Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are on day thirteen of race 8 from Singapore to Qingdao. Checking the Race Viewer at the 2100 update yesterday, the leading yachts had begun to stretch away from the pack, indicating they had emerged from the lee of Luzon and reached the stronger north easterly winds they had been anticipating for the last few days.
De Lage Landen - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.
Stuart Jackson, reports from on board De Lage Landen, 'Yesterday afternoon, all the frustrations of light wind sailing faded away as the wind started to gently fill in from the east. As the wind built we then had to change down sails and put reefs in. We thought this was the start of the strong winds that were forecast, but during the night the wind nearly died again completely. Thankfully by the early hours of this morning we had a steady strong breeze and an increasing sea state. Due to the wind over tide effects close to Taiwan we have been quite conservative in our sail plan otherwise you find yourself being launched into thin air off the back of short, steep waves.'
When a current or tide moves in one direction and the wind blows over it in the opposite direction, wind over tide – it has the effect of creating an uncomfortable sea state. In very simplistic terms, the waves act like a water-ski ramp, with a steady incline at the front dropping away to nothing at the back.
Stuart continues, 'We are still racing within close proximity of Gold Coast Australia. It's great to be racing so close to another yacht and we are catching glimpses of each other as we cross tacks. It's starting to cool down a little now, so I don't think it's going to be long until we are all in full thermals and missing the tropics.'
Ben Bowley, the skipper of Singapore also notes the speed with which the conditions have changed, saying, 'This time yesterday we were struggling to keep the boat moving with the lightweight kite flying and full main. We have just had to drop the Yankee 3 due to an apparent wind speed of 35 knots over the deck! With the wind over current scenario that we are currently experiencing, things have got rather bouncy. These are the conditions that we were all expecting but the rapidity of their development has come as quite a shock to some.
'Today in the space of five hours we have changed from the Yankee 1 to the 2 to the 3 to bare-headed and worked our way from full main to one reef to two reefs. I'm sure it shall not be long before we see the third slab in the main as the wind is continuing to build. With a SOG (speed over ground) of 10.5 knots no one is complaining...yet! So begins our long smash to windward, HOLD ON!'
Singapore is lying third behind Gold Coast Australia and De Lage Landen, whose skipper reported crossing the Ocean Sprint start gate at 1158 UTC.
The fastest team to cover the distance between the latitudes of 22 degrees North and 25 degrees North will score one bonus point. However in this race the decision for the skippers is whether to risk pushing the yacht too hard in the gruelling conditions in the quest for the extra point.
Gold Coast Australia skipper, Richard Hewson, has already made up his mind and tells the Race Office this morning, 'As the wind picks up so does the sea and as we crash over the waves it is increasingly difficult to type as I hold on in the nav station to avoid getting thrown against the equipment. These conditions are not Ocean Sprint conditions at all, and we will be backing off as we head further north to avoid breaking the boat rather than going for the Ocean Sprint point. The possibility of sailing a lot further east and around the larger waves is also being investigated.
'This morning we have been gradually working down through our sail inventory from Yankee 1 to Yankee 2 and then Yankee 3 and three reefs in the mainsail. As the wind continues to increase the storm sails have been taken out of and are sitting in the saloon. No doubt the wind will continue to increase as the afternoon goes on and by the end of this watch we will probably have replaced the staysail with the storm staysail,' says Richard.
Geraldton Western Australia’s skipper, Juan Coetzer, is also keen to play the next stage of the race very conservatively.
'Very strange wind conditions yesterday, and we made the most of it, flying the lightweight kite and regaining ten miles on Singapore and we are still neck and neck with them. The wind has built to 24 knots plus and the sea state is short and steep. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride for the next week, and the key will be to look after the crew and the boat,' says Juan.
As the front runners pull away in the strengthening wind it is a bitter pill to swallow for the crew of Derry-Londonderry who have been tracking them closely for much of the last week.
'It’s been another tough night on board as we struggle to make much progress and the leading pack of four boats find new breeze and pull away from us,' explains skipper, Mark Light. 'It is frustrating to know that although we have not sailed badly, it does look like we have just missed out on catching the new winds and we can only watch as the gap widens ahead. Encouragingly though, we have not lost any race positions and still hold a respectable fifth place. We are on the move again so it is time to put away the world’s tiniest violins, dig deep and get stuck in to regaining some of our lost miles. This is something that as a team I feel we are very capable of and we will never lack the effort.'
As the yacht moves further north into the Luzon Strait and the wind builds, the Northern Ireland team have also been working their way down through the sail wardrobe.
'All our jobs and checks have been carried out for the forthcoming heavy weather and the boat and crew are as prepared and ready as we possibly could be,' concludes Mark.
Visit Finland skipper, Olly Osborne, is pretty sure his team has flown their medium weight spinnaker for the last time before they reach Qingdao – which is just as well given the events of the last 24 hours on board the yacht which is currently second overall in the world’s longest ocean race.
'Today's weather is the polar opposite from yesterday’s calm spell, although the heat down below is still fierce. We are now getting a taste of the true character of the region as we clear the lee off Luzon and are currently beating into about 30 knots of apparent wind and a short steep sea,' he says.
'Yesterday had a surprise in store for us. In the light airs we were reaching along making good speeds under our medium weight spinnaker and watching the Edinburgh Inspiring Capital team close by on our port side. The sailing was great and I was just commenting on the good condition of the spinnaker when right on cue the port clew tore off and took the tape with it all the way along the foot. We watched in surprise as it fluttered loose down the starboard side, but we had no trouble dropping it. So that will teach me for making comments like that!
Olly adds, 'The damage should be reasonably straightforward to repair though, and we will probably wait until we get in to Qingdao. So for now we are hunkering down to slam our way through the night and hopefully tap into the favourable current which should see us clear of the Straits tomorrow.'
Visit Finland is just three miles ahead of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, who are putting in one of their best performances of Clipper 11-12 so far.
'Early this morning as we both headed north on a starboard tack within 1.5 miles of each other with a piece of tactical genius we tacked mid squall and past ahead of them only 0.3 nautical miles in front,' describes Gordon Reid, skipper of the Scottish yacht. 'As the wind increased throughout the morning we were forced to put in one reef then another, followed by a headsail change as the wind built very quickly to over 30 knots apparent. Unfortunately during our evolutions the other boat managed to gain a small advantage. We are once more reeling them in and hope to get further north if the wind shifts as forecast.
'We are very much in the fast moving tidal flow heading north in the Luzon Strait. We have the classic wind over tide scenario, which is making for a fast but bumpy ride, lots of short sharp chop, wave after wave crashing over the bow and the boat heeled at more than 20 degrees.
'In these conditions it is imperative to observe the Purple Beastie policy of NFA (No Flying Articles), so the crew are making sure they hold on tight and everything is securely stowed both above and below decks. With NFA in mind, the focus, determination and general team spirit is as high as ever as we continue to drive the Purple Beastie hard and fast.'
With 1,000 miles to go to the finish line at the China’s ‘Sailing City’, Qingdao, the home boat continues to get the better of the English entry, Welcome to Yorkshire.
'We spent the night working hard to maintain boat speed in the light airs and managed to make some ground on the boats around us, and even managed to get the boat into the favourable current to help us as well,' explains Ian Conchie, Qingdao’s skipper. 'To spur us along we had dolphins playing alongside with their waves being lighted up by the bio-luminescence.
'This morning the wind has started to build, forcing us to slowly change the headsails until we are down now to the Yankee 3 and two reefs in the mainsail but we are still making an OK course and the current is helping so we will keep pushing hard to try and improve our position.'
'It's been an interesting time navigation-wise at this stage of the race,' comments Welcome to Yorkshire’s skipper, Rupert Dean.
'Our strategy to be on the eastern side of the fleet up the west coast of Luzon has yet to pay off, conceding us a few miles to Qingdao through being closer to lighter winds. Thankfully, as I write this the winds have returned with a vengeance, keeping the morning watch very busy with sail changes from full main, staysail and Yankee 1, down to main with two reefs, staysail and Yankee 3. The seas have got up too and are short and steep by nature. This is indicative of the anticipated north flowing current in the area, where one gets a wind over current effect.'
Rupert adds, 'The frontrunners will be difficult to catch, as is always the case on one design yacht racing. To do so they will need to be outsmarted tactically and navigationally, not an easy thing to do given that they were obviously smart to get to the head of the fleet in the first place! However, there is still some way to go yet. We on Welcome to Yorkshire will not be giving up!'
The ‘never say die’ attitude is in full force on board the US entry, New York, as well. The have sailed much further to the east than Qingdao and Welcome to Yorkshire in their continued efforts to climb the leader board.
'We now have the second reef in with the Yankee 3 and our boat speed is around seven knots into a building sea state,' reports skipper, Gareth Glover. 'The crew are in their Henri Lloyd offshore kit and clip on whilst waves wash down the deck and the bow pitches up and down in the waves.
'Whilst we were sitting in very little wind the yachts to our north were able to get into the north easterly winds and make a lot of miles away from us, making it harder to catch up to them, but we are hoping that as the wind builds we will be able to push on and dig deep and pull back some miles. The race is never over until you have crossed the line.'
It’s an adage that proves true on many an occasion in ocean racing.
The first teams are expected to arrive to a spectacular welcome in Qingdao between 22 and 25 February.
Positions at 1200 UTC, Thursday 16 February
1 Gold Coast Australia 851nm
2 De Lage Landen 858nm (+6nm DTL**)
3 Singapore 887nm (+36nm)
4 Geraldton Western Australia 890nm (+39nm)
5 Derry-Londonderry 950nm (+99nm)
6 Visit Finland 975nm (+124nm)
7 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 978nm (+127nm)
8 New York 1,004nm (+153nm)
9 Qingdao 1,026nm (+175nm)
10 Welcome to Yorkshire 1,044nm (+193nm)
*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