Clipper Round the World Yacht Race - Singapore takes the lead

Singapore 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 second race in leg one, which started in Madeira and will finish in Rio De Janeiro, is currently underway.

After yesterday's flurry of tactical gambles made by the ten-strong Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet, the skippers and crews have witnessed mixed fortunes as they enter day eight of the race to Rio de Janeiro.

After snatching the lead from Welcome to Yorkshire earlier this morning, Singapore has been forced to revert to their secondary steering mechanism after a sheave broke on the main steering system. The team quickly set about installing the backup tiller which is mounted directly onto the top of the rudder stock and allows direct drive of the rudder.

All are fine on board and are focused on maintaining their new found lead.

Just hours before the incident skipper, Ben Bowley, reported, 'We are currently charging along at 11.5 knots with the heavy spinnaker up in 22 knots of wind straight at the waypoint! Yesterday was an anxious day as we waited to see if our last minute change of direction was going to pay off or not.

'Following a hasty gybe just after yesterday's report, we spent the whole day and night hammering through the islands at no less than 9.5/10 knots; initially under lightweight, then white sails then heavy kite. What a splendid feeling it is to have the boat fully pressed again and to be having to tussle with the helm in the squalls, Jeremy Clarkson would say 'Power!' Long may this breeze continue, Rio we are coming for you.'

Singapore's misfortune could be the break Welcome to Yorkshire have been hoping for after they have faced challenging conditions of their own.

'A tough past 24 hours on Welcome to Yorkshire as we have seen our lead on Singapore and Gold Coast Australia cut by 66 per cent. Their choice to sail through the Cape Verdes really paid off,' says skipper of the Yorkshire entry, Rupert Dean.

'However, the wind here has now filled in a little and we are on our way, pointing in the direction we want to go,' he continues.

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 Race 11

Meanwhile Gordon Reid, skipper of fellow British entry Edinburgh Inspiring Capital was keen to dispel speculation surrounding his team's Stealth Mode in his morning report.

'I heard a rumour that Edinburgh Inspiring Capital had stopped in the Cape Verde Islands for pizza and a cold beer? I can confirm this is not true, we ordered it for delivery instead!' jokes the Scottish yachtsman.

'Spirits are high as we come to the end of our 24 hours in Stealth Mode.The time we invested in spinnaker training and lessons learned from the first race have paid dividends once more as we truck onwards in Stealth Mode, driving hard towards our chosen crossing point at the Equator.

'Weather analysed and analysed again and it all looks sweet,' reports Gordon, with his team currently in fourth.

Just behind them in fifth is Chinese entry, Qingdao, skippered by Ian Conchie.

'We enter the Doldrums area proper today and we are all hoping with fingers crossed that we have managed to find the right slot to get through quickly. Looking at the midnight report we are the furthest west of our little pack that may help or hinder us in the long term,' reports Ian.

'Yesterday was a day of constant trimming and preventative maintenance. Check halyards for chafe, inspecting spinnakers for damage (two small rips found), cleaning the deck and so on. We have had people up the mast and pole so much in the last week I think 60 or 70 per cent of the crew have left the deck!'

With the fleet spilt across three defined courses it makes for an intriguing contest as the ten teams continue in the race to Rio de Janeiro and the finish in the shadow of Sugar Loaf Mountain.

'We took a gamble and lost out a little,' reports Geraldton Western Australia skipper, Juan Coetzer.

'The whole of yesterday we were flying along making some good ground until last night when the wind died out and we stopped dead in the water. The swell is the biggest stopper for boat speed; sail the wrong angles and you go nowhere, use the swell and you make progress.'

After enabling Stealth Mode yesterday the Australian team hoped to reel in their closest rivals but following light wind conditions they eventually lost ground and have slipped to ninth position.

'The next few days we're going to see this big game of chess play out!' anticipates skipper of De Lage Landen, Mat Booth.

'At last we've found the wind we've been looking for. We've had the spinnaker up for over 24 hours and the crew are working it hard to keep the speeds up. I have just worked out our average speed over the last 12 hours and it's coming in at 10 knots which is fantastic,' he reveals.

Along with Derry-Londonderry, the Dutch entry decided upon a far more westerly route compared to the other entries in the race and are currently experiencing good conditions.

'At the moment we're thundering south but how long this breeze will stay with us is the big question. The weather data is looking good for our transit of the ITCZ but that still doesn't give a guarantee we'll keep in the wind. GRIB files become unreliable in this neck of the woods. They will show the narrow band that is the ITCZ but that's about it; direction and speed is often a game of roulette - there'll be winners and losers. So here's hoping for some luck!'

Busy planning his team's next move is Derry-Londonderry skipper, Mark Light, as they currently continue their south-westerly course.

'All on board are eagerly awaiting the moment when we gybe and mount a direct offensive towards a more southerly course, the Doldrums and then Rio,' explains Mark. 'Other boats in the fleet have made good ground to the south but still have a way to go to get as far west as us.'

De Lage Landen - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 Race 11

De Lage Landen also look to be in a promising position although, at the moment, most people would just see that we are at the back of the fleet.

'We have discussed our tactics as a crew and all agree that a slightly more risky approach may pay higher dividends in the long run. The GRIB files are looking increasingly favourable as well, not perfect but getting better. Of course we also have the luck of the Irish to count on as well...'

On board New York, who reappeared from Stealth Mode at 0000 UTC, they have experienced their first squalls of race.

'We have seen a lot of clouds since we turned south west after passing Dakar, indeed the reputed skies of the Doldrums have been in force for pretty much the whole of the last two days,' reports crew member, Andrew Priest.

'These skies see layers of cloud with cumulus formations common, often dark in colour and low hanging, with columns sometimes rising sharply into the sky. When very dark and sometimes even moving in a different direction to the prevailing wind, it may signal the advance of a rain and wind rich squall.

'We saw the black clouds coming for around two hours. We took down our spinnaker as the formation advanced across our path, hanging a curtain of rain down from dark cloud to the sea. It was just in time. As we raised our headsail to help steer the wind it hit, sending the wind speed from 18 knots to 35 knots then 40 and sending huge chunks of sea spray and rain onto our decks. We were all completely soaked but it was actually quite invigorating and, as the squall passed, spirits were high as we swapped soaking stories among the watch,' continues watch leader, Andrew.

The American entry who, along with Visit Finland, have taken an easterly route close to the coast of Africa have seen improving progress overnight and they continue their trek south.

'We have estimated it will be another 12 days to Rio if things go well.

It will all depend on our reaching the southerly trade winds which will fly us to Brazil. These winds currently lie just a few miles to our south but it is taking us a frustratingly long time to free ourselves from the Doldrums.

'The wet conditions have brought a temporary reprieve from the heat and so energy levels are back up, banter is once more in evidence and New York continues to have fun as we head to our goal,' signs off Andrew.

Fellow 'easterly goers', Visit Finland, have also reported good conditions on board.

'A very pleasant day sailing in the tropics again, which does not resemble much the textbook descriptions of the Doldrums,' reveals the team's navigator, Tomi Lintonen.

'We have been sailing in a steady breeze towards Rio under the medium weight spinnaker. A couple of times our merry sailing has been interrupted by squalls coming uncomfortably near, and one coming on top of us just at the 0600 UTC position report time. No need for a fire-hose sea-water shower on decks today like we had yesterday! Warm rain has been pouring down for half an hour and crew on deck are soaked but seemingly happy about it,' he continues.

Meanwhile, over on Gold Coast Australia, it's been an exciting 24 hours for all on board.

'We are reaching some very good speeds for sailing so close to the Equator as we ride through some very good breeze on the way to the ITCZ,' reports skipper, Richard Hewson.

'Currently at 12 degrees north and we are still recording 20 plus knots of breeze and sailing 90 apparent wind angles, giving us an average boat speed of over 10 knots. The closer we go to the ITCZ, the more the wind will back, and the path chosen allows us to carry our heavyweight spinnaker for as long as possible to make the most of the wind.'

Although it's not all plain sailing on board the Australia entry.

'Yesterday afternoon, whilst sailing in perfect conditions downwind with14 knots of wind and a slight swell I had gone below for some sleep, happy that the conditions were near perfect and everything was completely under control.

'I had been asleep for an almost record breaking two hours, when subconsciously I felt the boat lose power and, as expected, this was followed by a call from the deck. I raced through the companion way to find our medium weight spinnaker in two pieces and was shocked. How could this have happened in such perfect conditions?

'Within seconds there was a rush of activity on deck, the two halves were taken down and the heavy weight spinnaker hoisted all within ten minutes,' he describes.

'We were off again, though unfortunately leaving some of the stitching of our trusty workhorse medium weight spinnaker behind us.'

After seeing Singapore overtake leaders Welcome to Yorkshire, Richard is confident of the boat's current positioning.

'Looking at the weather data we receive on board it's a fantastic case of being in the right position at the right time, as the wind we are currently sailing in will be significantly less for any boats following in our wake.'

Yet another day of exciting ocean racing by all the teams of the Clipper Race has meant Race 2 will be a close fought battle all the way to the finish line.

Positions at 0900 UTC Friday 19 August:
Boat / DTF* / DTL**
1 Singapore / 2397nm / 0nm
2 Welcome to Yorkshire / 2398nm / 1nm
3 Gold Coast Australia / 2403nm / 6nm
4 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital / 2458nm / 61nm
5 Qingdao / 2462nm / 65nm
6 Visit Finland / 2525nm / 128nm
7 New York / 2527nm / 130nm
8 Derry-Londonderry / 2547nm / 150nm
9 Geraldton Western Australia / 2567nm / 170nm
10 De Lage Landen / 2571nm / 174nm

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