Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet have faced another day of difficult decisions and challenging conditions as they continue race five, from Western Australia to New Zealand, while the Race Committee has reluctantly accepted a request of retirement from Singapore.
Singapore at the start of Race 5 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race
Following Singapore’s diversion to Queenscliff at the mouth of Port Philip Bay near Melbourne to fix their primary steering system, skipper Ben Bowley, has informed the Race Committee of his intention to retire from race five.
Ben’s reason for retiring is to make sure that his team gets to New Zealand in plenty of time to prepare for the start of race six when they will resume racing from Tauranga to Gold Coast, Australia. The Race Committee has reluctantly accepted the request.
Race Director, Joff Bailey, said, 'The Race Committee has accepted the retirement of Singapore from race five with regret, but we believe it is a judicious decision given the forecast of high pressure and light winds developing over the Bass Strait which would hamper the team’s progress if they continued to follow the race route to New Zealand. If Ben and his crew continued racing the expected light winds could significantly delay their arrival in Tauranga and jeopardise their preparations for race six.
'The diversion to Queenscliff has caused Singapore to fall more than 600 miles behind the leading boats and once they have completed the repairs to their steering this could be close to 1,000 miles,' Joff said.
Ben commented, 'Retiring from the race was done with much regret and sadness. It is our intention to continue on towards Tauranga in the most expedient manner possible and arrive in time for a sensible stop to regroup, ready to show our worth in the second race of the leg to Gold Coast.
'Wars are won, not by toughing out every battle, but by knowing when to retreat, regroup and charge again with your army refreshed. We have ten battles still to fight and the next one starts on 4 December in Tauranga,' he added.
Barring a big issue with one of the other teams, Singapore would have finished race five in tenth place to gain one point following their pit stop. By retiring, the team also receives one point so nothing is lost in terms of their standing on the overall leader board.
Retirement will allow the Singapore team to use their auxiliary engine in the expected light winds and take an alternative route around New Zealand; over the North Island or via the Cook Strait. This will cut several hundred miles off of the distance to Tauranga and ensure they arrive in time to prepare for race six.
On Friday Singapore experienced problems with its primary steering system approximately 1,300 miles into Race 5 from Geraldton, Western Australia, to Tauranga, New Zealand, prompting Ben Bowley and his team to switch to their back-up steering system.
The bolts holding the steering quadrant onto the rudder stock stripped their threads and since then the team has been steering their Clipper 68 with the tiller-operated secondary system. This drill is practiced during Clipper’s rigorous training that every crew member receives prior to the race start.
Upon arriving in Queenscliff at 1300 local time (0200 UTC), an upbeat Ben thanked the support shown by their many followers as good progress is made on their repairs.
'We have rectified our steering issues and are now just about ready for sea again. We intend to slip lines at 0700 local time tomorrow (17 November) to take the first slack tide out,' reports Ben.
'Our intention is to head east through the Bass Straits, keeping a close eye on the weather and make a decision on the final routing based on the next 48 hour's worth of weather data. Our routing is intended to make the most expedient passage to Tauranga and we shall be keeping you informed of our intentions as they progress. Thank you and we look forward to seeing you all in New Zealand.'
Another team who have been unfortunately required to divert to land is Qingdao, after an injury to a crew member needed medical attention.
'As we closed on Tasmania yesterday the wind built until we were down to three reefs and the storm jib!' explains skipper of the Chinese entry, Ian Conchie.
Qingdao made the decision to divert to Hobart after crew member, Jo Sandford, sustained a shoulder injury and bruising around the coccyx after falling on deck as on board medic, Joan Clancy, recommended hospital treatment.
'As we approached Hobart we were getting gusts up to 50 knots. It’s amazing to see these boats handle the large seas and big winds with complete ease and a number of crew have even commented on how good these boats feel and react to heavy weather,' continues Ian.
With the each edition of the Clipper Race boasting over five hundred crew members from all walks of life and from over forty nations, unsurprisingly you don’t have to travel far to find a member of the Clipper Race Alumni, willing to help in a time of need.
'In Hobart we were met by one of Gold Coast Australia’s crew, Gina Gourlay,' reveals Ian.
'Gina and her Dad had come out in the early hours of the morning to help look after our injured crew mate. She was whisked off to hospital once she had cleared customs and we were clear to go and we had the pleasure of motoring back out of Hobart as the sun rose.
'A big thanks to Gina and her dad for all their help and we look forward to seeing her in Gold Coast. We are now on our way to New Zealand pushing hard to try and catch up the fleet, we are only 150 miles behind the next boat so that is our target!'
After yesterday’s warning of worsening conditions, skipper of Derry-Londonderry, Mark Light, reveals the low pressure system has now passed over.
'Although very windy, as expected, the sustained winds were lower and of shorter duration,' comments Mark.
'We did still experience gusts up to 60 knots and were very happy that we put a lot of time and thought into our preparations before things turned ugly.
'Now we have consistent winds - we are flying along under full main and Yankee 2 with 25 knots of wind on the beam. Boat speeds are good and we are regularly surfing up to 20 knots,' continues Mark, with his team currently in fourth place but just six miles behind De Lage Landen, in third.
'I have said that the person who has the record speed at the end of this should skipper the next edition of the race. Unfortunately the person with a top speed of 22.3 knots; is me!'
Hoping to hold Derry-Londonderry off from piping them from a podium place is Stuart Jackson and the crew of De Lage Landen.
'After all our preparation for the storm last night, it was rather kind to us and we only saw 50 knots in the squalls, although there was some very impressive thunder and lightning as the front first came in,' says Stuart, skipper of the Dutch entry.
'This led us to turn off our electrics and put our handheld GPS and VHF in the oven in the hope Faraday's Effect worked if we were to be hit. Thankfully there was no need.
'After a busy night, we have been enjoying some relatively quiet down wind sailing today and when the low passes south of us we will gybe to head for the south of New Zealand.'
Gold Coast Australia, current leaders in the race to Tauranga, geared up well for the predicted rough weather much to the delight of skipper, Richard Hewson.
'Well done to the Gold Coast Australia team for all the preparations made before the storm. The preparations made were very thorough indeed, as we were expecting the worst.
'As we monitored the storm approaching and the increasing wind there was no doubt that it had the potential to build into something big. As the storm passed beneath us, no sooner than it was gone all together, and we were running down the back of it in 30 knots of wind and clear skies at sunrise,' explains Richard.
'Though the storm showed all signs of being over, I was still weary as it all just seemed too short and light compared to what was predicted. But when I was confident that the storm had actually passed, Gold Coast Australia gybed to the south to begin the next phase of the race and sail around the high pressure system to the north.
'Gold Coast Australia is now south level with Stewart Island and is making good progress reaching towards the island and should pass by in a little over two days,' signs off the Australian skipper.
Meanwhile on board New York, skipper Gareth Glover, hasn’t given up hope of preventing Gold Coast Australia from claiming their fifth victory of the Clipper 11-12 Race.
'Last night we saw the wind build as we put in the third reef and hoisted the storm staysail for around eight hours as the low pressure system hit us. The wind did not build as much as forecast and most of the night saw us trying to keep north away from the main wind forecast.
'Apart from Gold Coast Australia we were the most northerly yacht with the rest of the fleet around 25 nautical miles to the south, this adds a detour of over 60 miles to the north compared to our route. I am sure this would have put us in the lead as our tactic of being the most northerly yacht has work for us so far,' explains Gareth.
'Looking at the rest of the race we will try to stay in front of De Lage Landen and the other yachts. It’s going to be a bit of a drag race to our turning mark and then you will have to see what winds are forecast, I am sure you will see a change in the race as we head towards Tauranga,' signs off Gareth.
'Quite a night of activity on Welcome to Yorkshire, as we worked our way down the sail changes in preparation for the big onslaught,' reveals the Yorkshire entry’s skipper, Rupert Dean.
'With full knowledge, thanks to Simon Rowell (meteorologist and winning skipper of Clipper 2002), of what was on its way, we hanked the trysail onto its track beside the main many hours early. When the big winds started to hit, the Welcome to Yorkshire crew did a great job in getting the main down, securely lashing it then hoisting the trysail.
'For a while we ran with this and the staysail alone, before substituting the latter with the storm staysail,' continues Rupert, whose team will have their eyes set upon Derry-Londonderry one place ahead in fourth.
'For the rest of the night we ran with this combination, the big seas and gusts up to 60 knots apparent making helming challenging to say the least. By dawn the worst of the blow was over us, enabling us to drop the trysail, hoist the mainsail and run poled out with the Yankee 2, surfing before enormous seas and under sunny skies.
'The crew on Welcome to Yorkshire have truly done their supporters and sponsor proud these past 24 hours, working with care, commitment and good humour, long may this continue. Looking at the GRIB files, we are expecting another period of strong winds later this evening, but not on the same scale as last night.'
Positions at 0900 UTC, Wednesday 16 November
Boat - DTF* / DTL**
1 Gold Coast Australia - 1334nm
2 New York - 1386nm / 52nm
3 De Lage Landen - 1419nm / 85nm
4 Derry-Londonderry - 1425nm / 90nm
5 Welcome to Yorkshire - 1449nm / 114nm
6 Visit Finland - 1494nm / 160nm
7 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 1560nm / 226nm
8 Geraldton Western Australia - 1583nm / 249nm
9 Qingdao - 1708nm / 374nm
10 Singapore - 2237nm / 903nm (Retired from Race 5)
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