Clipper Round the World Yacht Race fleet complete Ocean Sprint
by Heather Ewing on 29 Apr 2012
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet is on the fifteenth day of race ten from Oakland, California to Panama. All ten teams have completed the Ocean Sprint and New York has emerged victorious to win the extra bonus point on offer for the shortest elapsed time.
The Clipper Race fleet left Jack London Square in Oakland on 14 April to start Race 10, to Panama - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race Abner Kingman/onEdition
Finishing the sprint in 31 hours 57 minutes and 56 seconds at 13:20:22 UTC yesterday, The American entry outplayed Geraldton Western Australia’s time to beat by 44 minutes and 4 seconds.
Overall race ten front runners, Gold Coast Australia, De Lage Landen and Visit Finland remain unchanged since yesterday with Gold Coast Australia lengthening the gap between them and De Lage Landen by 8 miles compared to the 0900 UTC position yesterday.
As the majority of the fleet continue to endure the rising temperatures and fluky airs that have stinted their progress in the second phase of this race, the Clipper Race Committee has provision for four additional finish lines.
With current winds forecast to diminish further, there could be a potential need to shorten the course, in order to ensure the fleet traverse through the Panama Canal to allow the fleet to reach the scheduled canal transit time in advance of the canal's planned maintenance.
Meanwhile, in the last 24 hours, Derry-Londonderry , Welcome to Yorkshire, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and Geraldton Western Australia have thrown their tactical dice and activated their Stealth Mode cards, where they will sail under the cloak of invisibility. In this race, the teams have the opportunity to play this card for a period of 48 hours, or two periods of 24 hours.
Emerging from Stealth Mode today Welcome to Yorkshire has maintained its position in fourth, and is struggling to keep moving as it breaks away from the rest of the fleet on a far offshore, southerly course. Skipper, Rupert Dean reports, 'As I write this Welcome to Yorkshire is bobbing about in less than three knots of true wind, making no progress through the water. Our light weight spinnaker is down for a minor repair and we are flying the wind seeker, which seems the safest option at present.
'It's been another stifling day with the maximum temperature recorded at 38.4 degrees Celsius this afternoon. Needless to say, operating in this environment is a major test of endurance and patience. Fortunately there is a two knot current pushing us in the right direction at present, for which we are extremely grateful. Now all we need is some wind, air conditioning, cold beers and ice creams.'
Reflecting on the race ahead and hoping for a place higher up the leader board is Edinburgh Inspiring Capital who will race in Stealth Mode until 0600 UTC tomorrow.
Skipper Flavio Zamboni, says, 'Last night was unusually uneventful and the start of the day was a bit slow, once again characterised by very light airs. As the day progressed, though, the breeze filled in and sailing became less frustrating and more enjoyable.
'After receiving a couple of position reports showing we were slowly but steadily losing ground to most of the fleet we have decided to change mode and sail tighter angles to the breeze. This decision is now paying dividends and we seem to have now regained some of the ground we had lost.
'Lots of thought and speculation is now going on trying to figure out where and when the race will be shortened. With the first three boats well established in the lead some of the positions are, in fact, still quite open and a good run to the finish could mean a significant difference in the final standings.'
If you look at the Race Viewer you will see that the teams occupying the bottom half of the leader board have less than 12 miles between them taking a similar course. Hoping to make gains on its rivals is Derry-Londonderry who is racing under its second period of Stealth in this race until 0600 UTC tomorrow.
Describing the conditions of racing, skipper Mark Light reports, 'On board, it’s the same as day 13 and the same as day 12 before that. There is a definite pattern evolving here,'
'We have decent breeze through the night and make good steady progress, with a nice cooling breeze over the deck. By sunrise the breeze reduced and we were treated to a spectacular sunrise. Within the first hour the temperature rises and any small scudding clouds on the eastern horizon disappear to reveal a perfectly clear blue sky.
'By mid-morning, typically about 1100 local time, any small swell has gone leaving just ripples on the water, the breeze has died off almost completely leaving just a breath of wind. The extreme heat of the day is upon us now and will stay for about three to four hours. This is the time when it is very hard to concentrate yet concentration needs to be at its highest the wind is at its lightest and is very fluky - good trimming and accurate helming is essential. Come 1700 local time the day is cooling and the sun lowering in the western sky. Now we feel the wind filling gradually and making the deck crew’s job much easier!
Mark adds, 'The ocean's appearance has changed also with more ripples and very small waves beginning to form It is such a relief to have a cooler deck and better progress along our route. The wind builds to a steady eight to ten knots and our boat starts to glide majestically onwards. We hold this happy state of affairs until about 0600 local time when the wind begins to show signs of deserting us, a new sunrise appears, and the heat of the day begins to show form.'
Cashing in both opportunities to race in Stealth is Geraldton Western Australia who will remain invisible until 1155 UTC tomorrow. In the 0600 report to the Race Office skipper Juan Coetzer describes the mood on board.
'Morning ‘Skip’ - here is a coffee; I think we need to gybe.' The sun was just starting to peek above the horizon, and the boat was set up, ready for action. As I took the helm to help with the gybe, about 50 dolphins came to play. This is how my day started at the office. The crew are in high spirits as we began our Stealth Mode today, all clean and showered.'
Winners of the Ocean Sprint, New York skipper Gareth Glover explains that the American entry is working hard to eke out extra miles over their competitors despite the flagging winds.
'The forecast for more wind has not come true and we find ourselves searching for more, we are making better speed then last few days but not what we were hoping to make and the lead yachts are now over 150 miles away from us and still pulling away. We are still racing close to Qingdao and was join by Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, at the moment it is hard to stick to one tactic as we are not sure when this race will end and it is very unlikely we will make it to the end without having to motor so we get to Panama in time.
Gareth adds, 'Keeping boat speed up as be very difficult for us as we sail near other yachts in the same wind they always seem to have more boat speed and all we can do is watch them sail away. There is still places to be won and loss over the next few days and we are trying to put ourselves in the best place to get more boat speed and pull into the top five yachts as there only a 50 miles DTF (Distance to Finish) in it, so our focus is on that.'
Currently leading the pack with less than 1000 miles separating them from the finish line Gold Coast Australia, has been enjoying their more favourable inshore conditions at sea, despite a hick-up with local fishing apparatus.
Skipper Richard Hewson says, 'Gold Coast Australia's day began with a fantastic feeding frenzy display of big fish vs. bigger fish. Sharks rounded up a large school of fish and attacked them with vigour as the school of fish jumped, darted, and swam away from their predators. It was a fascinating display of nature’s pecking orders.
'The wind picked up beautifully throughout the day as we raced down wind without our medium weight spinnaker up. Assisted by up to three knots of current at times gave us some fantastic speed over ground towards Panama .
'A beautiful sunset took most of the wind away, but the current remains and helps us drive our apparent wind to maintain our boat speed. Just after watch change a strange sound in our wake attracted our attention and it was not long before I realised that we had snagged a fishing apparatus called a long line.
'Long lines can be hundreds of metres long and float on the surface with large baited hooks left to drift through the ocean catching sharks, big fish and unfortunately sometimes birds as well. All hands on deck was called to drop the spinnaker and try to deal with the line now trailing behind, and after trying to untangle it from the boat we found that there was no option but to cut the line and re-join it so it did not drift aimlessly around the ocean. The entire process took almost an hour and cost us valuable time.
'It seems amazing that we have travelled so far around the world, and through so many fishing grounds in Asia and this is only the second line we have caught. We managed to get away this time, but the fish, shark and birds may not be so lucky.'
Chasing the Australian entry is De Lage Landen, who has re-established their IT communications in the last 24 hours. On board, skipper Stuart Jackson reports that the team has decided to gybe away from Gold Coast Australia in search of a better breeze.
As the teams draw ever closer to Panama, Stuart says, 'There is still everything to play for and they are confident of catching Gold Coast Australia up and winning.'
Also concentrating on holding on to their podium position is Visit Finland as they evaluate the possibilities in the next stage of the race. Skipper Olly Osborne, explains, 'The temperature is becoming noticeably hotter day by day now as we continue to follow the Mexican coastline southward, but it is good to be into some more consistent breeze and we are remaining focussed on a podium finish. The next stage in the race for us will be fairly important tactically as the coastline drops way from the Rhumb Line and leaves the choice between sailing fewer miles in a straight line, or hunting the elusive sea breezes inshore.
'For us the different choices of the two boats ahead will be a good gauge, and with any luck there will be an opportunity to pull back a few miles and keep in touch with the leaders. For the meantime however it is all about calling gybes at the right time and enjoying the sailing.'
After yesterday’s frustrations, Singapore skipper Ben Bowley reports that the team have had some wind up their sails in the last 24 hours.
'Today has been a little more positive as we have seen our distance to the boats in front slowly begin to fall. Focus and a little bit of luck have helped us to maintain a slightly stronger band of wind over the last 24 hours and we are keen to ensure that we do not finish the race in tenth position.
'I cannot even begin to describe the heat presently being experienced below decks at the moment. I would be fascinated to have a set of scales aboard to weigh each of the mothers before and after their turn in the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’ (the galley) on days like today. With the fridge working hard, two ovens on and a couple of pans on gas hobs the temperatures must easily be exceeding 40 degrees with fairly high levels of humidity; the result is two very sweaty crew members trapped below for most of the day! The blessed reward for slaving over a hot stove all day is a cold shower after sunset.
'This allows the mothers to return on deck feeling cleansed of their sweaty penance and ready to get sailing again! For the moment we are making good progress and hope that we can continue to erode into our rivals' lead and with a bit of luck claw back a place or two before the race is called.'
Sharing the Singaporeans speculations and working hard to make better ground is Qingdao. Skipper Ian Conchie, says, 'The only question on everyone's lips at the moment is when will the Race Committee call the race. Not because we want the race to finish but depending on what happens decides our strategy. Today for example Edinburgh Inspiring Capital came reaching down from the north giving them good boat speed and heading for the southern end of the next gate and if the race is called there they will be in a good position if it is not then they will lose distance in the overall.
'We have decided to just press on and assume it is not going to be called at the next gate so have sailed deeper heading for the finish. The light winds have continued all day and this morning we had to watch Derry- Londonderry slowly sail past as they has better wind than us for most of the
day. We keeping trimming and working to maintain our speed so hopefully we will get some lucky with the wind and make some ground back.'
The first teams are expected to reach Panama between 9 and 10 May, where they will await their slot to pass through the canal before commencing Race 11 to New York.
Positions at 1200 UTC, Saturday 28 April 2012
Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 995nm
2 De Lage Landen - 1008nm (+14nm DTL**)
3 Visit Finland - 1039nm (+44nm)
4 Welcome to Yorkshire - 1160nm (+116nm)
5 Qingdao - 1769nm (+174nm)
6 New York - 1179nm (+185nm)
7Derry-Londonderry - 1189nm (+194nm) Stealth Mode: Position at 0600 UTC 28 April
8 Singapore - 1191nm (+196nm)
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 1199nm (+204nm) Stealth Mode: Position at 0600 UTC 28 April
10 Geraldton Western Australia - 1249nm (+255nm) Stealth Mode: Position at 1200 UTC 27 April
*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