Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are on the third day of race nine from Qingdao to Oakland, California. It has been a dramatic 24 hours for the teams which has seen Scottish entry, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, divert to Japan to medevac an injured crew member.
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital crew in Qingdao ahead of Race 9 start to Oakland, San Francisco Bay - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race
Alan Stewart damaged his knee when he twisted it badly. Surgeon Stephen Wigmore is one of the crew members who have joined the yacht for the race across the Pacific and advised it would be wiser for Alan to receive treatment in Japan rather than attempt to tackle the remaining 5,000 miles of the Pacific crossing with the severe knee injury.
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital diverted course towards Kagoshima, 20 miles away, where they have been met by a Japanese Coast Guard vessel which raced out to meet them. They have taken the casualty on board and will transfer him to an ambulance in port in Yamagawa Ko and on to hospital for treatment.
Alan, a 49-year old teacher from Peebles, Scotland, is a member of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s Transplant Relay Team, a group of eight transplant recipients, surgeons and specialist nurses who are taking part in the race to raise awareness of the huge difference an organ transplant can make to a seriously ill person’s life and to encourage people to sign up to the organ donor register. They are led by Stephen Wigmore, professor of transplantation surgery and the clinical lead for transplantation at the University of Edinburgh.
As the teams start to round the southern tip of Japan and race towards the Pacific Ocean, a confused low pressure system is causing variable wind patterns.
Gold Coast Australia has gone into Stealth Mode after what skipper Richard Hewson describes as another 'full-on' 24 hours.
Richards says, 'While the crew are settling in, the conditions have not been very kind to them with wind shifting in direction up to 90 degrees and blowing between five and 25 knots, making life on board tough going as we are constantly trimming and changing sails to maintain our speed and keep our lead over the rest of the fleet.
'Our situation was hampered when a sudden gust of wind at watch changeover caused the helmsman who had just taken the wheel to round up. The spinnaker simply flogged two times, but its awesome power was enough to snap the pole in half, resulting in an emergency spinnaker drop and quick hoist of the Yankee 1 headsail which we sailed under for the rest of the night.
'Tactically this part of the race has been very tricky as the winds are quite hard to predict and there appears to be a lot of influence from the high mountains of Japan, resulting in gusty and shifty conditions which make sailing in these waters very tricky. To add to the difficulty there is a high volume of shipping in the area, so we are maintaining a constant watch on the Radar to ensure that the large ships have identified us and can keep clear in areas of low visibility.
Richard adds, 'What the weather will do over the next few days is uncertain however the situation of the high pressure and low pressure systems in the Pacific and our 42 degree latitude limitation will make this a very tactical and exciting race indeed.'
Within the course instructions for race nine, the Clipper Race Office has set the teams a maximum northerly limit in the Pacific Ocean of 42 degrees north.
Race Director, Joff Bailey, explains, 'The reason we have done this is that the Great Circle course (shortest route) would take the yachts up to 48 degrees north and we feel that at this time of year it would be unwise of us as race organisers to allow this to happen due to the severe weather that would be encountered.'
Singapore stole the advantage over the Australian entry after a decision to drop their spinnaker early in the light airs.
Skipper, Ben Bowley, explains, 'We've had a busy but rewarding 24 hours on Singapore. The rest of yesterday afternoon was spent shifting the spinnaker pole around and playing with the barbour haulers to try and get the boat balanced nicely in the varied conditions. Good teaching points for the leggers were made available by often quite substantial changes in wind strength, direction, sea state and tidal effects.
'By nightfall the breeze had veered round to the extent that holding the kite in such fickle conditions could be asking for trouble. We dropped after dinner and for the next hour regretted it as we could clearly see Gold Coast Australia pulling away on the AIS. For once, fortune smiled on us and I learnt this morning that dropping early was once again a good call. I'm sure Richard has provided detailed tales of woe regarding his broken pole so I shall not go much further!'
Ben continues, 'This morning has provided some more challenging conditions for us to contend with. As we approach the promontory of Sata Misaki, the high land has been playing merry hell with the wind strength and direction once more. We have seen from five knots to gusts well into the high twenties. At one point we had the Yankee 3 hanked on ready to drop our massively overpowered Yankee 1, when the wind died off to a steady 12 knots of true. The Yankee 3 was duly flaked and now we await its possible return after we pop out of the lee of Japan and start to feel the full effects of the Kuroshio Current. If some forecasts are to be believed, we could have a rather fruity wind-over-current, ‘Taiwan déja vu’ to contend with in the coming two to three days. Joy!'
The fickle winds have kept the crew of American entry New York busy as the team performs a plethora of sail changes.
Skipper Gareth Glover, reports, 'It’s been a busy time on New York with lots of head sail changes and our medium weight kite going up and down.
'As we ran down our line towards our waypoint off the coast of Kagoshima there was an island in our way so we had two choices: to drop our medium weight kite, put up our Yankee 1 and go round to the north or bear away around the bottom. We chose the latter.
'As we did this we picked up the three leaders on AIS but as we closed the gap the wind went light and we all had to sail to the south to keep moving. As we watched, the yachts that went round this island to the north missed the wind hole and kept sailing towards the waypoint.
'One of our goals for this race was to get to this point as one of the top three yachts and it looks like we will be in the top five with only a few miles between the teams. We are happy with how we are racing so far but, as always, there is room to improve.'
On board Derry-Londonderry, skipper Mark Light reports that the Northern Ireland entry has had a similar racing experience in the last 24 hours.
'A good day under heavyweight spinnaker yesterday, making some really good boat speeds. After holding our spinnaker all day and well into the night we managed to make up some miles on leader Gold Coast Australia then as the wind veered from west to north as forecast, so we changed back to Yankee 1 and staysail to keep course and boat speed.'
Considering the team’s progress so far, Mark adds, 'All the new crew who joined our boat in Qingdao have done really well and played a large part in making these early sail evolutions go very smoothly. It is great to see the team integrating so well together at this early stage in the race and this may bode well for the next four and a half weeks.
'We are fast approaching the south west tip of Japan, a decent milestone in this race, and will look to pick up the famous Kuroshio (Black Snake) Current which will help to push us on into the Pacific Ocean.'
The Kuroshio Current is one of the world’s major ocean currents and travels at about two or three knots northwards past Japan. It is the Pacific equivalent of the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean.
'Today we are enjoying some great sailing despite the overcast conditions and the fleet is still packed closely enough to keep the racing exciting,' says Visit Finland skipper, Olly Osborne.
As the Finnish team approaches the southern tip of Japan, Olly comments, 'The wind is becoming more fluky and it will not show its true hand until we are clear of the land, but for the meantime the conditions are great for making the miles.
'The sea state has lessened considerably as well and it is very different to yesterday’s exhilarating downwind spinnaker conditions. Everyone seems to be settling back into the watch system well now and as our time in the Yellow Sea draws to a close our thoughts are turning toward how to tackle the first stage of the north Pacific.'
20120224 onEdition 2012© Free for editorial use image, please credit: onEdition Welcome to Yorkshire receives a hero's welcome today after arriving in Qingdao, China at the end of the challenging Race 8. The Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race started from Southampton on the south coast of the UK on 31 July 2011. The route will take the crews of the ten, identical 68-foot yachts, each sponsored by a city, state, country or corporation, via Madeira, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Geraldton Wes
The lighter winds have given the crew of Welcome to Yorkshire something to think about.
Skipper Rupert Dean, reports, 'As the wind slowly veered to the north north east it progressively headed us, forcing a change to the Yankee 2 and then the Yankee 1 as the wind dropped overnight.
'This morning sees us under a confused trough of low pressure masquerading as an occluded front. Above decks it's grey, raining, with highly variable winds demanding continual concentration and trimming from the active watch team. Hopefully we'll be around the corner soon and into the Pacific, where the weather systems should be better defined.'
Meanwhile, on board Geraldton Western Australia, Juan Coetzer and his team have been practicing more traditional sailing methods after a trip up the mast ended in damage to a very useful piece of equipment.
Juan explains, 'It was a great day sailing yesterday with the heavyweight kite up, doing top speeds of 13 knots. Night came and we went to switch on the tricolour light at the top of the mast. It was not working, so the Windex could not be seen, nor could any ships see us.
'Nik Brbora was sent up the mast for the second time in two days to see if the light bulbs had blown. He changed the bulb and by accident bumped the wind wand, which has now stopped working. It’s a great piece of kit, as it tells you at deck level how strong the wind is and what direction it is coming from. So it’s back to traditional sailing, trimming for course and checking boat speed. All is well as we sail around the bottom of Japan in the rain.'
On board Dutch entry De Lage Laden, skipper Stuart Jackson reports that their main concern is the weather and what the wind is likely to do in the coming days.
'As we approach the southern tip of Japan all the boats seem to be converging again,' he writes. 'We already have three in sight and several more within ten miles on AIS and we are now looking at the forecasts for the coming week.
'It's looking like we are going to have head winds for the next few days going up the east coast of Japan, then as we branch out across the Pacific it looks like it is going a bit light for a while as we wait for a low pressure to develop to send us on our way.'
Qingdao has been sailing in close company with the Dutch entry but they have since gone their separate ways.
Skipper Ian Conchie, reports, 'After a great tussle with De Lage Landen last night they decided they had had enough of our company and headed east. During the night we were joined by Welcome to Yorkshire as our new sparring partner and had great fun exchanging positions with them through the night and this morning. This has kept the crew on the top of their game always looking at ways to improve the trim to try and get a little bit more speed.'
Ian adds, 'Life on board continues with the new crew getting used to the watch system and the various roles that have to be filled each day. One bit of good news for me is that I am no longer the only coffee drinker on board so I am treated to real coffee more regularly!'
The fleet is expected to arrive in Oakland in San Francisco Bay between 1 and 7 April. The Race 9 winning team will be presented with the Strictly Sail Pacific Clipper Cup on the opening day of the show, 12 April.
Positions at 1200 UTC, Wednesday 7 March 2012
Boat - DTF*
1 Singapore - 5,040nm
2 Derry-Londonderry - 5,048nm (+8nm DTL**)
3 Visit Finland - 5,050nm (+10nm)
4 Qingdao - 5,050nm (+10nm)
5 Geraldton Western Australia - 5054nm (+14nm)
6 De Lage Landen - 5,055nm (+15nm)
7 Welcome to Yorkshire - 5,057nm (+17nm)
8 New York - 5,057nm (+17nm)
9 Gold Coast Australia - 5,082nm (+42nm) Stealth Mode: position at 0600 UTC
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 5,083nm (+42nm)
*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