In the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, what a difference a day makes. Over the past 24 hours, the whole fleet has been experiencing the roughest sea conditions yet faced in the Clipper 2013-14 Race. While this leg was always predicted to be tough, an early storm hit as they headed south towards the Southern Ocean, turning out to be more ferocious than expected.
Racing to Cape Town.
Mean wind speeds of 40 knots and gusts over 60 knots, together with boat speeds in excess of 30 knots have been reported. As crew acclimatise to the rougher conditions, there are the inevitable minor injuries as some are caught by waves over the deck or knocked off balance below decks.
Unfortunately, as reported on the Clipper Race website yesterday, Australian Leg three crew member David Griffin aboard Mission Performance was caught by a wave on the bow and punctured his calf on a cleat, resulting in the yacht suspending racing and heading to Port Elizabeth so he can be evacuated for a thorough assessment and treatment.
Skipper Matt Mitchell reports how they got David below deck so that fellow crew member and ship’s medic Bee Lian Seet, a Singaporean nurse, could make a full assessment. He writes 'Given the tough conditions, both David’s fortitude and Bee's overcoming of her sea sickness were admirable. In the mean time I instructed the crew to carry on changing the headsail, as well as drop another reef in the main in order to calm things down a bit.'
However, Matt’s report goes on to reveal a story of ‘beauty and the beast’ with regard to the storm, 'We have taken a few large hits from some of the big waves...with most of the boat enveloped by waves. At night it's been particularly spectacular (as well as slightly scary) because the water is thick with phosphorescence, making the whole boat glow with stars as it is submerged.'
Meanwhile many skippers are paying tribute to their crews as they dig deep for fortitude and to apply their training and growing experience to keep their yachts sailing safe as well as fast. Jamaica Get All Right skipper Pete Stirling writes, 'The crew have never seen weather conditions or a sea state like this before but they have all been amazing and willingly done everything asked of them and more besides. I have only seen weather conditions worse than this once before and that was in the North Pacific on the Clipper 2009-10 Race so, this is great training for those crew on board now who are also on Leg six, the Pacific Ocean crossing.'
At 1000 UTC, the current race standings see Qingdao leading the fleet (4185.3 miles to finish) with Henri Lloyd in second place (4120.6) and OneDLL (4243.9) third.