Clipper Round the World Yacht Race - Strategic battles continue
by Heather Ewing on 18 Aug 2011
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race second race in leg one, which started in Madeira and will finish in Rio De Janeiro, is currently underway.
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With the Scoring Gate points settled yesterday afternoon - Singapore, Welcome to Yorkshire and Gold Coast Australia taking three, two and one points respectively - the strategic battles during race two are continuing as teams aim to showcase their tactical nous in the race through the Doldrums and across the Atlantic Ocean to Rio de Janeiro.
'It's interesting to watch all the different strategies being played out, with the fleet now spread out east and west by quite a distance. We are sticking to the more traditional route and staying close to the run line,' explains Qingdao skipper, Ian Conchie.
'Fingers crossed we will see how it all plays out south of the Doldrums.
'We've had a great day's sailing, if very hot. We have been reaching with the lightweight spinnaker all day and night which set a new record for us with one kite up for 48 hours! Unfortunately the wind picked up a little and we managed to pop one of the seams which our sail repair team is now busily repairing. But some excellent sail handling saw us drop the lightweight and hoist the medium with the minimum of fuss and lost time,' continues the Chinese entry's skipper.
Qingdao will no doubt anxiously wait for Geraldton Western Australia's position to reappear after the Australian entry enabled Stealth Mode at 0000UTC.Two places behind Qingdao, in fourth, Geraldton Western Australia stood just 15 nautical miles behind the Chinese boat at the time of entering Stealth Mode.
'A day of decision making; which way do we go? We were stuck between two options. The result of our decision was to go into Stealth Mode. This is our make or break moment,' reports Geraldton Western Australia skipper, Juan Coetzer.
'Yesterday the crew had their first shower since Madeira, as a result morale is even higher. The motto at present is harder, fast, quicker,' continues the South African born skipper.
With the fleet spread across three routes Stealth Mode will become a valuable asset as the teams look to move up the positions table. Available only once during each individual race it allows each team to go 'undercover' for a 24-hour period in order to shield their tactics from the rest of the fleet. During this time their positions will still be reported to the Race Office for safety reasons but they will not be given to the other teams or appear on the Race Viewer.
Current leaders Welcome to Yorkshire, who picked up two extra points after crossing the Scoring Gate in second place, have moved their course from due south to south-east in an attempt to steer away from the lighter winds.
'We're feeling pretty isolated here. Most of the fleet has chosen to go east these past few days whilst we find ourselves committed to this course along the north-east edge of the Doldrums,' reports Rupert Dean, skipper of the Yorkshire entry.
'This approach to the Doldrums has been unlike anything I have experienced before. Historically I have found them better defined with far fresher winds at the approach and exit. So far, in this case, it has been mile after mile of hot, windless conditions due to the monsoon trough emanating from the African coast - tedious and very frustrating.
'To add insult to injury it looks like our western strategy will favour current backmarkers De Lage Landen and Derry-Londonderry. This is because by the time they get down to this latitude, the Doldrums belt looks set to narrow, meaning that they should sail straight through with good winds.'
However the Welcome to Yorkshire skipper's prediction is not shared by his opposite number on board Derry-Londonderry.
'The GRIB files all looked good for the old 'west is best' tactic to come through the Doldrums but after I checked the latest GRIBs today I am now not so sure,' ponders skipper Mark Light.
'The boats to the east look like they may sneak through with little trouble and after all our westing we may now find a large area of very light airs between us and the run to Rio - damn those GRIB files!
'A steady day and night as we continued on our westerly course but with a backing wind we have course has changed steadily to more south-westerly,' continues Mark, with his team currently occupying eighth position.
Joining Derry-Londonderry in a westerly course around the Cape Verde Islands is Dutch entry, De Lage Landen, skippered by Mat Booth.
'We plot the other yachts every six hours with interest. It's like a big game of chess watching all the different tactics playing out. It's interesting to see Derry-Londonderry have joined us on the western flank!
'We dropped the spinnaker as we met our first squall of the race. It was just the edge of a moody cloud but we still got around 23 knots of wind - far too much for our lightweight kite so down it came. We spend around 18 hours a day in breeze above 15 knots which is good; we're making slow but steady progress towards the Doldrums.'
Currently routing through the Cape Verde Islands and with an eye firmly fixed on Welcome to Yorkshire's lead is second placed Gold Coast Australia's skipper, Richard Hewson, who in his morning report warns, 'Look out Welcome to Yorkshire, Gold Coast Australia is coming!'
'While many other teams in the race may have been drifting through the night searching for wind, Gold Coast Australia have pulled some magic out of the bag and utilised the accelerated wind between the Cape Verde Islands, averaging speeds of over 10 knots throughout the night towards Rio,' reveals the Tasmania based skipper.
After undertaking detailed research into the local weather systems of the Cape Verde Islands even the Gold Coast Australia crew were surprised and thrilled to have speeds of over 15 knots throughout the night.
'It is hoped we will keep this wind for as far as possible as we make our way south but realise that there will come a time and the wind will die off. Hopefully by that time we will be in a good position to manoeuvre clear of the islands and head for some more wind.'
Joining Gold Coast Australia in routing through the island are Scoring Gate victors, Singapore, who have devised a system to deal with the increasingly high temperatures on board.
'Oh the heat and humidity is sapping the strength from all of us!' says skipper, Ben Bowley.
'We set our home made ghetto extraction system yesterday. Two large 150W cage fans, one rigged just under the fore hatch to draw cooler, clean air in from on deck; the other in the main bulkhead door, pointing aft to draw out the stale hot air and provide some ventilation to the crew mess area. The result is a five degrees drop in temperature in the main crew accommodation area, quite a result if I do say so myself!
'This however is a double edged sword for as the crew are cooler and better rested, the skipper is far more hot and bothered as the large power drain calls for the generator to be run more than it is not. This increases the temperature in the aft cabins and nav station by approximately five degrees! Still, I will take the hit for a happy well rested crew, they are much better suited to dealing with a hot and bothered skipper!' continues Ben.
Singapore currently find themselves third and intent on following on from their Scoring Gate success, but after initially deciding upon a route similar to that of current leaders Welcome to Yorkshire the Singaporean team decided to rethink their plan.
'We made a very radical last minute course alteration pre-sunset yesterday. Having decided after the Scoring Gate that west is best, we spent the day lazily running deep downwind to try and get round the west of the Cape Verdes. However, on further reflection with the new GRIB files and finding that the wind was dying away, we altered course to the east,' explains Ben.
'This has seen us make good progress through the night, and as you will see through the course of the day, enabled us to take the most direct route, straight through the islands. A cautious path is to be woven as all the pilot guides state that positions of hazards may be charted inaccurately.
'Fingers crossed our gamble pays off, so far so good though!'
Intent on snatching Singapore's third position are current occupiers of fifth place, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital.
'With the crew hungry to continue taking places and the skipper fuelled up on some very strong but tasty coffee, anything is possible!'enthuses skipper, Gordon Reid.
'Yesterday Edinburgh Inspiring Capital deviated from our intended route with a dash to the Scoring Gate, but unfortunately fell a little short in the points scoring. However we gave it go and we are satisfied and inspired by the effort we put in.
'Now back on track and with the spinnaker up, we are flying south towards where we hope will be a good spot to cross the Equator. The fleet is very much divided into some going for a westerly crossing of the line and other choosing a more easterly route. Only time will tell who has chosen wisely!'
Eager to secure a podium position in the race to Rio de Janeiro, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital have enabled Stealth Mode from the 0900 update and skipper, Gordon, also sent a message of thanks to the followers of the Scottish entry.
'We have been receiving some great words of encouragement from friends and family back home and we all genuinely appreciate their support for the purple beastie and her crew... so thank you.'
Meanwhile Visit Finland and New York, who decided upon an easterly course, have encountered tough conditions.
'The sailing has been quite challenging with the wind being fickle as it comes off the islands,' reveals Visit Finland skipper, Olly Osborne.
'The crew are becoming good with spinnaker work now and went through five kite hoists yesterday. We are almost within reach of the south westerly trades which will lift us onto a good course for Rio. I think everyone will be glad to see some upwind sailing and the cool breeze it will generate over the deck,' continues Olly.
'We are joined by a pod of large dolphins this morning which I do not recognise. They are black in colour and about twice the size of our common dolphins back home with a very blunt head and hooked tail. The crew have been mesmerised by them and the dawn is a bright pink colour today which may hold the promise of a more consistent breeze.'
In fact, after research at Clipper Race HQ, the mysterious dolphins could well be pilot whales, commonly found in the temperate and tropical waters the Finnish crew currently find themselves in.
Olly continues, 'A week into the race and all is well on board; we have settled into a good routine and are eating well. I tried some flying fish yesterday which was surprisingly good but a little bony and even better, have found an as yet undiscovered jar of Bovril in the galley for breakfast!'
Meanwhile further inshore are New York whose course close to the coast of Africa has not delivered the wind speeds the team hoped for.
'Well we are now officially in the Doldrums,' reports crew member Andrew Priest.
'We do not have any wind to speak of. We have been fortunate so far to have mostly clear skies on our run south from the Canaries towards the 10 degrees north latitude line where we expect to find fresher breezes once again.'
Joining Geraldton Western Australia in Stealth Mode at 0000UTC, the American entry's position will be hidden for 24 hours allowing the team to potentially spring a tactical surprise.
'Our course direction thus far has been very different from the fleet. Our hope that onshore breezes towards the western Sahara would keep us moving south largely is fulfilled so far as we reach the one third point of this race to Rio.
'But, as the Doldrums wraps itself around New York, beginning as the sun sets on Wednesday, the mood on the boat has noticeably changed as minds have started to wander to perhaps darker thoughts brought on by the brooding weather and lack of recent sleep.'
The ten-strong fleet have rolled the dice and will hope their tactical gambles will pay off across the rest of the day.
Positions at 0900 UTC, Thursday 18 August:
Boat / DTF* / DTL**
1 Welcome to Yorkshire / 2565nm / 0nm
2 Gold Coast Australia / 2626nm / 61nm
3 Singapore / 2635nm / 71nm
4 Qingdao / 2660nm / 95nm
5 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital / 2674nm / 109nm - In Stealth Mode: position at 0900 18 August
6 Visit Finland / 2676nm / 112nm
7 Geraldton Western Australia / 2699nm / 134nm - In Stealth Mode: position at 0000 18 August
8 Derry-Londonderry / 2722nm / 157nm
9 New York / 2746nm / 181nm - In Stealth Mode: position at 0000 18 August
10 De Lage Landen / 2767nm / 202nm
DTF* = Distance to Finish, DTL** = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found here.
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