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Clipper Round the World Yacht Race - The drag race to Rio

by Zoe Williamson on 23 Aug 2011
Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race onEdition © http://www.onEdition.com
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race’s second race which takes the fleet from Madeira to Rio De Janeiro is now underway. Richard Hewson’s team Gold Coast Australia has taken the lead while Derry Londonderry’s skipper Mark Light curses the Coreolis effect.

'Yesterday was all about upwind sailing, with fluctuations in wind strength making it necessary to constantly adjust the sails to maximise boat speed,' reports the skipper of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital. 'There were plenty of racing headsail changes to keep the crew busy which are improving in terms of speed and efficiency every time they do them. From almost an hour to less than ten minutes, and next time, the crew assure me, it will be done in less than five minutes.

'After a challenging nights driving in some fairly strong winds the crew were happy for the skipper to take the boat for a spin. Driving the boat fast into sometimes sizeable waves, taking wave after wave across the bow, reminded me why I love sailing and what a great adventure we are part of. In the end the crew had to prise me from the wheel, I was in the groove and loving it!'

Having an equally brilliant time on board his boat is today’s birthday boy, skipper Richard Hewson on Gold coast Australia, who has just had the best birthday present ever with this morning’s position report.

'I was originally planning to be crossing the Equator on my birthday,' explains Richard. 'But what a fantastic birthday present, to be leading the fleet towards Rio and to be sailing in such fine winds. I’m sure this is going to be the best birthday I have ever had. I don’t even know what to wish for when I’m blowing out the candle… well perhaps an Open 60 sponsorship deal, so it better be a big candle!

'Gold Coast Australia has been sailing beautifully throughout the last 24 hours and feels perfectly trimmed with the standard work horse rig of full main, staysail and Yankee 2. Generally we are sailing at nine knots at slightly lower angles than the rest of the fleet, which should give us better speed all the way to Rio.'

Eager to re-establish themselves at the front of the fleet is the team on board Singapore but skipper Ben Bowley knows better than to risk further damage to their steering. As he mentions in his morning report, it’s all about the long game…

'Our major objectives now are to keep the pressure off the steering system whilst going as fast as we can in the right gear at all times. I desperately would like to pile on a little more sail and start to hunt down my good buddy Captain Hewson on Gold Coast Australia but have to accept that we need to play the long game with our wounded steering. Still, just under 2,000 nautical miles to go, anything could happen; the game is still wide open.

'Yesterday saw us heading straight at the waypoint and as the day wore on and the wind backed further to the south east, we were able to crack sheets a little for a nice fast fetch at about 9.5 knots. The only downside to this speed was occasionally running into a solid wall of water and, instead of the bows rising elegantly over the wave, they punch straight through sending literally tonnes of water surging down the deck wiping out all that stand in its way - something our nipper Josh (Cole) found out the hard way during a headsail change. No major harm done but he had to retire to his bunk with a nasty bruise on his shin and a couple of Ibuprofen.'

Holding a virtually parallel course with Singapore is Welcome to Yorkshire and, in a similar way out to the west of the pack, Derry-Londonderry and De Lage Landen are also neck and neck. For both the Northern Irish and Dutch teams, the wind has eased and the skippers regard the teams south east of them with envy as they are able to sail faster and more freely in stronger breeze.


'It’s been a pretty tough night with regards to progress,' reports Derry-Londonderry’s skipper Mark Light. 'After charging south and making very good progress through the Doldrums we are now hampered by headwinds. The south east trade winds are blowing across the Equator and being deflected to the right by the Coreolis effect (the rotation of the earth) therefore changing in direction from south easterly to southerly and even south south westerly.

This is not conducive to us getting to Rio efficiently at the moment but rest assured all you Derry-Londonderry fans that once the wind backs to the south east you watch us charge towards port with the speed of 100 winged horses driven by Neptune himself or a Clipper 68 at full power! Either way I'm sure we will hear you all shouting as HMS LegenDerry shoots up the rankings once again - just remember form is temporary but class is permanent!'

For De Lage Landen’s skipper, Mat Booth, the calmer conditions do have a plus side.

'The sea has calmed down and the wind steadied which has made life aboard more pleasant for all,' says Mat. 'Life at an angle can be quite difficult and some have found it more difficult than others, so the easier conditions will be welcomed.
'We're still tacking to get south where the eastern group seem to have a much better angle to the wind. Frustrating, but that is the card we've been dealt and we're pushing hard still. It might take us a little longer for the angle to free up and enable us to ease the sheets out and lay a course to Rio but we're still pushing!'

Also suffering from lighter conditions are the team on board Geraldton Western Australia who, despite having led the other teams across the start line of Race 2, now find themselves at the back of the fleet.

Skipper Juan Coetzer says, 'We thought we were in the trade winds and heading straight to Rio but the sun went down and the wind disappeared. We are now heading south again slowly in very little breeze. However we are taking the opportunity to do some boat maintenance and all is well on board.'

Further south of Geraldton Western Australia is Visit Finland and, although the team was enjoying the return of what appeared to be more reliable winds, the breeze has started to ease on them once more as team navigator, Tomi Lintonen, reports.

'Everyone has greeted the return of rather more reliable winds with warm thoughts. However, sailing close hauled means moving inside the boat, cooking and even getting dressed is getting harder as the boat heels over. In addition to moving the boat at good speeds, the breeze also makes the heat much more bearable both on deck and down below.

'The day saw us doing good speeds, better than most of the fleet, but the evening brought with it diminishing winds and corresponding sail changes. Lighter winds seem to accompany us for the coming day as well but having achieved seventh position within the fleet after being the last only 36 hours ago, we are hungry for yet better performance.'

Tomi will no doubt be studying the weather updates closely in the hope for better news, just as the skipper of Qingdao, Ian Conchie, reports he and his crew have been doing.

'Whilst other boats ahead of us are freeing off the wind for better boat speed we have to stay hard on the wind to ensure that we make it round the corner of Brazil on this tack,' explains Ian. 'It is close between us and the boats around us but we are pushing hard to get the best result we can.

'One strange thing worth noting is the lack of wildlife we have seen recently. We have seen a few dolphins and a small pod of pilot whales but that’s it. Maybe the dragon on the side of our boat has scared them off? Or maybe there just aren't that many anymore.'

Whilst wildlife sightings are scarce on board Qingdao, the crew of the Chinese entry and the other nine teams taking part in Clipper 11-12 will soon be entertained by a visit from King Neptune. Those who have never crossed the Equator at sea before will soon be initiated in the crossing the line ceremony as the teams pass from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere.

Positions at 0900 UTC, Monday 22 August

Boat DTF* DTL**
1 Gold Coast Australia 1877nm
2 Singapore 1889nm +12nm
3 Welcome to Yorkshire 1896nm +18nm
4 Qingdao 2046nm +168nm
5 New York 2063nm +186nm
6 Derry-Londonderry 2078nm +300nm
7 Visit Finland 2090nm +212nm
8 De Lage Landen 2090nm +212nm
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 2178nm +300nm (position at 0800UTC)
10 Gerldton Western Australia 2206nm +328nm

Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website

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