closing fast on the lucky ones who escaped the wind hole first,' he said.
On Singapore, Ben Bowley reported that his team was struggling in light winds despite the boats up ahead managing to make good progress to the south.
'We seem to have been tacking back and forth across the same stretch of ocean for the last 24 hours. The problem with the winds being very light is that our tacking angles are very large, up to 180 degrees at times,' Ben said.
He added that his team had to avoid a fleet of four fishing trawlers early last night by bearing away only to re-encounter them about six hours later after they tacked back to the south west.
'We really need a healthy dose of good luck to allow us to catch up with the boats ahead and to start to make enough south to clear the [Agulhas] Bank,' he said.
'Some consistency in the wind would also be good, we have had no less than four headsail changes in the last six hours and after a while this gets very draining on the crew's energy levels and morale, especially if we see no tangible results,' Ben said.
'For now though all we can do is keep sailing the making tack [the tack that enable them to travel in the right direction] and hope that we get some solid wind soon,' he added.
Positions at 1200 UTC, Friday 7 October
Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 4,513nm
2 De Lage Landen - 4,532nm (+19nm DTL**)
3 Qingdao - 4,532nm (+19nm)
4 Geraldton Western Australia - 4,542nm (+29nm)
5 New York - 4,558nm (+44nm)
6 Visit Finland - 4,561nm (+47nm)
7 Derry-Londonderry - 4,596nm (+83nm)
8 Welcome to Yorkshire - 4,617nm (+103nm)
9 Singapore - 4,670nm (+157nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 4,735nm (+222nm)
*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