Clipper Round the World Race fleet set sail for San Francisco Bay
by Heather Ewing on 6 Mar 2012
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet have started the first day of race nine from Qingdao to Oakland, California. Yesterday the Race Committee decided to postpone the start of the 6,000-mile journey due to difficult weather conditions and poor visibility as fog blanketed the fleet just five minutes from the start.
Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet Karl Monaghan/onEdition
After a spectacular visit and farewell ceremony held in China’s Olympic Sailing City, where drummers and thousands of spectators flocked to wish the teams well, the Race Director instructed the fleet to begin motoring towards a waypoint 25 miles offshore where it was hoped more favourable conditions would be found.
Lead skipper, Singapore’s Ben Bowley, judged the conditions appropriate this morning and the race got underway at 0235 UTC (1035 local time) today.
In a Le Mans start the yachts form up in a straight line with their mainsails hoisted and their headsails hanked on and ready to go. On each of the yachts the crew wait aft of the coffee grinder for the start signal, at which point they race forward to hoist the headsails and trim them as quickly as possible.
At this stage of the race, more than half way through their 40,000-mile circumnavigation, the crews are developing into experienced sailors and rivalry between the teams is fierce. There are still seven more stages to be contested and Geraldton Western Australia’s crew have proved that a couple of good results can really make a difference when the competition is this tight. At the start of race seven they were ninth, now beginning race nine they are sixth overall and within a whisker of overtaking New York for fifth place.
As the crew settle into life at sea again, on board the Western Australia entry, skipper Juan Coezter and his team started well and trimmed quickly to give themselves a slight advantage.
Juan reports that despite the challenging weather they will face on this leg, he and his team are looking once more to capitalise on their inspiring pace of the last two races.
'This afternoon the wind has filled in and Ben did an amazing job of lining us all up and organizing the count down.'
As he and his crew enjoy an exhilarating power reach Juan adds, 'It’s going to be a drag race to the next virtual mark.'
The yachts have maintained their line-abreast formation spread across 20 miles from north east to south west with very little between them in terms of distance to finish. But, as Gold Coast Australia’s skipper, Richard Hewson, remarks, that finish line is a long way away.
The Tasmanian yachtsman was up the rig repairing a snapped topping lift as the race started and the team found themselves ten lengths behind as race nine got underway.
'There is still 5,600 miles to go in the race so ten boat lengths is quite insignificant and already we have caught up to the majority of the fleet and racing hard to get into the lead before we round the south western edge of Japan and begin making our way across the North Pacific Ocean,' he comments.
'Due to the distance of this race and the conditions we may face, this race is more about preservation and endurance than boat speed. You need to finish the race to win it so we will be focusing on safety while still keeping the best course and speed towards the finish line that we can safely maintain,' Richard adds.
On board Derry-Londonderry, skipper Mark Light, says, 'Here we are again, back on the water, this time heading south easterly out of the Yellow Sea. Thank you to all who contributed to a fantastic stopover in Qingdao. It was a spectacular welcome, we experienced superb hospitality throughout and we were given an equally brilliant send off!
Commenting on tactics for the Le Mans start Mark explains, 'Generally the boat that hoists and trims the quickest will surge forward into cleaner air and gain the first advantage. We managed to start fairly well and have already made a couple of places. In these races it is very important not to lose ground and split with the rest of the fleet in the first few days and so far so good. Although pretty cold and wet it is great to be racing again!'
New York skipper, Gareth Glover, agrees, saying 'After a great stopover in Qingdao we were all happy to get racing again but not in the very cold wind and rain and poor visibility on the start line. It was hard to make out the start boat and the line and any other yachts that were around!
'After a few hours motoring south the wind picked up and a Le Mans start was called. We all made a clear start and are now making ten knots to the next waypoint with Gold Coast Australia and Visit Finland on our port side.'
New York and Derry-Londonderry are with a group of five teams that are maintaining a central position within the span of the fleet as they race south east towards the southern tip of Japan. With them are Welcome to Yorkshire, Singapore, Visit Finland and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital.
As the Finnish entry’s tactics come into play, skipper, Olly Osborne, says, 'It's good to be racing again and we are making good speeds towards our waypoint off Japan. The decision to head further offshore seems to have paid off as we are now into some good breeze and have hopefully avoided the worst of the fish farms in the shallower water.
'The Le Mans start went very well and proved to be an unusual and exciting way to start this long race, with the teams each trying to outhoist each other in the bid to outmanoeuvre the pack. Thoughts on board are now turning toward the weeks ahead, and the scale of what we are likely to encounter makes for a slightly pensive mood. But the conditions are due to improve and we are off to a good start.'
Meanwhile, on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, skipper Gordon Reid, says, 'After enjoying a truly awesome welcome ceremony including the skipper’s gift of a regal gold cape with a groovy red velvet lining, and the fabulous hospitality of the people of Qingdao, it was time once more to step up to the mark, with a fantastic leaving ceremony, including another outing for the skipper’s cape we were waved off to a chorus of 100 drummers and fireworks as we left the marina.
'We made our way to the waypoint in the hope that the visibility would improve and we could start racing, dodging fish farms, fishing boats and a whole host of other shipping in the fog as we went. Early this morning as the fog lifted, we lined up for a Le Mans start and got off the line, flying in 15 to 20 knots of breeze on a fast reach, quickly topping ten knots VMG (Velocity Made Good.)'
Eager to gain a place on the podium, Gordon adds, 'It's great to be underway and racing again. We are all looking forward to racing across the planet’s biggest ocean and what I am sure will be the many challenges that lie ahead. To all of our friends and family back home, thank you for your continued support and remember, just like we do on the ‘Purple Beastie’, keep the faith!'
'This is it, the big one! After a fantastic stay in Qingdao, the Welcome to Yorkshire team is on its way again, this time to San Francisco Bay, some 6,000 miles away,' enthuses skipper, Rupert Dean.
'We left Qingdao yesterday with happy memories we will treasure forever. The weather, however, was less kind. Sleet, snow, bitter cold and terrible visibility dictated the postponement of the start in waters festooned with ships. Totally the right call, therefore, to motor sail in the right direction overnight and start the race with the first Le Mans start of this magnificent round the world yacht race.
With better winds and visibility, the Welcome to Yorkshire team did themselves good credit in an exciting start. We are now racing, line abreast with the rest of the fleet on the way to the first waypoint off Japan, the Saya Misaki light.'
With the teams battling to steal a march on their competitors, Rupert knows there is all to play for.
'Tactically, this first stage is very much a boat speed drag race,' he says. 'With fresh reaching conditions, good progress is being made under full main, staysail and Yankee 1. The crew is adjusting well to the on board routine and we are racing hard, proudly waving the English flag for our Welcome to Yorkshire sponsor.'
The race across the Pacific looms large in the minds of the people from all walks of life who are taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. They are all too aware of the isolation and potentially savage conditions that could be encountered in the vast expanse of the world’s largest ocean.
'I think that many of us are looking at this leg as the biggie; with not only the most miles but also some of the most challenging conditions we are likely to face,' explains Singapore skipper, Ben Bowley. 'It has to be remembered that when we transited the Southern Ocean, it was at the start of the Southern Hemisphere summer; whereas with this leg we are crossing just at the end of the winter.
'Conditions are already a lot colder and this has come as a bit of a shock having been encamped in a nice warm hotel room for the last two weeks! Our kettle is rarely off the boil right now and we hope that by consuming gallons of tea we shall be able to keep our hands and brains warm enough to keep us one step ahead of the game, oh, and of course out of the way of hundreds of fishing boats!'
With the team fuelled by all the tea in China and inspired by their visit to Qingdao, Ben adds, 'Qingdao was most definitely the greatest welcome we have had since race start and for that we would like to thank all those involved in putting on such a spectacular show. I think that culturally, too, China has been our most fascinating taste yet of another nation's rich and diverse peoples and history.
'We have a long way to go yet but with all the boats still essentially in a line abreast, everyone is pushing hard to get an early advantage. From here to the bottom of Japan is looking like being a drag race so focus must be at it absolute highest to prevent our competitors sneaking ahead. This is easier said than done in the freezing, foggy and gusty conditions we are all experiencing presently.'
After what can only be described as a rock star reception in Qingdao, the home port yacht’s skipper, Ian Conchie, says, 'Heading out into thick fog off the harbour entrance was a memorable end to what has been a truly memorable stopover. I cannot thank the people of Qingdao and the organisers of the stopover enough for their hospitality.
'Whilst we were all disappointed not to have a normal start and give the spectators a good show, postponing the start was the safe and seaman-like thing to do as the visibility was so poor. This turned out to be great for the crew as it gave them a nice gentle re-introduction to life on board although this morning a few crew members have succumbed to the dreaded seasickness and cold.
'In the Le Mans start and it looked great to see all the fleet lined up. We did well getting the sails up quickly but Geraldton Western Australia managed to get their headsails trimmed a little quicker so gained an early advantage. Since then we have been duelling with De Lage Landen and the whole fleet is very close still, heading for the next waypoint at the edge of Japan.'
Meanwhile, on board De Lage Landen, after scoring their first victory in the race to Qingdao and enjoying the grand celebrations in port, skipper Stuart Jackson reports that the delay has also given the new joiners in his crew a chance to settle in to their battle rhythm.
'The farewell from Qingdao proved to be equally as impressive as the arrival ceremony. With hundreds of drummers and speeches from dignitaries we slipped lines to fireworks and then disappeared into the fog! As we motored overnight to regroup for a Le Mans start this morning it gave the crew a chance to settle into the routine of life on board before being under race conditions, although not everyone has been immune to sea sickness, only a few are suffering slightly!
'Having a different style of start was new for all the crew so added some extra excitement and apprehension to proceedings. We have now been racing for a couple of hours and all the yachts are making great speed towards the south of Japan, which we will hopefully reach in a few days.'
As the teams leave behind a memorable stopover and their visiting friends and family, thoughts are firmly on the race ahead.
Clipper Race Director, Joff Bailey, comments, 'This is a notoriously challenging leg of the race and the crews will be looking forward to arriving in California. This is one of the toughest and longest stages of the race. In previous editions the crews have taken quite a pounding on their Pacific crossing, so they will all be looking forward to the warm welcome awaiting them in Oakland.
'I am really pleased that 2012 Strictly Sail Pacific Boat Show will be hosting the Clipper Race fleet in Jack London Square; it’s the perfect event to showcase our global race fleet.'
The fleet is expected to arrive in Oakland in San Francisco Bay between 1 and 7 April. The race nine 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, Monday 5 March 2012
Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 5,426nm
2 Singapore - 5,429nm (+3nm DTL**)
3 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 5,429nm (+3nm)
4 Welcome to Yorkshire - 5,429nm (+3nm)
5 Visit Finland - 5,429nm (+3nm)
6 Derry-Londonderry - 5,429nm (+3nm)
7 New York - 5,429nm (+3nm)
8 Geraldton Western Australia - 5,430nm (+4nm)
9 Qingdao - 5,431nm (+5nm)
10 De Lage Landen - 5,432nm (+6nm)
*DTF = Distance to Finish, **DTL = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found online.
www.clipperroundtheworld.com/" target="_blank">Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website