by Paul Hankey
In the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, New York and Visit Finland have now secured the fourth and fifth positions respectively in Race 2, and the focus now turns to the remainder of the fleet as they enter the final few hundred miles in the race to Rio de Janeiro.
New York set sail in race two (from Madeira to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.
After 3,500 miles of racing, the final five entries in the race are expected to arrive in Brazil within 24 hours of each other. With an estimated arrival time of Saturday morning, Geraldton Western Australia looks set to hold off their closest rivals and secure sixth place.
'Yesterday morning after my report, we hoved to for two hours, so that we could sort out a spinnaker halyard which went astray; it decided to wrap itself around the starboard shrouds, the topping lift and the backstay,' reports skipper, Juan Coetzer.
It was left to 28-year-old Software Engineer, Nik Brbora, to climb the 89-foot mast and solve the problem and attempt to maintain their healthy lead.
'Nik went up the mast to try sort it out, not an easy task, but he did well and got it all sorted. While being hoved to, our ground track was taking us north at four to six knots. Unfortunately, this gave away our big lead to De Lage Landen and Qingdao.'
While there are just 20 nautical miles between the Australian entry and their Chinese counterparts, Juan and his crew have possibly done enough to be the next team to cross the finish line in Guanabara Bay, but it will be a close fought contest.
'It looks like a battle down to the line. The wind has been blowing constantly at about 20-25 knots all day, with gusts in the 30s. At this present moment, one watch is waking up, eating breakfast, while the other watch is busy preparing for a sail change. It is pitch black night, white glowing spray everywhere, and a highway of ships and oil rigs,' continues Juan.
Qingdao, skippered by Ian Conchie, will no doubt be confident of catching Geraldton Western Australia especially after they leap frogged De Lage Landen on the leader board.
Visit Finland - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race
'We emerged from Stealth Mode to find that our tactic had worked and we were now in seventh. We continue beating upwind making the last few miles of this leg feel slow even though we are sailing in 30 knots of breeze,' explains skipper, Ian.
'Plans for Rio are now almost finished, with jobs lists, shopping lists and so on all nearly ready, all we need to do is get there!'
Hopeful of regaining seventh is Dutch entry, De Lage Landen, who are currently expected to arrive at the Marina da Gloria on Saturday morning.
'Still beating to windward in sustained 30 knots. Every now and then there's an earth shattering slam as the yacht launches off a wave and slams down onto the next one. Life at 35 degrees is tough on the guys but despite these tough conditions the crew are fighting for this finish,' says skipper, Mat Booth.
'The forecast is for the wind to go south easterly, but we're still seeing a strong south westerly. We're hoping to make the tide at Cabo Frio and then it's a case of working hard to make the finish as the weather on the other side is looking light and fickle!'
With the Clipper Race fleet due to be fully reunited on Sunday with the arrival of Derry-Londonderry the crews can look forward to some well-earned downtime exploring the delights of the Brazilian city, including Copacobana and Ipanema beaches, Sugar Loaf Mountain and the cauldron of the Maracaña Stadium where the people of Rio indulge their passion for Brazil's national game, football.
Skipper of the Northern Ireland entry, Mark Light, reports strong conditions as his crew continue in their battle to Rio.
'The expected strong winds have arrived with a vengeance and we are suitably reefed down with the two reefs in the main and our smallest Yankee 3 headsail along with our staysail!
'We started the day under medium spinnaker in lovely downwind conditions but that was abruptly halted by the sound of tearing as the sail separated into two pieces all along the seam. It is a bit of a mystery as to why the clews suddenly started to progress in completely different directions but that didn't change a thing, down came the sail and up went the Yankee 1,' reveals Mark.
'Before long we were back under spinnaker, this time the lightweight variety, and we held this until lunchtime when the wind died completely and we were left totally becalmed with 0.0 showing on our boat speed gauge.
'The wind arrived (as forecast) and we now find ourselves beating into 30 knots on our best course to windward. Rio cannot come soon enough...'
All the crew members of the ten-strong fleet will celebrate their Atlantic Ocean crossing on Tuesday 6 September as they attend the Race 2 prize giving. Gold Coast Australia, Welcome to Yorkshire and Singapore will receive their pennants as well as the award for best video and still image captured during the course of the Leg.
Positions at 2100 UTC, Friday 2 September
1 Gold Coast Australia Finished: 0707UTC 31 August
2 Welcome to Yorkshire Finished: 0110UTC 1 September
3 Singapore Finished: 0620UTC 1 September
4 New York Finished: 0134UTC 2 September
5 Visit Finland Finished: 1443UTC 2 September
6 Geraldton Western Australia 80nm*
7 Qingdao 123nm*
8 De Lage Landen 124nm*
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 194nm*
10 Derry-Londonderry 315nm*
*DTF = Distance to Finish
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website