Clipper Round the World Race - Weather forecast suggests west is best
by Zoe Williamson on 16 Aug 2011
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is divided in to a series of eight legs. The second race in leg one started in Madeira and will finish in Rio De Janeiro.
De Lage Landen set sail in race two (from Madeira to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race onEdition © http://www.onEdition.com
This morning Gold Coast Australia has emerged from Stealth Mode to reveal that the team has chosen a more westerly route towards the Scoring Gate – whether they make a run at the gate or chose to avoid it altogether, as De Lage Landen has opted to do, only time will tell. At present the skipper of the east coast Australian entry, Richard Hewson, appears more concerned about flying their spinnakers at night.
'If you think the skippers of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race have it easy, sipping coffee, sleeping and occasionally barking orders you’d be wrong,' says Richard.
'Night time for a Clipper Skipper is not a time for sleep, it’s a time to thrive and survive. When it is dark, the amateur helmsmen and women have a hard time keeping the boat on course, particularly in light airs with a swell on the quarter. This results in many spinnaker wraps and accidental gybes and the occasional accidental drop!
'Most yachts in the fleet are flying anti wrap nets to stop their kites getting wrapped, I pride myself on teaching my crew how not to wrap a kite and, on the unforeseen occasion that it does wrap, how to get the wrap out quickly so as to minimise damage to the spinnaker and to prevent the mother of all wraps (as experienced by a good percentage of the fleet). So far we have been reasonably lucky, with only a few little nicks out of our medium weight caused by the razor sharp braided wire stainless steel forestays and inner forestays.
'Our tactics at the moment are to stay further west than the rest of the fleet in more wind. Whilst we are heading towards the Scoring Gate, our position covering the fleet gives us a good opportunity to bail from the gate and head towards the Equator at the best crossing position possible.
'Where this magical crossing position is located will not be revealed (including to me) for another few days but I know one thing, it will be further west than our current location, hence our position west of the fleet gives us the advantage.'
Yesterday evening, Visit Finland followed Gold Coast Australia’s tactics by going into Stealth Mode at 1800, before they went in the team was in a more easterly position and looked like they had also decided not to go for the Scoring Gate.
'We are now officially in the tropics and sure enough, the climate has turned from humid into wet,' explains Visit Finland’s navigator, Tomi Lintonen. 'Although the temperatures have not really gone up, every bit of work with the sails makes us sweat. The day was overcast and we also had a bit of drizzle in the afternoon. The air is just about as moist as it can possibly get without turning into proper rain. We did not fully realise how much this affects the visibility and were a bit late in spotting a tanker on a converging course. No drama here, the closest point of approach was two miles, but it taught us to be on an electronic lookout during daytime as well as at night.'
Furthest east of the fleet is New York who have made what initially appears to be an unusual choice to hug the coast of Africa.
'This is a risky strategy as they run the possibility of crossing the ITCZ at its widest point,' says Race Director, Joff Bailey. 'Hundreds of years ago when we had a very poor understanding of the oceans and how the weather systems work, staying east of the Cape Verde Islands when going south was a recognised sailing route. However, as our knowledge of the ocean weather patterns has increased we have realised that the Doldrums are, in fact funnel shaped with the widest part near the African coast and the narrowest bit being near Brazil. All is not lost as there is a small possibility that if the weather on the African continent manages to disrupt the ITCZ, New York could squeeze through and they would then benefit from much better wind angles as they go across to the Equator and head to Brazil, which could yet see them leading the pack.'
Skipper of New York, Gareth Glover, says, 'We are just off the coast of Africa and for those who have grown up in Africa I can tell you we can smell her. That dry, sandy smell is so distinctive as it wafts towards us.
'Africa seems to be with us as we gamble on a quick route to Rio and we have clicked along nicely at a steady seven knots from a steady breeze from Mother Africa. To keep us company we have had a school of dolphins with us but no flying fish tonight.'
At the other end of the fleet and taking the most westerly course in their bid to be the first boat into Rio de Janeiro is Dutch entry, De Lage Landen.
'We're taking large hits against the rest of the fleet at the moment,' explains skipper Mat Booth. 'They all seem to be sailing the rhumb line, perhaps with the exception of New York. This means our extra detour to the west is affecting our position and distance to finish but we believe it will pay later in the race so only time will tell. It's all about the long game and we've still got just under 3,000 nautical miles to run in this race and it's far from over - anything could happen.'
Heading up the teams who are clearly making a run for the Scoring Gate is Welcome to Yorkshire with Singapore hot on their heels. Skipper of Singapore, Ben Bowley, believes that his decision to opt for the more secure heavyweight spinnaker has cost them a few miles on the English entry over the last 24 hours.
'We have been reluctant to use our medium weight due to it being less stable than the heavyweight spinnaker and therefore more prone to a wrap, something we are obviously keen to avoid happening again. It does seem to have hurt us slightly as at the 1800 position report we had lost mileage on the fleet and I can only put this down to the other boats carrying a little more sail than us. Once bitten, twice shy as they say.
'The navigators have been working doubly hard trying to work out various options for both the Scoring Gate and the crossing of the ITCZ as decisions on both will have to be taken over the next 24 hours. I feel confident that we should be able to pick up at least one point at the gate as this westerly course has left our options wide open, which was always the plan.'
Whilst Singapore is playing it safe to avoid another spinnaker wrap, on board Geraldton Western Australia concerns about chafe are at the forefront of skipper Juan Coetzer’s mind.
'The chafe monster has been about again,' says Juan. 'We took a look at our halyard for the spinnaker and the starboard one was hanging on by a thread. We also took a look at the port guy which had been loaded for most of the day and the chafe monster has been there as well. The crew have learnt that chafe is the enemy and always have a spare line ready to go.
'The day has been good for us. We saw many a flying fish and the wind has been kind to us. Happy days!'
The mood on board Derry-Londonderry is just as good as skipper Mark Light reports.
'A good day’s work by the crew - we spent all day yesterday under heavyweight spinnaker gybing our way south and west. My crew are getting very proficient with helming, trimming and gybing spinnakers which is a good thing when you have about 38,000 nautical miles of downwind sailing still to go!
'That reminds me just what a fantastic thing this is that we are all doing - sailing a race yacht around the world! We all get complacent and can take things for granted at times but we should all remember just how fortunate we are. (I don't know what I’m going to do when I grow up because I don’t really want a proper job!)
'We have some great sailing conditions, lots of flying fish, good food (a proper Irish stew for dinner last night) and good company. The team spirit on Derry-Londonderry is brilliant, nay Legenderry!'
The atmosphere on board Derry-Londonderry could arguably rival that on board Qingdao, whose skipper invariably reports that the mood on board is the Chinese entry is high. However, today brings with it a fall in their position within the fleet but the team is still pushing hard towards the Scoring Gate.
'After several days champagne sailing the wind has started to die,' says skipper Ian Conchie. 'We have managed to keep the boat moving but the shifts have not been kind to us resulting in a drop from fourth to eighth, but the crew keep working hard to trim the boat and keep moving. It has also been a 24 hour period of minor breakages - small holes in both our light and medium weight spinnakers has kept our sail repairers busy. And a problem with the water maker gave concern for a while but all is now fixed so full concentration is back on sailing.
'We gybed this morning and started heading south again so all eyes are on the Scoring Gate and the Cape Verde Islands before the dreaded Doldrums.'
The wind between the leading yachts and the Scoring Gate is forecast to drop considerably during the course of the next day and it is expected that the first team will cross within the next 24 hours.
Joff Bailey says, 'The weather files show that ‘west is best’ at the moment and going through the Scoring Gate and Cape Verde Islands could actually be very slow and jeopardise a team’s race finish position. The best wind speeds over the next couple of days are approximately more than 300 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands so the teams that are more west will do better.
'In the next few days all of the teams will have to start dealing with light and fickle winds as they enter the Doldrums.'
Positions at 0600 UTC, Tuesday 16 August
Boat / DTF* / DTL**
1 Welcome to Yorkshire / 2931nm
2 Singapore / 2937nm / +6nm
3 Gold Coast Australia / 2949nm / +18nm
4 Geraldton Western Australia / 2950nm / +18nm
5 Derry-Londonderry / 2981nm / +49nm
6 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital / 2993nm / +61nm
7 New York / 3003nm / +72nm
8 Qingdao / 3012nm / +81nm
9 De Lage Landen / 3028nm / +96nm
10 Visit Finland / 3056nm / +125nm – In Stealth Mode: position at 1800 15 August
DTF* = Distance to Finish, DTL** = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found here.
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