Clipper fleet splits as tactics come into play

Nova Scotia bow shot - Clipper 07-08
The race viewer today indicates that there are two distinct tactical battles being played out amongst the Clipper fleet.

The leading group, headed by Hull & Humber, is sticking very close to the great circle route to Hawaii, which is the shortest route to the finish line. The second group consisting of Qingdao,, Durban 2010 and Beyond, and Nova Scotia, has taken a tactical choice to stay further north. Despite increasing the number of miles to be sailed to the finish, Durban 2010 and Beyond’s skipper Ricky Chalmers explains their decision for a more northerly route, “The wind is patchy, but giving us good speeds, and having found the Kuro Shio (Japanese) current, we have an extra knot and a half of speed over the ground. We are intentionally moving north of the rhumb line, in anticipation of the strong winds to come tonight and tomorrow, which will push us back towards it. There also appears to be a lighter patch developing to the south in a couple of days’ time, which I am hoping to avoid.”

At the back of the fleet Jamaica has again put in some good miles over the last 24 hours as they chase down the boats ahead of them. Skipper Simon Bradley is clearly enjoying the warmer weather that the fleet is experiencing following the freezing temperatures at the start of the race. Simon says, “It's sunny, warm and rather pleasant - normal service has been resumed - we hope! Thermals and mid-layers are slowly being shed and bare flesh has been sighted onboard for the first time in weeks! Being prudent I'm still wearing my thermals and mid-layers, but the flip flops have been donned once more.”

All the teams are now experiencing stronger winds with average speeds between nine and ten knots as they enjoy some great downwind sailing. Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper describes, “a good night’s surfing after spending the day drifting” and Qingdao’s skipper Marcus Cholerton-Brown says they’re, “tootling along in company with two other Clippers on a breezy and warm day.”

The winds are due to increase across the region over the next 24 hours and will increase the average speeds being achieved across the fleet. However, the increased wind strength brings with it an increased risk of something going wrong. Having recovered from their accidental gybe two days ago, have new issues sailing under spinnaker this morning. Skipper Martin Silk says, “Our first overnight run with spinnaker has been productive and drama free, which is a relief. Unfortunately today a new game has begun, called ‘wrap’ and everybody seems to want to play. The medium weight is currently undergoing surgery, luckily only a few stitches this time, while the trusty bulletproof flies as a stand-in.”

Joff Bailey, Race Director says, “The last time the ten teams competing in Clipper 07-08 enjoyed such consistent down wind sailing was after leaving Fremantle on New Year’s Day, and it is a welcome return for all. This is also the first time for weeks that the fleet has been free from land and the effect it has on the winds.

The skippers and navigators will be looking forward between 48 and 72 hours at the weather forecast to see which route will give them the best VMG (Velocity Made Good) to the finish. The aim at the moment is to stay with the westerly winds at the top of the north pacific high pressure system.”

The fleet is heading for Hawaii and the first yachts are due to arrive in the Ala Wai Small Yacht Harbour in Honolulu on approximately 20 March.

1. Hull & Humber: Distance to Finish (DTF) 3527
2. New York: DTF 3538 (Distance to Leader +11)
4. Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper: DTF 3545 (+18)
3. Liverpool 08: DTF 3546 (+19)
5. Uniquely Singapore: DTF 3552 (+25)
6. DTF 3566 (+39)
7. Qingdao: DTF 3569 (+42)
8. Durban 2010 and Beyond: DTF 3571 (+44)
9. Nova Scotia: DTF 3573 (+46)
10. Jamaica: DTF 3681 (+154)

Hull & Humber’s bowman up the mast - Clipper 07-08