Clipper Round the World Yacht - Fierce battle for podiums
by Heather Ewing on 20 Nov 2011
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet continue on day fifteen of race five, from Western Australia to New Zealand.
Fleet - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
'The sense of achievement in fulfilling such a lifelong goal is amazing and at the moment I wouldn't want to be anywhere else,' New Zealander and Gold Coast Australia crew member, Fred Tooley said as his team continued the charge for the finish of race five with a commanding lead.
The retail assistant from Auckland said that the sight of New Zealand’s South Island heralding the end of the Southern Ocean phase of the race bought a tear to his eye yesterday morning.
The 72-year-old’s participation in this race marks the realisation of an ambition held for 35 years, and seeing an advert in Yachting World magazine prompted Fred to apply to take part in leg four of Clipper 11-12 from Geraldton in Western Australia to Gold Coast in Queensland via his homeland of New Zealand.
'All I can say is that if you are thinking about fulfilling a dream or taking on the challenge of a lifetime, don’t think about it, just do it. You won’t regret it,' Fred said.
'My two main heroes in life are Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and Sir Peter Blake and I have watched many videos from the comfort of my couch about their adventures, but after watching them for years I decided that I thought I should give it a go. My theory is that I do what I enjoy and enjoy what I do,' he said.
'I am living the dream and truly believe that you're never too old to learn new tricks and take on new challenges. When this is over, it doesn't mean I have stopped looking for challenges, it just means I need to decide on the next one,' he added.
Throughout December Clipper will be holding a series of crew recruitment presentations and interviews in Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga in New Zealand and Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland in Australia for people interested in participating in Clipper 13-14.
Clipper’s Crew Recruitment Manager, David Cusworth, said, 'Berths are filling up fast for Clipper 13-14 so now is the time to act if you want to get on board for the next edition of the race. With a programme of crew recruitment presentations lined up in New Zealand and Australia next month, I’m looking forward to meeting some of the Australasians who will take up the challenge of a lifetime on our new fleet of Clipper 70s.'
Derry-Londonderry is the latest team to go into Stealth Mode as they close in on Tauranga. Mark Light and his team will be racing under the invisibility cloak until 1800 UTC today, giving the crew representing the UK City of Culture 2013 an opportunity to hide their tactics for a 24-hour period as they battle to secure a podium position.
However, Mark reveals that frustration is the order of the day as they race up the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. 'After flying across the Southern Ocean with great boat speeds taking a few batterings from the usual storms, we now find ourselves crawling rather than flying towards the finish,' he said.
The Derry-Londonderry team knows that they will have a close battle on their hands 'to outrun or outfox' their opponents for second place. 'After over 3,000 miles of ocean racing it has come down to a very subtle and tactical challenge to keep our boat moving fast and in the right direction,' he said.
Mark said his team had worked incredibly hard to get into their current position and to win two valuable bonus points for being the second boat through the race five Scoring Gate. 'Now we are all very determined not to give our position away cheaply. This ocean race may well be a marathon not a sprint, but right now it is very definitely a match race to the finish,' he said.
One of the players in that match race is set to be New York. Gareth Glover reports that his team has also been slowed down over the last 24 hours by light winds making for slow progress towards Tauranga.
'There are still five yachts that can take any of the podium spots and we are still looking for one of them,' he said.
Gareth is hoping that his move to place New York in what he believes will be the best position to benefit from the filling wind will pay off.
'After all the hard work the crew of New York has put in over this race it will be tough if one [podium position] doesn’t go to us but I know the other yachts feel the same,' he added.
On Welcome to Yorkshire, Rupert Dean’s team is not only racing against the rest of the fleet but also against time. The crew is battling to make as much progress as possible with repairs to their medium weight spinnaker which is strewn out below decks before the forecasted high winds and rough seas hit them tomorrow morning (local time).
'The crew involved are working very hard to ensure it all goes together properly with no twists in the repair, which is very difficult to do in such a cramped and confined space,' Rupert said.
He added that overcast skies and continuous rainfall are indicative of the complex slow-moving fronts over the area.
Meteorologist Simon Rowell continues to provide the teams with the latest weather information on a daily basis. This morning he informed the fleet that as they head north, or continue north in Singapore’s case, they will encounter low pressure weather modified by the land masses of the North and South Islands, in particular the gap between them, the Cook Strait.
'From about 2000 UTC today until 0600 UTC tomorrow, they will get a funnelling effect through there with gusts up to about 60 knots at times,' Simon said.
For now the wind is conspicuous by its absence and Stuart Jackson on De Lage Landen reports that his team has been getting a wet welcome to New Zealand with around 12 hours of rain and very little wind.
Conditions don't look to get markedly better for another 24 hours. 'This is due to a couple of little complex low pressure systems that have decided to go through our path, so we are looking forward to the south westerlies that are due to come in,' Stuart said.
With just over 600 miles left to run to the finish and land within sight, minds on the Dutch entry are turning to reaching Tauranga. 'Everyone is keen to have some time to do a few activities in New Zealand from relaxing to adrenaline-fuelled pursuits for those who haven't had enough in the last couple of weeks!' he said.
On Visit Finland, the focus is on pulling back a couple of places before rounding East Cape at the top of the North Island. 'Having fallen back from second into sixth during the run for the Scoring Gate earlier in the race, it would be fantastic to climb back up the leader board,' skipper, Olly Osborne, said, adding that the opportunity might present itself as the fleet encounters more variable upwind conditions.
Olly said that after rounding the bottom of Stewart Island at dawn yesterday, the Visit Finland team is now heading northward through a very different seascape towards the 'much-awaited' North Island.
'The big swell of the deep water that we have become used to is gone and it seems eerily quiet at times when the wind drops. The weather is keeping us on our toes too with the speed and direction changing rapidly. Last night we found ourselves beating into a gale and we are now ghosting along at barely four knots with our biggest sail plan up,' Olly said.
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital has emerged from Stealth Mode in seventh place and skipper, Gordon Reid, reports that the Purple Beastie is taking chunks from the rest of the fleet.
'We are chasing the breeze and seeking to maximise our sail plan at every opportunity. The crew is working harder than ever with all requests for sail changes being executed with perfect precision,' Gordon said.
'The cold front has caught up with a warm front and occluded bringing with it drizzle, rain, sea fog and light variable winds. There is wind out there and we are still moving and giving chase, whilst flying our spinnaker in a less conventional upwind configuration,' he added.
The flatter conditions have made life a little easier below decks and the Edinburgh Inspiring Capital team has been busy working through the list of the routine jobs ahead of their arrival in Tauranga.
On Geraldton Western Australia, Juan Coetzer and his team have had a 'crazy yet exciting' 24 hours with a plethora of sail changes and reefs.
'In that period we approached the continental shelf and saw the biggest rollers thus far creating some interesting surfing conditions,' Juan said.
'Close reaching in 40 knots and riding the swell at 10 to 14 knots just shows you how seaworthy and entertaining these boats can be,' he said, referring to the performance of the Clipper 68s which will be replaced by a brand new fleet of 12 Clipper 70s for Clipper 13-14.
Despite the wind disappearing forcing the team to switch to their medium weight kite in order to ghost along in light airs, spirits were boosted as the clouds lifted a little to give the Geraldton Western Australia crew a first glimpse of New Zealand.
Following their retirement from race five after a pit stop at Port Phillip Bay near Melbourne, Singapore has been taking a northerly route towards Tauranga.
'The last 24 hours has been much like sailing the English Channel or North Sea in autumn time with grey, humid, overcast skies laced with perpetual drizzle and occasional heavy rain showers,' skipper, Ben Bowley, reports.
'Instead of the wind being dead on the nose, it is dead astern, light and the confused sea state rules out the option of a spinnaker,' Ben said, adding that the gusty winds associated with cold fronts had demanded vigilance for rapidly shifting wind directions throughout the night.
Ben said that he hoped that tomorrow will bring more consistent breeze and a more ordered wave set to enable his team to hoist their newly-repaired medium spinnaker. An attempt today was aborted when a hole was spotted and the sloppy conditions raised the prospect further damage if the sail wrapped in the rigging.
The team on Qingdao has enjoyed a 'glorious sunrise and a nice 20 knot westerly' after a night spent in fog and drizzle. This gave Ian Conchie and his crew the opportunity to hoist their medium weight kite to make some good boat speed towards the finish.
'We spent the day conducting kite drills and we ended up this afternoon under our heavyweight kite. Hopefully this breeze will hold to see us past the bottom of New Zealand and on up the coast,' Ian said.
'Despite our lowly position [following medevac of injured crew member Jo Sandford] we have been receiving lots of support from our friends and family back home which continues to spur us on to the finish,' he said.
Looking ahead to their stopover in New Zealand, Ian said that although his crew accepted that it was unlikely to be their 'best rest', they deserved to be very proud of themselves given what they have dealt with on this leg in terms of wind, injuries and other challenges.
On Gold Coast Australia, Richard Hewson and his team have been experiencing the lull before the storm as they endeavour to protect their lead from the chasing pack.
'Very light winds have made sailing up the coast of New Zealand very interesting but also very peaceful and relaxing, but we must not become too complacent as a rather large blow is imminent tonight,' Richard said.
In addition to the weather information provided by Simon Rowell, the skippers are also picking up local inshore forecasts over the VHF radio. Richard said that today the announcer read out a forecast for winds of 45 knots increasing to 55 knots in the evening and 65 knots tomorrow morning.
'This is definitely the most extreme inshore forecast I have heard over VHF radio,' Richard said, adding that the winds were forecast for a location 150 miles ahead of their current position and just 50 miles off their track.
'The crew is now getting used to stowing gear ready for a storm as in these waters the drill seems to occur twice a week,' he added.
The local wildlife has been welcoming the frontrunner to New Zealand’s shores. In addition to inquisitive seals poking their heads up around the boat, Richard reports that Gold Coast Australia has been surrounded by no less than 20 albatross flying together, a rare sight for an animal known for its solitary behaviour.
With the albatross varying in size and species, Richard said his team suspects that they witnessed a gliding class in full swing as the young learn the fundamentals prior to heading down to the Southern Ocean.
Positions at 0900 UTC, Sunday 20 November
Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 532nm
2 New York - 604nm (+72nm DTL**)
3 Welcome to Yorkshire - 636nm (+104nm)
4 De Lage Landen - 643nm (+111nm)
5 Visit Finland - 666nm (+135nm)
6 Derry-Londonderry - 702nm (+170nm) Stealth Mode until 1800 20/11
7 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 780nm (+248nm)
8 Geraldton Western Australia - 812nm (+280nm)
9 Qingdao - 992nm (+460nm)
10 Singapore - 1,670nm (Retired) Position at 0600
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
If you want to link to this article then please use this URL: www.sail-world.com/90961