Clipper Round the World Yacht Race –Three way battle into Rio

Welcome to Yorkshire 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 2011-2012 second race in leg one, which started in Madeira and will finish in Rio De Janeiro, is currently underway and with the lead pack set to enter the final 1,000 miles of race two, Assistant Race Director Justin Taylor predicts a three horse battle for podium positions into Rio de Janeiro.

'The fleet is well and truly split; it will be hard for the chasing back to reel in the three leaders particularly with the forecasted winds. The three leaders will continue to have favourable breeze for at least the next 72 hours when it will ease off before returning the next day. So it’s fast, slow fast for them,' explains Justin, who previously skippered two Clipper Race entries around the world.

'Although the wind is a more consistent direction and strength for the following pack, they will for have a tough time beating mostly to windward in order to round the shoulder of Brazil before laying the finish at Rio.'

Currently in third and pushing for good speeds in the Ocean Sprint is Welcome to Yorkshire.

'If one was to describe this mode of transport in one word it would be wet!' reveals skipper, Rupert Dean.

'Since my last blog, when we were becalmed off Fernando de Noronha, the south east trades have kicked in big style. We are now flying along, seriously powered up at 10-plus knots on a close reach, as we bid to be the fastest boat between 5 and 10 degrees south.

'As we charge along, Welcome to Yorkshire is shouldering big seas as she ploughs through waves on her relentless charge south. Well, not perfectly south as that would be hard on the wind and slow, but close reaching to obtain maximum VMG,' continues the Yorkshire entry’s skipper, referring to the boat’s speed in relation to the direction they need to travel.
Focused on securing victory in the Ocean Sprint, Rupert has opted for a tactical change on the helm.

'Helming a Clipper 68 in these conditions is pretty physical and requires a high degree of concentration. Consequently we've elected to use our best helms for this form of sailing, bearing in mind that this is a time trial, a point is at stake and at this speed we should have completed the trial within one and a half days.'

Unfortunately not experiencing the same conditions and boat speeds is Derry-Londonderry, who currently find themselves tenth in the fleet and the most westerly of the back markers.

'Probably the most frustrating day we have had so far,' explains skipper, Mark Light.

'The wind has been light and after threatening to back early on has promptly returned to the south south west and massively hindered our progress south! Due to the light winds and adverse current running north west up the coast of Brazil we have had to head out on another losing tack to clear before we can turn south once more.

'Our tacking angles at the moment are approx. 150 degrees and this is not making Rio! This feels very cruel and we can only watch as other teams sail faster and more directly to our destination and we slip further down the rankings!'

Even as their progress to Rio de Janeiro hits a setback, the Derry-Londonderry crew continues to be positive as Mark comments, 'We will get good winds the further south we get. We have a fast boat and we are at our best hunting down others. We have a fantastic team spirit!'

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

Meanwhile it was celebrations on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital yesterday, who are just one position in front of the Northern Ireland entry, as they crossed the Equator.

'Greetings from the Southern Hemisphere, today we are over 3,600 nautical miles from the capital city of Scotland and the home of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, the fair city of Edinburgh. Last night at 0000BST, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and her fine crew of ocean racers crossed the Equator,' reports skipper, Gordon Reid.

'We celebrated with a wee dram of Kinloch Anderson 12-year-old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky, however we had to come off the wind a little and reduce speed from 14 knots to 11.9 knots, so as not to spill the dram, due penance was paid to King Neptune and Davy Jones as they too received a wee dram and some M&Ms.

'As we crossed into the Southern Hemisphere we also moved up the leader board and will continue to do so today. Inspired by their visit from King Neptune and a little afraid of Davy Jones the race team on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital want to catch the lead pack and are as usual focused, committed and smiling as we drive very very very fast towards Rio.'

The Scottish boat was joined in the Southern Hemisphere by five other Clipper Race teams, including De Lage Landen, skippered by Mat Booth.

'Zero! At 2231GMT, De Lage Landen crossed ‘the line’ and another major milestone of our first leg of the Clipper 11-12 Race achieved - transit from Northern to Southern Hemispheres,' says Mat.

'Before our crossing a letter from King Neptune himself was discovered in the snake pit. Sometime this afternoon one of his assistants must have been aboard to deliver this communication. During dinner this letter was read out loud for everyone to hear. All crew have been invited to attend Neptune’s Court at 1700 sharp dressed ‘suitably’ for what is in store!

'So tonight promises to be a fun evening! More about that tomorrow, on top of all the Equator crossing excitement one of our crew, Jose enjoyed a fantastic birthday cake produced by both watches. Cut in the shape of a yacht and complete with candles, it's safe to say Jose had a fantastic birthday,' continues the Dutch entry’s skipper.

'We finally managed to take that place from Derry-Londonderry. Having been duelling with them for weeks it's great news to see we've pasted them at last. As we gain we also lose out to Geraldton Western Australia, we'll fight for that place over the next few days, we're also chasing the dragon down with Qingdao in our sights.'

King Neptune was busy making appearances across the fleet as Geraldton Western Australia was next to cross into the Southern Hemisphere.

'Yesterday was a day of celebration and thanks, as at about 1215pm we crossed from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern,' explains skipper, Juan Coetzer.

'The occasion was celebrated with a Mad Hatters party which included our navigator Ian in a dress and bowman Peter in a skirt made of rope. King Neptune visited via his alter ego David 'Hawkeye' Hawkins.

'Crossing the Equator was a short distraction, as the crew have been driving hard keeping the boat speed up and overnight moved up a place on the leader board. Showers were the topic of the afternoon both below and above decks. While the off watch were allowed a wash, the on watch had to deal with a few squalls. The wind then increased, so we changed down from Yankee 1 to Yankee 2 with full main before sunset which has given us some consistent speeds through the night.

'Today we also celebrate our first birthday: Ian Geraghty.'

Qingdao set sail in race two (from Madeira to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.

After yesterday’s report of light winds Chinese entry, Qingdao, has found the wind which they hope will keep De Lage Landen and Geraldton Western Australia behind them and propel them up the leader board.

'The wind eventually began to co-operate as darkness began to fall last night, so we were able to make the north east headland of Brazil without tacking which brought the crew much relief. As the wind continued to back we were able to free off slightly and began to get boat speeds of around 9 knots,' reveals Qingdao crew member, Tom Way.

'We finally crossed the Equator at 0125UTC and Neptune joined us for the occasion and the normal ceremony was carried out with the crew being punished for sins that they had committed. King Neptune left us some parting gifts to let everyone savour the moment.

'Everyone on board is still in high spirits despite being in sixth place and if anything it has given them greater determination to stay ahead of the chasing boats and do all they can to catch the boats in front,' signs off Tom.

'Today Visit Finland is charging south at a speed we are quite content with,' reports Tomi Lintonen, the team’s navigator. 'Our closest adversaries are doing roughly similar speeds on more favourable courses and we are looking forward to seeing the courses converge later on. I have been developing simple performance measurement indicators along the way and now, in addition to analysing our performance against other boats, we are using them to make comparisons between watches as well,' continues the Tampere-based researcher.

'In fact, watch leader Carl-Axel Palmer proposed a wager between the watches where the watch recording the best run towards the finish would be offered a three course meal by the ‘slower’ watch in Rio de Janeiro. Visit Finland crossed the Equator at exactly 1200 noon UTC carefully following seafarers’ time tested traditions. Fridge cool champagne (well, sparkling wine, to be honest) was first offered to King Neptune and the remainder to the crew in small quantities while other sacrifices of valued food stuff were also made. The offerings have worked like magic: our six-hour runs have been on the increase since!'

Current leaders Gold Coast Australia, who will today complete the Ocean Sprint, have once again encountered challenging conditions.

'The Ocean Sprint seems more like a triathlon at the moment as the wind continues to vary angles of 60 degrees and from 12 to 37 knots in strength,' reveals skipper, Richard Hewson.

The Ocean Sprint is a simple matter of speed; each team gets the chance to record a time between five degrees south and 10 degrees south. The team with the shortest time elapsed between the two points will gain a potentially crucial extra point. Something skipper Richard Hewson is keen to secure after Singapore’s Scoring Gate victory.

'With Singapore looming in the background and apparently making ground on us towards the finish, we are working hard to maintain and if possible open our lead. We are still hell bent on getting the extra point for the Ocean Sprint as this is the only way we will beat Singapore on points in this race since they were first through the Scoring Gate.

'The conditions have been going from starry night Champagne sailing to full on sheets of rain pelting the crew’s faces like burning needles. We have had hours at a time of beautiful conditions with nice wind, then suddenly out of the darkness a massive group of squalls will hit us and the crew will have to work very hard to keep the boat upright and moving. For the occasional big gust like the one we had at about 0200 this morning, this has meant we have just had to turn the boat and run with it as there has not been enough time to reduce sail,' continues Richard.

'However, due to the conditions we have had so far it is becoming less and less likely that we will get the point unless conditions are favourable in the remaining 60nm of the sprint.'

Taking a more inshore approach to the final sprint to Rio de Janeiro compared to Gold Coast Australia is Singapore, currently in second place.

'It's been a fairly busy 24 hours that has seen us do a fair few headsail changes, reefs in and reefs out. After I finished my report yesterday we had a large squall pass overhead which required us to drop the Yankee 1 rather rapidly and before long it became apparent that we needed a couple of reefs to keep the boat under control in 35 knots of true wind,' says Ben Bowley, skipper of the Singaporean entry.

'The drop was a great success, even though blinded by a combination of stinging spray and choking rain the guys and girls on the bow did a sterling job as per usual. Once we had the Yankee 1 down and a couple of reefs snugged in the boat became far less like a wounded bull at the helm and soon she was begging for a little more canvas. We quickly hoisted the Yankee 3 and she thanked us by delivering around 9.5/10 knots all day long with the sheets just cracked a little for speed.'

With Gold Coast Australia, Singapore and Welcome to Yorkshire set to complete their Ocean Sprint today, American entry New York will look to secure the extra point when they cross the first point.

Positions at 0900 UTC, Friday 26 August
Boat / DTF* / DTL**
1 Gold Coast Australia / 1016nm/ 0nm
2 Singapore / 1093nm / 77nm
3 Welcome to Yorkshire / 1118nm / 102nm
4 New York / 1338nm / 322nm
5 Visit Finland / 1419nm / 403nm
6 Qingdao / 1500nm /484nm
7 Geraldton Western Australia / 1514nm / 498nm
8 De Lage Landen / 1516nm / 500nm
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital / 1576nm / 560nm
10 Derry-Londonderry / 1681nm / 665nm

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