Clipper Round the World Yacht Race - Calmer conditions
by Heather Ewing on 14 Oct 2011
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 fourth race from Cape Town, Africa to Geraldton, Western Australia is currently underway.
Gold Coast Australia races away from Cape Town, South Africa, at the start of Race 4 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
The teams are enjoying a welcome respite from the ferocious weather of the past few days as they commence the charge to the Scoring Gate.
At the front of the fleet Gold Coast Australia is maintaining a comfortable lead in the calmer conditions. Richard Hewson and his team are heading slightly north to make the southern end of the Scoring Gate.
'Life on Gold Coast Australia is a little less extreme now the winds have abated and we are heading north. Whilst conditions remain a chilly seven degrees Celsius outside during the day and below five degrees at night, the wind has reduced and the ocean is no longer boiling with white caps,' Richard said.
Richard reports that Gold Coast Australia passed 34 miles to the north of lle aux Cochons (Pig Island) and later today will pass to the north of other islands in Crozet group en route to the southern end of the Scoring Gate.
'This is the closest we will be to land for almost half a month before we land in Geraldton,' Richard said.
Gold Coast Australia is now just 170 miles from the Scoring Gate for race four and Richard will have his sights set on bagging the maximum three points on offer. The first, second and third teams to cross the line between 40 degrees south and 55 east and 45 south 55 east will be awarded three, two and one points respectively.
Richard was back up the mast yesterday trying to remove the remnants of their badly damaged heavyweight spinnaker and checking the rigging following their monster wrap.
'When I was up the mast I took a few minutes to observe the fantastic beauty of the surrounding ocean. It is possibly one of the most amazing feelings in the world perched above the albatross and petrel with the boiling white seas of the Southern Ocean below. I took in the amazing expanse of beauty that surrounds us for thousands of miles in a land where in the past only sealers and whalers dared to travel,' he said.
After experiencing the full force of Mother Nature in the Southern Ocean over recent days, the teams will be studying the weather closely to ensure they are prepared for the next onslaught.
To help them navigate and stay safe in the notorious Southern Ocean, the skippers receive a daily weather update from meteorologist Simon Rowell, who skippered Jersey Clipper to victory in Clipper 2002. Simon has been commissioned to provide the skippers with forecasts, and he does this by analysing observations relayed back from the fleet and creating local charts from data available from the US National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Global Forecast System (GFS) model.
'The next depression seems to be going south of the fleet, but the skippers will need to be careful of the front as it's looking sharper than the GRIB files suggest, and the amount of precipitation on the 48 hour forecast indicates lots of squalls and therefore gusts,' Simon said.
'Before the cold front goes over, the winds will be coming in a northerly direction from the tropics, so it may give the teams poor visibility over the cold sea,' Simon warns.
New York has regained second place from De Lage Landen as they charge for the Scoring Gate, and skipper Gareth Glover is feeling upbeat.
'The repairs following yesterday’s damage have begun, the tunes are playing, the sun is almost shining, the bread smells amazing and cups of tea are flowing. The news of our second place has boosted morale even higher and it’s not far to the gate, so who knows,' Gareth said.
'In the last 24 hours the winds have been pretty fraught, increasing to over to 20 knots overnight. Despite the cold and wet conditions morale stayed high throughout the night as we surfed the waves and covered some good mileage,' he added.
On De Lage Landen, Stuart Jackson and his team are also enjoying a reprieve from recent conditions despite persistent cold.
'There’s more frozen rain coming with the clouds down here, so things haven't decided to warm up yet. Although now the low has passed conditions have improved greatly with the wind down to around 20 knots on the beam,' Stuart said.
'We still have a rather sloppy sea state from the swell of the low that passed through and it looks like conditions should stay pretty much like this for the next few days,' he added.
Rupert Dean, skipper of Welcome to Yorkshire, said his team has slipped back into fifth overnight due to what he describes as 'a poor decision' to run bare-headed after tearing their Yankee 3 headsail.
'Normally we’d have changed for another sail whilst we repaired the Yankee 3 and then re-hoist. Due to the strong gusty conditions, however, I felt the Yankee 2 would be too big a substitute, so elected to carry on running just with a deep-reefed main. The result was that we sailed with vastly reduced speed, handing back hard won miles to Qingdao and the rest of the fleet,' Rupert said.
'With 20:20 hindsight, I should have got the crew to rig the storm jib as a suitable alternative to the Yankee 3 whilst it was being repaired. Why I didn't do this I don't know, so I'm pretty cross with myself right now,' he said.
'This could be due to a general lack of sleep, as sailing downwind in this rough remote part of the world requires relentless concentration to look after the boat and crew whilst gunning for competitive speed,' he added.
Qingdao was the boat to benefit from Welcome to Yorkshire’s stint without a headsail but has since slipped back into fifth, albeit by only a mile.
Despite sailing in one of the most remote places on the planet, Ian Conchie and his crew have been within VHF range of Welcome to Yorkshire and a fishing boat.
'Just when you think you are the only boat for miles you are proved wrong,' Ian said, adding that he called fellow skipper Rupert Dean for a catch up and spoke to the fishing vessel to ensure they were not trawling large nets.
'You have to be careful with fishing vessels this far out, as the large commercial nets they carry can stretch for miles. After a quick chat on the VHF we established through the Asian crew’s broken English that they were using long lines which do not pose a problem to us,' he said.
Ian said he was later called on deck for a large ship of the port side that was not showing on AIS which turned out not to be a ship at all.
'I checked the screen as sure enough nothing was showing. I popped my head up and saw the 'ship' in question. I told the crew to keep taking bearing on it to be sure but that I was certain it would not be a problem for us. When they asked why I explained that it would not come within 250,000 miles of us as it was the moon!' he said.
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital has slipped back down to ninth after a brief stint in seventh place overnight, and skipper Gordon Reid reports that his team has been experiencing the 'full fury of the mother of all storms'.
'What a ride! I have never seen anything like it and I have sailed lots of places all over the world,' Gordon said.
'We’ve been taking waves that washed the entire watch on deck from the high side into the cockpit and knocking the helm off his feet,' he added.
Gordon describes the extreme conditions that his team has been experiencing as they eat up the miles towards Geraldton.
'We were free falling off the top of massive waves all night, one after another after another, the wind was gusting over 60 knots and at one time we were going so fast we caught the wave in front and buried the bow and half the hull straight into it at 25 knots,' he said.
'The whole boat was swamped and everyone on deck was washed into the cockpit. The cockpit was full, water pouring down the companionway and everything inside was thrown all over the place,' he said.
'Nothing like a bit of seriously scary sailing to make you feel the adrenaline rush of being alive - this is the ultimate Southern Ocean adventure,' Gordon added.
Geraldton Western Australia is hot on the heels of Qingdao as the most northerly of the fleet as they race towards their home port.
'The gusty winds make it feel like a roller coaster, but it has all settled down now and we’re making good progress towards the Scoring Gate,' skipper, Juan Coetzer, said.
On Derry-Londonderry, skipper Mark Light reports that the temperature above and below decks has dropped dramatically.
'We have an air temperature of about four degrees Celsius and when you add wind chill factors and lots icy cold Southern Ocean spray, it feels very cold indeed,' he said.
Mark said that helming is being done in shifts of 20 minutes to give crew the opportunity to rotate between being on the helm, on watch and down below to warm up.
'Hot drinks are a must and we have a large thermos flask down below permanently filled with hot water. Our generator is now run through the night now only to charge our batteries but also to add a precious heat source which has now doubled up as a drying room for gloves, hats and even boots,' he said.
Mark said that watches are woken earlier now to give them more time to get ready with all the extra layers required. 'One crew member went on deck last night with eight separate layers on and when I commented on the amount of layers she calmly said that she was saving the ninth layer for when it gets really cold. Welcome to the Southern Ocean guys!' he said.
On Singapore, Ben Bowley and his crew have managed to hoist progressively more sail as the wind moderates but with a few crew out of action with a bout of the flu, progress has been hampered.
'Right at this moment it would be perfect to hoist the heavyweight kite but I am inclined to wait until the next watch change when we have a full complement on deck,' Ben said.
Other crew members are struggling with the cold. 'Some people are also struggling with fingers seizing up whilst trying to hank and un-hank sails due to not having the correct kit,' Ben said.
'It amazes me that many of the crew did not realise just how cold it could get when the southerly Antarctic wind blows, numbing bodies and minds,' he added.
Ben’s top tips for kit for sailing in this part of the world are a good thick pair of wetsuit diving gloves and boots at least one size too large to accommodate thick winter socks without losing feeling in the toes.
Olly Osborne, skipper of Visit Finland, reports that a short break in the weather yesterday allowed his team to run the lower half of the main sail out of the mast track and carry out a repair.
'Two large sole boards made a good platform on deck to lay out the damaged part and by holding the sail in place by pinning it to the boards we were able to match up the edges of the tear fairly well,' Olly said.
With the wind forecast to build again, the Visit Finland team went for a combination of Sikaflex (waterproof sealant) and strips of sailcloth to close the tear quickly before the daylight faded.
'This system worked quite well and although the Sikaflex seemed to get just about everywhere, we were able to lay the strips on quite accurately, With the whole watch battling against the pressure of the wind we managed to roll up the loose sail and tie it in place to see us through the night and to allow the repair to harden. The wind built further throughout the night but when the dawn broke the repair was still intact,' Olly said.
During the afternoon with the wind easing again we ran the main back into the mast track and hoisted it to it's full height It was a great relief to see that the repair had worked, and even looked pretty robust,' he said.
'The focus for us will now be to regain our racing spirit, and claw our way back up the leader board,' he added.
Positions at 0900 UTC, Friday 14 October
Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 3,105nm
2 New York - 3,194nm (+89nm DTL**)
3 De Lage Landen - 3,209nm (+104nm)
4 Welcome to Yorkshire - 3,257nm (+152nm)
5 Qingdao - 3,257nm (+153nm)
6 Geraldton Western Australia - 3,272nm (+167nm)
7 Singapore - 3,334nm (+229nm)
8 Derry-Londonderry - 3,390nm (+285nm)
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 3,395nm (+290nm)
10 Visit Finland - 3,422nm (+317nm)
*DTF = Distance to Finish. **DTL = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found here.
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