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Clipper Round the World Yacht Race fleet battle to keep yachts racing

by Heather Ewing on 25 Apr 2012
Welcome to Yorkshire at the start of Race 10 from San Francisco to Panama - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race onEdition © http://www.onEdition.com
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet is on the twelfth day of race ten from Oakland, California to Panama. Despite another 24 hours of light airs for the ten internationally sponsored yachts the teams are in good spirits and battling away to keep the yachts racing.

Three teams have now started the Ocean Sprint – a compulsory 90 mile battle with the fastest yacht gaining a vital additional point.

With fluky winds, Welcome to Yorkshire declared that they had commenced their Ocean Sprint at 13;22;26 UTC yesterday, but ended up drifting more northerly meaning they actually crossed the sprint start line twice, with the first one declared that counts for all entries. Gold Coast Australia followed at 18:07:10 UTC yesterday and second Australian entry Geraldton Western Australia at 04:38:14 UTC this morning.

Whilst racing in fluky winds is frustrating for the teams, they are pulling out all stops and strategies to keep the boats moving, whilst keeping spirits high with camaraderie and the fascination of the continuous wildlife that follows them outside the Mexican coast.

In his 0600 report to the Race Office, skipper Rupert Dean from Welcome to Yorkshire describes a split 24 hours.

'It's been a topsy-turvy world for the front half of the Clipper Race fleet, these past 24 hours. The first 12 hours saw Welcome to Yorkshire make significant gains on the fleet in general, and specifically our nearest rivals, Visit Finland and De Lage Landen to the east. Whilst we may have had marginally stronger breeze, most of this gain was due to the Welcome to Yorkshire team trimming their hearts out with the light weight kite. Our focus certainly reaped rewards and, for much of last night we had the first placed yacht, Gold Coast Australia in our sights. Unfortunately for us, the tables have turned and it is now De Lage Landen and Visit Finland who are in the driving seat. The gains we made have been lost, which is dispiriting to say the least.

'Despite the frustrating weather situation, Rupert is full of praise for his team, 'Ultimately all we as sailors can do is work with the winds we have in our area and try to get the best Velocity Made Good (VMG) towards Panama. Even this is not easy due to the very light headwinds coming from yes, you've guessed it, straight from Panama. These are giving us hideous tacking angles and consequently very low VMG. To illustrate how bad this is, we've crossed the starting line for the Ocean 'Sprint' (or should I say drift), several times this morning trying to tack our way out of trouble. Bearing in mind all yachts are required to take photos of the GPS and email Clipper Race Team when this occurs, the inbox at Clipper HQ will soon be getting pretty full!

'Whilst 'grumpy boots' is writing this a little frustrated at present, I would like to publically thank my crew for their sterling efforts over the past few days. They have worked their hearts out, remained cheerful and, most importantly, have never and will never give up. All credit to them.'

Crossing the Ocean Sprint line less than five hours after the English entry was Gold Coast Australia.

Skipper Richard Hewson reports, 'At 18:07:10 UTC (Tuesday) we commenced the Ocean Sprint, as we basically drifted across the 17 degree 30 min latitude in somewhat glassy conditions. The position of the crossing was 17 30.0north, 104 31.8 west. As we did not exactly have the best wind or speed at the commencement of the sprint we delayed notifying the race committee for the maximum time of three hours in case we found ourselves sailing back over the 70 30north on the other tack and would be able to re-start the sprint. Unfortunately the weather did not dictate such a manoeuvre so the start to our sprint was rather uneventful.

More up-beat about his day overall Richard continues, 'The day began with a beautiful sunrise as Gold Coast Australia coasted along under light weight spinnaker after a pleasant, yet sometimes frustrating night of jumping from wind patch to wind patch. Dolphins joined us for the sunrise making an almost unbeatable start to the day.

'Gold Coast Australia continues to battle it out with the front runners and stayed in the lead for most of the day. Thought the majority of the day we have remained in the lead, however De Lage Landen are making some fantastic ground further to the north east closer into the shore, and in the afternoon shed they had overtaken us.

'It will be interesting to see what wind fills in tomorrow, as conditions on the course are rather unpredictable. De Lage Landen is looking very strong to our north, while Welcome to Yorkshire threatens us from the west. At the moment we are trying to cover both flanks and race some more conservative tactics but if De Lage Landen continues to make ground on us over night we may have to review our game plan.'

Ending his morning report the Australian entry sends a special thought to their fellow Australians. 'Today is Anzac Day. A day where we remember all the Australian and New Zealand Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen who fought gallantly and have devoted their lives for the freedom of our country - Australia - Lest we forget.'

Third to commence the Ocean Sprint is the other Australian entry, Geraldton Western Australia. Skipper Juan Coetzer says, 'The last 24 hours have seen us doing several evolutions. Last night we dropped the light weight kite and hoisted the Yankee 1. Amazingly the wind picked up to 17 knots apparent and we almost put a reef in, but when the sun rose the wind disappeared all-together. So it was to be another day of drifting and searching for wind. Mid day we saw 10 - 15 pygmy killer whales basking in the sun, some were jumping as well.'

Moving up a place over the past 24 hours is Edinburgh Inspiring Capital. The Scottish entry has had celebrations on board – but for other reasons! Skipper Flavio Zamboni reports, 'Another 24 hours of very light airs, if any at all. We started moving again last night before dawn and we made some progress until mid-morning when we got becalmed again.

'Today it was Niamh Byrne's birthday so we spent most of the day celebrating it while drifting in, roughly, the right direction.

'Experimenting with the sail plan got us moving again in the afternoon and since then the Edinburgh Inspiring Capital crew has worked hard to make the most of this breeze. We're expecting more of this variable, inconsistent winds but, as long as we're moving, we're happy!'

Meanwhile New York has been spotting wildlife while doing everything they can to get their yacht moving. Skipper Gareth Glover says, 'Yet a third day of very little wind and today there was no sign of any sea breezes so most of the day was watching turtle's drift past the yacht which I have never seen so many of. You think they would swim away from us but a few swam over to us and took a good look before heading off.

'Unfortunately, as hard as the crew tried, getting a 35 tonne yacht to move in one knot of wind was past our skills – and now after a few days of low winds we just need some wind to keep us moving.

'Our tactics of staying inshore are still yet to pay for us as it looks like to the south the lead yachts have had some wind and now over 80 miles distance to finish from us. A top five place is still possibly for us and maybe a top three if we get lucky, so as before we will never give up until the end of this race.'


Also in the fighting spirit is Singapore. Skipper Ben Bowley explains, 'Today has seen a variety of highs and lows. For the most part, the day time was a fairly frustrating and tiresome, as we languished in a windless hole watching the majority of our competitors slowly pull away from us.

'We did however take the opportunity to try a variety of new methods of flying ‘Josie’ our lightweight kite. That, combined with seeing a great many turtles carrying birds upon their back, kept us from going mad in the boiling sun and creaking of flaccid sails and rigging.

'I had high hopes for our progress overnight as I wrote my previous update 24 hours ago but alas, it was not to be. We were forced inshore by south easterly winds last night and this morning found ourselves a little closer inshore than we would have liked. Spending the day trying to claw ourselves offshore again has been tiresome work! The reward for today's efforts? We are currently making a good 7.5 knots over the ground in vaguely the right direction and we have just been treated to a phosphorescent flyby of a pod of playful dolphins. On a moonless night they can clearly be seen glowing underwater leaving long glittering trails of bright emerald bio-luminescence in their wake. It is fascinating to watch the wavelength change as they pile on some speed to overtake the yacht. Seeing such clear indicators of a marine mammal in its natural environment is rather humbling when we consider how much effort it has taken to cover just a very few miles further down the world's largest ocean!'

Stuart Jackson skipper from De Lage Landen describes how the temperatures are changing the conditions below deck compared to the previous Pacific Ocean leg that feels like a distant memory.

'Quite a frustrating mornings sailing where we were still plagued by light winds and at times no wind at all. However the afternoon turned out to be much better and we have been able to maintain good boat speed and direction. At present we are around 30 miles off shore and we are being treated to plenty of sea life including turtles, dolphins and whales.

'The weather is starting to warm up significantly now and temperatures below decks are reminiscent of earlier tropical legs. Sleeping is becoming more of a challenge during the day and waking up sweating is again the norm. The clear skies at night are giving us the chance to study the star constellations, with the help of some handy apps!'

Also closer in shore is Qingdao. Skipper Ian Conchie says, 'Well we closed on the coast today in hunt of the breeze but one was to be found. But we were greeted by the wonderful sight of the Mexican coast. Unfortunately, we then say, looking at the same view for several hours as our speed dropped to under 1 knot.

'But this evening the breeze filled in so hopefully we will recover some of our lost ground.'

Meanwhile Derry-Londonderry remains in sixth position, but the crew are pleased with their progress. Skipper Mark Light says, 'Very slow but good progress made in the last 24 hours! We are very good as a crew when it comes to sailing in light airs and these last few days, although frustrating, have been positive for us. Ever since our ‘kelp on the keel’ saga, where we slipped from second to tenth place, we have been making steady progress back up the leader board.

'We have managed to pull away lots on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and then battled for a few days with Singapore before emerging ahead of them (according to the last position update) after their 24 hour stealth mode. We have Geraldton Western Australia next in our sights and we are continually pushing to get close and then overtake the boat immediately ahead of us.

'We have definitely had our frustrations as well along the way as we have endured completely windless patches, baking hot temperatures and even when the wind did fill briefly during this morning it was bang on the nose. We even watched as a dolphin....... no, wait a minute a shark..... no, hang on a turtle drifted by with a decent sized sea bird perched on its back. Banter and morale is still very high making this fairly arduous race very enjoyable after all it’s the people who make this whole race and on board Derry-Londonderry we have a quite exceptional bunch of individuals working together as a really good team!'


Visit Finland has moved up two positions, but it hasn’t stopped them from having an unusual competitor overtaking them overnight.

Skipper Olly Osborne says, 'It has definitely been a day of two halves for Visit Finland today with frustratingly light airs this morning and a much better run during the afternoon. We watched the sun rise over a glassy sea as we just topped the leader board after a good run overnight. The next schedule saw us in third at lunchtime as we seemed to have found a lull in the ever fickle winds, and ground to a halt with the spinnaker draped over the rig. At one point we were overtaken by a large turtle making its way south, and this is something I can say I have certainly not seen before!

'However, as the afternoon wore on we could see long mares tails in the sky to the north and sure enough a good following breeze sprung up as the sun set. It feels good to be putting the miles away again after a couple of very slow days and it is fantastic to be making good speed with the phosphorescence streaming behind in our wake. So we are hoping to stay with the breeze for as long as it lasts, and to make the most of it as the very mixed fortunes among the fleet continue to re-shuffle the positions with each schedule.'

The Race Committee is keeping an eye on the current progress of the fleet in the light airs in order to ensure it traverses through the Panama Canal in advance of the canal’s planned maintenance.

Race 10 has provision for four additional finish lines to accommodate the potential need to shorten the course and reach the scheduled canal transit time.

Positions at 0900 UTC, Wednesday 25 April 2012
Boat - DTF*
1. De Lage Landen - 1460nm*
2. Visit Finland - 1471nm (11nm**)
3. Gold Coast Australia - 1490nm (30nm)
4. Welcome to Yorkshire - 1515nm (55nm)
5. Geraldton Western Australia - 1528nm (68nm)
6. Derry-Londonderry - 1540nm (80nm)
7. Singapore - 1556nm (96nm)
8. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 1561nm (101nm)
9. New York - 1563nm (103nm)
10.Qingdao - 1566nm (105nm)

*DTF = Distance to Finish, **DTL = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found online.

www.clipperroundtheworld.com/" target="_blank">Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website

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