Clipper Round the World Yacht Race teams face extreme conditions
by Heather Ewing on 13 Oct 2011
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 fourth race from Cape Town, Africa to Geraldton, Western Australia is currently underway.
Welcome to Yorkshire races from Cape Town, South Africa, at the start of Race 4 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
The Roaring Forties have bared their teeth overnight and the teams have been experiencing the full force of a ferocious weather system bringing with it hail, ice and gusts of up to 70 knots.
According the skipper of Welcome to Yorkshire, Rupert Dean, such conditions take the focus from racing to 'holding it all together and ensuring the boat and crew are safe'.
'The roaring winds that we expected have certainly arrived with a vengeance, necessitating multiple sail changes in extreme conditions to keep matters under control,' he said.
Rupert reports that his crew is fine and in good spirits 'albeit a little cold'.
Gold Coast Australia has experienced its fair share of excitement over the last 24 hours after a dramatic kite wrap and the first snow of the year-long circumnavigation. Skipper Richard Hewson reports that he decided to drop the spinnaker after observing falling pressure on the barometer. As his crew prepared to get the huge sail down, the boat rounded up and the kite wrapped round the forestay.
'I made the decision to go up the forestay and attempt to unwrap the main twist that was causing the problems while the wind was still under 30 knots. Whilst up the forestay the spinnaker wrapped again with me inside it, forcing me to cut my way out and cut the spinnaker that was now jamming my halyards. Over an hour later I was winched back to the deck,' he said.
Despite another lengthy trip up the rig in building winds, Richard still failed to untwist the spinnaker from the top. 'After seven hours fighting flat out to retrieve what we could of the heavyweight spinnaker, the forestay and inner forestay are still not completely clear,' Richard said.
To make matters worse, upon returning to the wheel, Richard noticed that the team had been sailing due south further into the depression. The team has tacked and is now sailing towards Île de la Possession in the Crozet Islands en route to the Scoring Gate and hoping for a lee beneath the islands or a moderation in the wind before removing the remnants of their spinnaker.
This morning brought an unexpected surprise for the Gold Coast Australia team, as Richard reports. 'At sunrise I was called to the deck as a big brown cloud was approaching us fast. With two reefs already in the mainsail, there was no time to put a third in before the cloud was upon us, bringing 60 knots gusts and the pleasant surprise of snow,' he said.
After all the drama of the last 24 hours, Richard reports that despite the damage to their heavyweight kite and spinnaker pole, which might threaten their lead over the coming days, everyone is safe and well on board.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is heading up the leader board as they overhaul the teams with damaged mainsails. Like the other skippers up ahead, Gordon Reid watched the barometer falling and prepared his crew for the brutal conditions that lay ahead.
'We knew it was coming and yet we ventured deeper and deeper into the Southern Ocean,' he said.
'I gave the call to put in a reef and change the headsail, but whilst reefing the snatch block holding the Yankee sheet above the pole just blew apart sending bits of plastic and metal flying everywhere,' he said.
'By this time the wind was gusting over 40 knots and the Purple Beastie was screaming along at over 16 knots in a somewhat lively manner,' he added.
'Taking a sail down is such winds is no easy thing and several times we crashed through breaking waves sending huge amounts of ice cold white foaming water across the foredeck, drenching the crew, spraying the helmsman and filling the cockpit until the helming board was afloat,' Gordon reports.
Gordon reports that the extreme conditions have persisted overnight. 'Last night we felt the fury of the Southern Ocean, with our boat speed regularly topping 20 knots and we hit 24.5 knots on one awesome surf. In between, it was a constant wrestle with the helm just to keep her on course as the gusts kept coming for hour after hour some as high as 49 knots,' he said.
'Now we all have memories of adventure that will enrich us as people and enthral our friends and family for years to come and there still more adventures to be had,' he said.
New York is also feeling the full brunt of the storm, and this morning skipper, Gareth Glover, reported that his team was experiencing gusts over 70 knots.
'Yes, the roaring forties are roaring,' Gareth said. 'The low pressure came through late at night bringing heavy winds and squalls with some of them carrying hail and ice.'
Gareth said that New York has been in over 50 knots of wind since dawn, and reports that a big gust took out their wind instruments and ripped the spinnaker pole out of the mast with about a foot of track which wedged itself between the mast and the uphaul.
'So in just under 24 hours we have to add ourselves to the casualty list along with the other boats. But we have made up ground on the leaders and hopefully continue to do so before the Scoring Gate,' Gareth said. New York is now just one mile behind second-placed De Lage Landen.
On Qingdao, caution is the order of the day for Ian Conchie and his crew as they hear of further damage across the fleet as the Roaring Forties take their toll.
'Each time I think of increasing sail either the wind picks up or we hear of more breakages in the fleet, so caution and looking after the boat are definitely the order of play today,' Ian said.
'Finally we have seen the power of the Southern Ocean and even now we know she has more to give. The sea takes on an amazing beauty at times like these and shows us just what Mother Nature can do when she simply flexes her muscles. One thing’s for sure, we don't want to see her angry,' Ian added.
Overnight, as the wind increased to 45 knots, the Qingdao team found themselves hoved-to with a backed poled-out headsail. 'Luckily we managed to tack the headsail quickly to prevent any damage to the pole,' Ian said.
After a day sailing under their heavily-repaired heavyweight spinnaker, dubbed Sticky Vicky, the crew on Singapore has reverted to their more resilient white sails to cope with the strong gusts.
'As night fell we saw the barometer start to fall and the wind got increasingly gusty so Sticky Vicky was brought down and replaced with the Yankee 1. Before long the front had hit us and we were seeing over 40 knots of true wind with extremely heavy rain,' Ben said.
'The crew did a fine job getting the Yankee 1 down in rather tricky conditions and no harm came to my favourite sail. We started to hoist the staysail to get some forward drive but it was not to be. With the violent motion and gusting wind the sail managed to knot itself around the inner forestay halfway through the hoist,' Ben explains.
'There was only one thing for it, point the boat down the monster waves that were forming dead astern and hold on for the sleigh ride. We saw gusts of 50 knots at times but after much struggling we managed to get the staysail back on deck,' Ben said.
'I took turns at the wheel with the best helm on board all night, and we did not round up once. Instead we were treated to an almost continually planing boat,' he added.
'This morning sees us still charging along to the east, we have sorted the wrapped headsails on the foredeck now the sun has come up. I’m watching the barometer rise once more and anticipate us hoisting some headsail before too long,' he said.
On Geraldton Western Australia, Juan Coetzer and his team have logged a speed of 19 knots with two reefs in the main and no headsail.
The wind strengthened to 40-50 knots at midnight watch change, which was fortunate timing, according to Juan.
As the wind increased through the day, the Geraldton Western Australia team changed down from the heavyweight spinnaker, to the Yankee 1 and then the Yankee 2. After poling out the headsail, Juan made the call to get both the headsail and staysail down and opted to sail under the heavily-reefed main.
Despite recent damage to their mast track following a crash gybe, on Derry-Londonderry, Mark Light and his crew have managed to jury rig a solution which enabled them to fly their heavyweight spinnaker yesterday.
'We were flying it happily for a few hours until we heard a crack when the beak end of the pole broke for the second time this race and we were left to gain control of the pole and drop the spinnaker,' Mark said.
'As the wind built further, just before dark we put the second reef in the main and now the boat feels very fast and very comfortable. We also have a perfect full moon as bright as the brightest, fullest moon you could ever see. This Southern Ocean looks beautiful yet menacing all at the same time and it’s a real privilege to be sailing down here,' he said.
Positions at 0900 UTC, Thursday 13 October
Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 3,343nm
2 De Lage Landen - 3,429nm (+86nm DTL**)
3 New York - 3,430nm (+87nm)
4 Welcome to Yorkshire - 3,459nm (+116nm)
5 Qingdao - 3,468nm (+125nm)
6 Geraldton Western Australia - 3,502nm (+159nm)
7 Singapore - 3,559nm (+217nm)
8 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 3,593nm (+251nm)
9 Derry-Londonderry - 3,605nm (+262nm)
10 Visit Finland - 3,636nm (+294nm)
*DTF = Distance to Finish. **DTL = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found here.
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