Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race is the eighth edition of the biennial event. The race started on Sunday 31 July, from the historic maritime city of Southampton on the south coast of England.
Another night of light winds has continued to test the ten teams competing in the race. The tricky sailing conditions have been added to by busy shipping lanes and the depth of water in which anchors had to be dropped in order to prevent boats moving backwards in strong counter currents and no wind.
Having lead the fleet out of the Solent on race start day, Gold Coast Australia now find themselves in fourth place.
Skipper Rich Hewson, says, 'Gold Coast Australia has seen in the dawn of yet another day in the race making best use of very fickle and variable wind. A strong current was pushing us away from our destination but my decision not to drop the kedge anchor at this point was made easy, not only because of the 150 metre water depth but our course had us drifting straight through an old explosives dumping ground!
'The tide finally turned but this brought with it new problems, as now the ebbing tide started to take us straight towards a Traffic Separation Scheme. We could do little but maintain our heading at 90 degrees to the direction of traffic flow and work hard to ensure we did not go into the scheme or obstruct any shipping which was fortunately minimal.
'Once clear of the shipping channel, we started to pick our way back up the fleet. The lightweight spinnaker was hoisted as soon as we realised a small pressure system was developing close by, which resulted in light northerly winds. Gold Coast Australia is now steaming out of the now despised tidal systems of the Channel Islands, and towards Maderia, hot on the heels of the leading boats.'
Moving into the lead overnight were Visit Finland and US entry New York, both of whom opted to keep the island of Alderney to starboard, a good decision as this morning’s position reports have revealed.
'A bright and promising day with a promise of some thermal winds after another night of light airs,' reports the Finnish entry’s skipper, Olly Osborne. 'Visit Finland was one of the four boats to head through the Alderney Race late last night and we are now head to head with New York in a spinnaker drag race toward Ushant.'
Either side of Alderney are two of the most notorious currents in the world, The Alderney Race and the Swinge, so timing your passage is paramount. Get it wrong and you can find yourself being pushed in the opposite direction in up to seven knots of tide.
Yesterday morning New York were behind Visit Finland and Welcome to Yorkshire, but have fought hard to close the gap as crew member John Finney, a company director in everyday life, reports:
'The wind duly arrived early yesterday morning and with Welcome to Yorkshire and Visit Finland up ahead we set off in pursuit – it was great fun trying to squeeze the last knot from the wind with all of us trying like mad to get past Alderney before the tide changed. An extra bit of excitement came at 4pm as we celebrated Yorkshire Day with a gift box from the Yorkshire entry. The cheese and biscuits were a nice touch as we heard that the English cricket team looked well on top to beat India and become the number one cricket team in the world. And then it all went bad… the wind dropped and the tide turned when we were just off Alderney leaving us no choice but to anchor up in 46 metres of water.
'As the wind returned we had the chore of raising the anchor at midnight, what a slog pulling up the anchor was! Then we where off again, spinnaker up and into first position with Visit Finland on our shoulder.'
As the team celebrated their special day, the crew on board Welcome to Yorkshire has had to deal with a mentally tough 24 hours according to skipper Rupert Dean.
'From being in the leading pack of three earlier in the day as we approached Alderney Race, we now find ourselves among the back markers. For some reason I ignored my instincts and followed Visit Finland into the Alderney Race with the favourable tide. As a result, we ended becalmed in the middle of the Race, level with southern Alderney, while the rest of the fleet kept their apparent wind and flew over the top. As the tide changed, it rapidly forced us north with it until a helpful eddy off north-west Alderney allowed us to put the anchor down in shelter - a better option than trying to hold the boat in 50 metres of water in a six knot tide.
'Morale has taken a bit of a battering since our fall from grace. However, the challenges we have faced over the past 24 hours have bonded our team and the onus is now on to claw back the miles lost.'
Joining Visit Finland, New York and Welcome to Yorkshire through the Alderney Race was Scottish entry Edinburgh Inspiring Capital.
Skipper Gordon Reid says, 'Like the other teams, the Edinburgh Inspiring Capital crew are finding the light winds and strong tides a real challenge. After spending five hours with the kedge anchor down just south of Alderney in 45 metres of water, the good ship Edinburgh is on the move again, setting for a shy spinnaker and praying for the wind to pick up. Crew moral is high and we are still busy tweaking and arranging. Every cloud has a silver lining and at least we have time to continue to optimise this race.'
Opting to keep Alderney to port and risk the strong currents of the Swinge, Singapore, like many of the teams last night, found themselves also having to drop anchor.
'The last 24 hours have seen us kedge in some pretty interesting places, the top of the Swinge between Alderney and Burhou being particularly tricky,' explains Singapore’s skipper, Ben Bowley. 'It required over 250 metres of warp in 20 metres of water to hold us against the six knot tide! The extra stress came once the tide turned and started to suck us through the Swinge with barely enough wind to give us any steerage, pretty scary in the pitch black.'
The Singaporean team are currently in a tussle with one of the two Australian entries in Clipper 11-12, Geraldton Western Australia, who have also spent the last 24 hours dropping and raising their anchor.
Skipper Juan Coetzer says, 'It has been an interesting 24 hours. We dropped the anchor twice, just to stem the tide, last night dropping it in 65 metres of water. The anchor chain and warps length was about 150 meters and it was no mean feat to pick it back up manually.'
'I have a brilliant crew; they are enthusiastic and hard working and are willing to do whatever it takes to keep the boat moving.'
Whilst many of the teams dropped anchor off the coast of Alderney in order to hold themselves against the turning tide, skipper of Derry-Londonderry joined the skipper of Gold Coast Australia’s decision in keeping the anchor stowed on board.
'We were hoping to clear Alderney by the time the tide turned but Mother Nature intervened and the wind went to find others. We have been becalmed for much of the night and being in a disused explosive dumping ground and 80 metres of water, found that anchoring would not be clever. This race started with a bang and none of us wanted another one!'
Meanwhile, after their decision to take a more northerly course to the rest of the fleet, Qingdao has found themselves moving from first place to last in the space of 12 hours, but morale is high on board.
'Another good day and night on the purple dragon!' exclaims skipper Ian Conchie. 'We have continued to head west and managed to keep some reasonable boat speed all day. The boat is looking good with everything now getting stowed in the right place and the crew settling into the watches.
'This morning finds us again fighting the wind gods so we have dropped the anchor again to await the return of the wind. Lots of laughter around the boat and the media team are hoping that they may have won the prize for the first edited video!'
Each of the teams regularly send back blogs, pictures and videos from on board to keep race followers and their supporters up to date. You can read and view these on the ‘Follow’ section of the Clipper 11-12 Race website
. Positions at 0900 UTC, Tuesday 2 August Boat / DTF* / DTL**
1 New York / 1181nm
2 Visit Finland / 1181nm / +0nm
3 Singapore / 1189nm / +8nm
4 Gold Coast Australia / 1190nm / +9nm
5 Geraldton Western Australia / 1191nm / +10nm
6 De Lage Landen / 1192nm / +11nm
7 Welcome to Yorkshire / 1194nm / +13nm
8 Derry-Londonderry / 1195nm / +14nm
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital / 1199nm /+18nm
10 Qingdao / 1199nm / +18nm
*DTF = Distance to Finish, DTL** = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found on the event website. Clipper Round the World website