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Clipper Round the World Yacht Race – Frustrating conditions

by Heather Ewing on 10 Oct 2011
Start of Race 4 to the City of Geraldton, Western Australia, in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 fourth race from Cape Town, Africa to Geraldton, Western Australia is currently underway.

'Don't like Mondays?' Gordon Reid, skipper of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, asks this morning. 'Come to the Southern Ocean you'll love every day!'

'The ocean racing team on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is made up of an international crew from all walks of life, different professions and a wide range of geographical locations, but the general consensus was that Monday mornings back home were filled with dread and trepidation,' Gordon said.

'But the team is loving this Monday morning as we watch the sun rising over the Southern Ocean, riding fast on the ridge of a high pressure zone, and it’s made all the sweeter by the fact we are still closing on the fleet at an outstanding pace,' Gordon said.

'Last night the moon was almost full with awesome stars in the clean fresh night sky. This is a magical place and we are patiently waiting for the forties to start roaring,' he said.

With the entire fleet now below 40 degrees south, they are now in the area from 40 to 49 degrees south known as the Roaring Forties, famed for strong westerlies.


Despite managing to regain second position from New York, De Lage Landen had a frustrating night in light airs, according to skipper, Stuart Jackson.

'It was a night with no boat speed, appalling visibility and water raining onto us from the damp sails - the joys of ocean racing!' he said.

But Stuart is upbeat about the forecast for the coming days. 'It looks like it should start improving soon with the northerlies, as everyone is itching to get the spinnaker up again,' he said.

Things are no better on Gold Coast Australia, where skipper Richard Hewson reports that in the absence of wind to fill their sails they had been 'drifting paralysed at the mercy of the Agulhas Current' and battling to keep a course.

'There wasn’t even enough wind for albatross to fly and their presence has been missed,' Richard said, adding that they had been joined by some large mammals whilst becalmed.

'Gold Coast Australia has been surrounded by humpback whales singing and occasionally coming to the surface to breathe. One of these massive beautiful creatures surfaced right next to the helm, breathed to say hello and then slipped silently back to the depths below to continue his journey,' Richard said.

But this morning his team’s fortunes have changed. 'At 0500 UTC I awoke to a very welcome call to come on deck as the Yankee 1 was ready to be hoisted. The albatross have rejoined us and Gold Coast Australia is once again alive and in full flight, slicing her way through the calm seas towards our homeland, Australia,' Richard said.

Times have also been testing on New York where the team had to cope with all the zeros on the instruments as the wind died.

'After working hard to gain places on the leader board we dropped down a place and saw that the yachts to our south west gained a lot of miles on us, so the mood was low to say the least,' skipper, Gareth Glover, said.

'Now after our team meeting with a few more knots of wind, New York is back in the race and crew has re-focused on chasing down Gold Coast Australia and leading the fleet into Geraldton. But we all know that with over 4000 miles to go, this race is just starting to warm up and lots will happen in the next few days and weeks to come,' he added.

On Qingdao, the crew has been focusing all their attention on keeping their boat moving.

'We’ve had another day spent drifting around trying our best to keep moving. Thankfully, lots of sail trim and some very good helming has allowed us to just about keep the boat moving in the right direction,' skipper, Ian Conchie, said.

The team has been taking the opportunity to carry out some maintenance and cleaning and spirits remain high despite the lack of wind.

Ian reports that although this morning brought fog, there is also a little bit more wind to allowing his team to get the boat moving at a reasonable speed and they were managing to make seven knots in more or less the right direction.


Geraldton Western Australia has also been grappling with light and fickle winds.

'Trying to sail close hauled was almost impossible with the mountainous swell. So we headed south and hoisted the spinnaker hoping for some more breeze,' skipper, Juan Coetzer, said.

'By sunset the wind had picked up to a constant 10 knots so we dropped the spinnaker and hoisted the Yankee 1 and headed east for an earlier sunrise,' Juan added.

'Frustration' also sums up the mood on Welcome to Yorkshire, as Rupert Dean and his team await the strong westerlies that have been predicted by recent weather forecasts.

'In the meantime we have been bobbing about, trying to extricate every last ounce of speed from our 40-tonne ocean racing yacht. With none of our rivals within visible range to actively race against, keeping focussed on the job for hours on end is proving hard,' Rupert said.

'Everyone is looking forward to the stimulus and positivity that comes with decent winds and the knowledge that we’re making good speed towards the finish,' he added.

On Visit Finland, Olly Osborne and his crew have celebrated crossing the latitude of 40 degrees south which marks the start of the zone known as the Roaring Forties, but as yet the wind has failed to blow, let alone roar.

'We have not been greeted by the famous Roaring Forties yet, although the sailing has been just as challenging with fickle currents and changeable winds to negotiate,' Olly reports.

'With barely enough wind to keep us moving through the glassy water, we have had to watch the other boats pass by us frustratingly close,' he added.

Olly said the last two days had been 'very taxing' with bizarre and inconsistent wave patterns and winds.

'No sooner have we changed a sail than we are changing back again. The sea temperature is much higher than that of the air so the hull is strangely warm to the touch, and the air has the sticky feel of residual high pressure. All this casts a slightly ominous felling over the days ahead, as we strike further south into one of the most remote places on earth,' Olly added.


Derry-Londonderry has started to make progress after what skipper, Mark Light, describes as a 'horrendous' 24 hours when they were hardly moving with sails flapping and frustrations building.

Although the lack of wind is proving challenging, Mark and his crew are conscious that they must be careful of what they wish for as they head into the Southern Ocean.

'There have been murmurs that we would rather have too much wind than not enough but we need to remind ourselves that we are not in any old patch of water, this is the Southern Ocean, and it is capable of dishing out more wind and waves than you could ever imagine,' he said.

'At the moment this is not the case but we are all well aware of her capabilities. It is definitely a case of be careful what you wish for,' he added.

After a painful day yesterday, things are looking up for Singapore, the boat snuggled in the middle of the fleet, after Ben Bowley and his team logged the second highest 12-hour run overnight.

'Today is a good day as last night the Agulhas Current became our friend,' Ben said, noting that their speed of the ground was registering 13.5 knots despite only logging around 9 knots of boat speed.

This is exactly the boost that the Singapore team were looking for after slipping into ninth place. 'This was the stroke of luck we needed to get us back in the game. For a while we were a little resigned to the fact that we were a whole day's sailing behind the leading pack and maybe that was a feat to far, but it now appears that we have little more than 100 miles separating us from the second placed yacht,' Ben said.

'We still have a big uphill climb ahead of us but the guys aboard have a very 'can do' attitude; and this fills me with confidence,' Ben said, of his Singapore team, backed by Keppel Corporation.

'Either way we’re all loving the privileged experience of sailing in the Southern Ocean,' he added.

The fleet is expected to arrive in Geraldton, Western Australia between 29 and 31 October.

Positions at 0900 UTC, Monday 10 October:
Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 4,067nm
2 De Lage Landen - 4,104nm (+37nm DTL**)
3 New York - 4,126nm (+59nm)
4 Qingdao - 4,132nm (+65nm)
5 Geraldton Western Australia - 4,148nm (+81nm)
6 Welcome to Yorkshire - 4,184nm (+117nm)
7 Visit Finland - 4,210nm (+143nm)
8 Singapore - 4,218nm (+151nm)
9 Derry-Londonderry - 4,229nm (+161nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 4,296nm (+228nm)

*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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