Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet continue on day 20 of race 8 from Singapore to Qingdao. Four more of the teams have arrived to a rapturous welcome in Qingdao after completing the race yesterday.
Meanwhile Welcome to Yorkshire and Qingdao are still racing towards China’s sailing city and, after languishing in light winds for several days, are now battling freezing northerly headwinds in the Yellow Sea.
'It's begun... the northerly headwinds that were forecast to arrive are here and blowing hard,' reports Rupert Dean, skipper of Welcome to Yorkshire. As I write this in the navigation station, my instruments are registering speeds constantly around 42 knots apparent, making progress only possible under a deep reefed main and storm sails.
'It was so different yesterday afternoon. Winds from the south east enabled us to fly our heavyweight spinnaker for a few hours, helping us to put a few valuable miles on Qingdao. Then the wind backed to the east north east, necessitating a change to the Yankee 1, before dying out completely last night and becoming variable for a few hours. As you can imagine, it was quite unnerving for the Welcome to Yorkshire team to be bobbing about with zero speed and little directional control, in less than 100 yards visibility with numerous ships and fishing trawlers zooming around. The situation moved me enough to send out an 'All Ships' message on the VHF, warning those captains who could speak English of our location and situation. Quite comforting, therefore, to hear a clipped English voice on a passing ship, outbound from Korea, assuring us they would keep clear. Coincidentally, we had spoken a few days ago, on our way past the east coast of Taiwan.
'After a while the winds gently filled in from the north east allowing us to make progress again, before backing to the north and increasing very rapidly. So much so that by the time we had changed from the Yankee 1 to the Yankee 2 and reefed the main, it was time to reef again and go straight for the storm jib!
'Temperatures of course have plummeted, as one would expect given this wind originates from Siberia! This makes for a cold and wet life on deck, so the watch system has been modified accordingly to rotate the crew more below decks. Roll on Qingdao!'
With just under 100 miles to go to the finish line Welcome to Yorkshire is expected to finish in the early afternoon local time tomorrow – approximately 0600 UTC.
Qingdao is expected to arrive in their home port on Saturday morning.
The team has had an eventful 24 hours on board.
'We continued to sail north in very light winds yesterday afternoon and as night fell so did the rain and fog,' describes skipper, Ian Conchie. 'At about 2200 local time we were engulfed by a large thunderstorm which drenched the whole watch and lit up the sky as the lightning danced around us, some bolts crashing directly overhead.
'Then at 0600 this morning just before watch change the wind picked up from 16 knots to 30 knots in about five minutes. Calmly and quickly we lowered the Yankee 1 and reefed the main. We then had to flake the Yankee 1 so we had room to hank on the Yankee 3 as we already had the Yankee 2 hanked on in anticipation of the wind building.
'As we started crashing through the waves I was called on deck to check the rigging and agreed with the crew that it did not look right (well spotted, James) so immediately we dropped the Yankee 3 and bore away to put the wind on the beam while we contacted the Clipper Race maintenance team to discuss.
'After several phone calls and checks of the rigging we established that it was just due to stretch in some of the wires and that it should be fine to continue, if slightly more cautiously than before, so we hoisted our storm jib and headed north once more.'
Meanwhile, the four teams who finished the race yesterday, Visit Finland, Derry-Londonderry, New York and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, have been given a noisy and colourful welcome to Qingdao.
More fireworks, drums, dancers, dozens of photographers, bouquet-bearing children from local schools and a red carpet to mark the way to the stage all contributed to the fanfare of the arrival ceremony.
Olly Osborne, skipper of fifth placed Visit Finland, commented, 'What an overwhelming welcome in Qingdao. What has been quite a gruelling few weeks of racing has really turned out to have such an exciting ending. It means a lot to the crew that the Qingdao people are genuinely pleased to see us. It’s very impressive.
'It was a very tactical race being mainly upwind. The choices we made earlier in the race probably weren’t the best in retrospect, so we were playing catch-up for a while. During the heavier weather we did quite well, sailing a more in-shore route that had a heavier current. So a good result for us in the end, moving up to fifth place after languishing at eighth for a long time.'
Derry-Londonderry’s skipper, Mark Light, is also happy with his team’s performance which has earned them sixth place, saying, 'I was really happy with the way we sailed. I’m very proud of my team, as this is probably the best that we’ve worked together to date. It’s good to have a decent result after a good result reaching the podium in Singapore. We did have some tough conditions, which were very bouncy and scared a few people but we handled it really well.'
Mark added, 'That was the first red carpet I’ve ever walked on! We knew it was going to be a good welcome here in Qingdao, but how fantastic. So much colour everywhere and they were so pleased to see us.'
Gifts of flowers, hats and scarves were given to the crew and the skippers were draped in yellow capes, a symbol of nobility in ancient China when it was worn by emperors and generals returning victorious from battle.
New York was the third team to take their place on the stage having seen off the challenge from Edinburgh Inspiring Capital to take seventh place.
Skipper Gareth Glover was also overcome with the reception, and said, 'What a fantastic welcome here – Qingdao has definitely put on very big show for us.
'The race has been tough at times. We had a strategy to start with, which meant we headed east to start with and then the wind went light forcing us to go west, while everyone else was unfortunately able to stay on course. So we lost a bit of mileage there and found quite a large wind hole so the frontrunners managed to get about 150 miles ahead of us. It was hard, but we managed to get that down to a 90-mile gap later on.
'We finished in seventh position – maybe not our favourite position to finish in this race, but I think the main point is that we are here safely. There are no injuries and the crew are all here now safe and sound and able to enjoy Qingdao.'
The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is known in China as ‘the people’s race’. The concept of people like you, non-professional sailors from all walks of life taking on the might of the world’s oceans, has captured the imagination of the Chinese residents and media. The race village in Qingdao will be filled with autograph hunters and people keen to have their photo taken with the crews.
Lloyd Cosby, one of the round the world crew members on New York, said, 'That was the most phenomenal experience. I’ve never seen so many people for a race welcome. Thousands of cameras, bands and adoring fans looking for autographs – one of the best welcomes in the race so far!'
Teacher, Michelle McCann, a round the world crew member on Derry-Londonderry, said, 'I feel like such a superstar and have never had so many photographs taken of my in my life!'
While her team mate, John Harkin, added, 'We always hear about this welcome in Qingdao, but it has been very overwhelming and really hard to take in. They were calling us heroes and it’s hard to understand what all the fuss is about and that they are all here for us, but it’s a very lovely welcome!'
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is the final yacht to arrive in port today and skipper, Gordon Reid, was rather taken with the yellow cape.
'It was absolutely fantastic getting into Qingdao. It’s been so overwhelming and such good fun – I think I’ll have to keep wearing this cape on board when we go!' he joked.
The team has put in one of their best performances of Clipper 11-12, which is probably not reflected by their eighth place result, but Gordon is in a positive frame of mind.
'We had an absolutely cracking start in this race and we picked the right side of the course going east first. It got quite lumpy outside Taiwan as the weather got rough. The largest waves felt like we were falling off a cliff in a double decker bus with no brakes – but it’s been fantastic.
'I’ve never seen so many fishing boats in the Yellow Sea in my life. I woke up one day and, as far as you could see, there were fishing boats everywhere, which was quite a challenge to navigate through.
'All in all the guys put in a fantastic performance and it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable race.'
The Clipper 11-12 fleet will remain in Qingdao until 4 March. Positions at 1500 UTC, Wednesday 22 February Boat DTF*
1 De Lage Landen Finished 1651 21 February (elapsed time adjusted for redress)
2 Geraldton Western Australia Finished 2328 21 February
3 Gold Coast Australia Finished 0143 22 February
4 Singapore Finished 0427 22 February
5 Visit Finland Finished 0834 22 February
6 Derry-Londonderry Finished 1015 22 February
7 New York Finished 1230 22 February
8 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital Finished 1415 22 February
9 Welcome to Yorkshire 94nm (DTL**+94nm)
10 Qingdao 140nm (+140nm)
*DTF = Distance to Finish, **DTL = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at online
. Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website