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Clipper Round the World Yacht Race – Frustrating conditions

by Heather Ewing on 13 Sep 2011
The Clipper 11-12 fleet with Corcovado in the background ahead of the start of Race 3 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race Daniel Zeppe/onEdition
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-2012 third race, from Rio De Janeiro in Brazil to Cape Town, is currently underway. Light airs across the fleet are hampering progress as the ten teams battle for position in frustrating conditions en route to Cape Town.

Stuart Jackson and his crew on De Lage Landen have managed to hold onto the lead despite the disappearance of the wind overnight.

'After a great day’s sailing making good mileage in the sunshine we are now rolling around with sails slapping back and forth under a full moon,' Stuart said.

'We expected the wind to decrease and veer, which it has done, but it's just a little lighter than expected, so we now have to hope that the more southerly boats haven't escaped unscathed, wishful thinking I'm sure!' Stuart added.

But De Lage Landen’s hopes are well-founded as the whole fleet is experiencing the same frustrating conditions.

The boats that have opted for a southerly route in the hope that they would pick up the wind first are still waiting for their tactics to reap rewards.

Gold Coast Australia has logged a 12-hour run of just 39 miles and skipper Richard Hewson said his hopes of reaching the wind first have yet to be realised.

When Gold Coast Australia hoisted their medium weight spinnaker yesterday, the team hoped that it would be the run they had been searching for to lead them into the strong winds of the South Atlantic.

'Two hours later our hopes were destroyed, as the wind first backed around 40 degrees and then died altogether. As we drifted without wind we watched helplessly on Gold Coast Australia as our nearest rivals, Singapore, only miles to the east, picked up some breeze and sailed across the horizon and away,' Richard said.

As the boats roll aimlessly in the Atlantic swell, the sound of flogging sails is becoming familiar to the teams as they try to keep their boats moving in the wind hole.

'For hours now we have been stopped still in the water. The rolling swell of the South Atlantic has been rocking the boat and knocking the slightest bits of wind that pass over our deck out of the sails preventing them from propelling us forward. The swell passes and the sails invert, cracking like a whip as the boat rolls the other way,' Richard reports.


On Visit Finland, the team is focused on catching the current leaders, De Lage Landen and skipper Olly Osborne is all too aware that light airs can often lead to a reshuffle on the leader board. According to Olly, his crew has had to work even harder than ever to keep their 40-tonne Clipper 68 moving towards Cape Town in the light, fickle winds.

'There are significant gains to be made for the teams who are the most focused in these conditions. Good trim is essential as well as plenty of head scratching on the skipper’s part as we try to devise the most effective sail plan. Greg said to me earlier 'I wasn't expecting to use the wind seeker on this leg!' And I don't think I was either but right now every last metre counts,' Olly said.

On Welcome to Yorkshire, skipper Rupert Dean said the frustration of being becalmed is tempered by the knowledge that the rest of the fleet is in the same situation.

'Slat, slat, slat - that's the sound of under-powered sails moving lifelessly from side to side as Welcome to Yorkshire bobs on the ocean swell like a lame duck. It's a sound and motion no sailor likes to experience, bringing frustration to all and considerable wear and tear on the sails, particularly the main,' Rupert said.

'The challenge for us now is to maintain our focus, trim the wind seeker like mad and be patient. Strategically we're not in a bad position, being mid fleet in terms of position and our distance to the finish, but a dose of lady luck would be very welcome right now,' he added

'Yachts to the south of the fleet should be in the best position to get these winds first and their southern strategy looks set to pay off handsomely in the near future,' Rupert said.

On Geraldton Western Australia there is no sign of the breeze and progress has been painfully slow, with skipper Juan Coetzer reporting that his team only managed to log 0.1nm in the hour prior to him filing his report this morning.

'We are sitting in a large wind hole and one minute the wind is coming from the west, then the south, even from the north at times. We’re hoping that when the sun comes up, the wind wakes up too. However, I know the common saying is to be careful what you wish for, and when this front comes, it’s going to be an exciting sleigh ride.'

Meanwhile, Juan and his team are grasping the opportunity to clean up the boat and do some maintenance on board.

'The morale is high, with lots of laughing and joking. The crew understands that ocean racing is about being in the right area and playing for long term goals. So for now it’s back to trim, trim, trim and the wheel of fortune,' Juan said.


The Qingdao team, currently in third place, is trying to push south east despite the lack of wind and flogging sails.

'We had a nature day yesterday with turtles, whales and even a spot of fishing. Dave, our intrepid fisherman (who has yet to catch a fish), had two bites yesterday but unfortunately on both occasions the fish managed to break the line,' reports Qingdao skipper Ian Conchie.

For the Clipper 11-12 teams, the stopover in Rio provided an opportunity to restock provisions onboard. For the crew members tasked with the responsibility of victualling, language can present problems as common foodstuffs can be mistaken for others as the crew of Qingdao has discovered.

'The packets of yeast we bought in Rio have turned out not to be yeast but rather baking powder! So we are hoping we have enough left over from Leg 1 to make enough bread to get us to Cape Town,' Ian said.

On New York, crew member and wine sales consultant Lisa Perkin who has joined the team in Rio de Janeiro, reports that she has adapted to life on board.

'I've managed to get through some sea sickness and my first round of mother duty. Whilst on mother watch we get a very welcome downtime of 12 hours which has helped me to become more functioning on board,' she said, adding that highlights of the day on board included freshly baked bread and apple pie, some 'great tunes on deck' and a movie night for those off watch.

'As we sail further and further away from Rio and closer and closer to Cape Town, talk on board is changing to what our next destination will bring and excitement is building for what it will be like to sail into Cape Town. I'm personally looking forward to seeing that first glimpse of Table Mountain and rounding the breakwater to see familiar faces on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront,' Lisa said.

In their southerly position along with Gold Coast Australia, Singapore has been trying a variety of sail combinations as the team battles with light airs, confused swell and wind shifts up to 60 degrees.

'For a short while we had the light kite up and were making good progress in the direction we wanted but only for about five minutes. The confused swell only added to the frustration and in the end we opted to keep to white sails for safety and just drift in the right general direction,' skipper Ben Bowley said.

But Ben suspected that things were looking up this morning. 'As I write now the wind has just started to fill in from the north west and fingers crossed it will hold steady enough for us to launch the kite on port gybe. This should enable us to capitalise on being to the south and start to make progress toward the Scoring Gate,' Ben reported.

In the light airs crews have been honing their skills at trimming and helming in light airs. On Edinburgh Inspiring Capital the crew managed the keep their boat moving until the wind died completely overnight leaving them in a 'close quarters drift' with New York.

But conditions have improved this morning, according to Gordon. 'As the morning watch awoke they had a hearty, low-GI breakfast of porridge for lots of energy. Then the wind eventually settled and increased, allowing us to gybe and set for a nice deep spinnaker run. Fingers crossed that we remain in this elusive wind band.'

The Scottish team has taken advantage of the lack of wind to some running repairs on board. 'On the good ship Edinburgh Inspiring Capital every cloud has a silver lining and the light winds have allowed us to crack on with our list of jobs. The crew is becoming very fond of the purple beastie and likes to look after her well. It's great to see such enthusiasm,' Gordon said.


On Derry-Londonderry skipper Mark Light is reflecting on the evolution of ocean yacht racing since Clipper Chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to sail solo and non-stop round the world in 1969. Mark and his team are acting as ambassadors for Derry-Londonderry around the world and are carrying a range of bright pink kit to promote the brand of the UK City of Culture 2013.

'I know that on Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s first voyage around the world he carried countless tins of bully beef and numerous bottles of whisky. Well we have 52 pink grass skirts, lots of home made pink woolly hats, music by the Pogues and 8000 'You've been LegenDerry'd!' stickers. Oh and let’s not forget the pink sunnies, Brazilian carnival headgear, an ice maker and pink fluffy dice!' Mark said.

'This Clipper Round the World Race is all about the people. Throw in a fast boat, some fantastic places around the world and amazing sailing conditions and you have the perfect adventure,' he said.

The fleet is expected to arrive in Cape Town between 26 and 29 September where they will be berthed at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront until the start of Leg 3 to Geraldton in Western Australia on 5 October.

Positions at 0900 UTC, Tuesday 13 September
Boat - DTF*
1 De Lage Landen - 2877nm
2 Visit Finland - 2881nm (+4nm DTL**)
3 Qingdao - 2888nm (+11nm)
4 Derry-Londonderry - 2902nm (+25nm)
5 Welcome to Yorkshire - 2904nm (+27nm)
6 Singapore - 2913nm (+36nm)
7 Gold Coast Australia - 2920nm (+43nm)
8 New York - 2927nm (+50nm)
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 2932nm (+55nm)
10 Geraldton Western Australia - 2946nm (+69nm)

DTF* = Distance to Finish. DTL** = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found here.

www.clipperroundtheworld.com" target="_blank">Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website

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