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.
Today brings with it the onset of true offshore racing with eight of the teams clearing Ushant overnight and heading out into open ocean for the first time on this race. New York and Visit Finland are still battling it out in front but joining them, having gained ground over the past 24 hours, is Gold Coast Australia as the team works hard to regain the leading position they established at the start of the race.
'After a fantastic sail yesterday, and throughout the night, we are keeping the pressure on the leaders and are slowly winding them in by metres every mile,' says Gold Coast Australia's skipper, Rich Hewson.
'We had a fantastic rounding of Nividic Lighthouse and managed to hold the spinnaker up through the light choppy conditions. Once clear of the island, and with fresher winds, we held the spinnaker up until the early hours of the morning when we peeled to a windseeker to gain some extra height and move into the next weather system.
'The game plan has changed now the yachts are racing in open ocean, different racing conditions require different strategies - just like changing the gears in your car as you drive, Gold Coast Australia is changing gears to gain best performance on the race track.'
Trying to keep pace with the east coast Australian entry is Welcome to Yorkshire who, like Gold Coast Australia, made the decision to gybe south in search of stronger winds and a better wind angle to compensate for the tide.
'The race between Alderney and Ushant yesterday proved to be tactically interesting,' says the Yorkshire entry's skipper, Rupert Dean. 'All yachts were flying spinnakers, some sailing the direct route, with Gold Coast Australia and ourselves gybing south. Our strategy worked quite well and we made some miles up whilst charging along in flat water and doing our first peel of the campaign, from light to heavyweight kite.
'Fortunately we were able to take the last of the favourable tide around Ushant to get into the Bay of Biscay, before the wind backed to the south west.'
Also able to make it round Ushant before the wind and tide changed direction was the blue-hulled entry of De Lage Landen.
'We have had some fantastic sailing in the last 24 hours,' says skipper Mat Booth. 'Initially, as the wind filled in, we hoisted the lightweight spinnaker before peeling later in the day to our medium as the wind increased,
'Last night our sole mission was to make the tidal gate around Ushant and we made it! So the romp south begins as we enter the Bay of Biscay.
'The guys are pushing the boat hard and are intent on catching up Geraldton Western Australia and Singapore who are only a few miles ahead of us. It never fails to amaze how close these yachts are matched. Here we are after three days racing with four other yachts in sight!'
As De Lage Landen chases down the boats ahead and has clearly enjoyed the recent champagne sailing conditions, things have been a little more tiring on board Singapore with skipper Ben Bowley beginning his report by saying, 'If this morning's report makes little sense it is because I have been up all night playing with spinnakers, frustratingly with very little beneficial effect!
'We were one of the first in the fleet to hoist our lightweight kite and this set us up well, enabling us to draw away from the middle of the pack for a while,' continues Ben. 'Soon all the yachts had followed suit and we settled in for some good trimming practice, trying to ensure we kept the kite pulling in very light conditions. On seeing Geraldton Western Australia (our nearest rivals that morning) blow a halyard and drop well back I felt it was time to catch up on some of the sleep lost during prep week. This may have been a bad decision as when I returned on deck a few hours later WA team had overtaken us! More spinnaker trim coaching required it seems...
'As the afternoon wore on we were able to just claw back ahead of Geraldton Western Australia and keep them fractionally astern until we rounded Ushant late last night.'
As Ben points out in his report, things have not been going well on board the Western Australian entry.
'An incident filled day on Geraldton Western Australia' says skipper, Juan Coetzer. 'A chafing halyard brought down the lightweight spinnaker which was recovered, luckily still in one piece, and quickly replaced with the medium weight. A couple of trips up the mast were needed to replace the halyard - a reminder that 'chafing is the enemy'. The crew learned another lesson later in the day when a spinnaker pole nearly went overboard during a gybe - it will slip off the boat if it is not attached!'
Unlike Geraldton Western Australia, most of the teams enjoyed a great day of sailing yesterday which has raised spirits following the previous 24 hours of fickle winds and strong counter currents. However, building winds and a change in wind direction can bring with it the risk of damage to the team's precious spinnaker sails, something skipper Mark Light is all too aware of.
'Blue skies, flat seas, light winds and flying our lightweight spinnaker all day - it was all very tactical,' explains Derry-Londonderry's skipper. 'As we approached Ushant the wind built steadily and backed. As the prospect of employing the bosun to test drive our sewing machine was not very appealing to me we dropped our kite and returned to white sails and rounded comfortably. We're now heading due South at 5 knots into a light south westerly wind - here's hoping the Bay of Biscay will be kind to us!'
The Bay of Biscay has a notorious reputation but for the last three editions of the Clipper Race it has not barred it's teeth nor shown it's claws as the teams have raced over a stretch of water resembling more of a mill pond. It appears that Clipper 11-12 will be no exception according to this morning's report from New York crew member, John
Finney: 'Morale is high on New York as another dawn lights the eastern sky and we see the Bay of Biscay in daylight for the first time on this race.
Despite its fearsome reputation, the sea state is slight with a steady breeze helping push us down the French coast.
'Our Happy Hour yesterday - around noon when the two day shifts swap over and a chance for crew to air any stirring grievances - saw Lloyd warn us all of his dislike of teeth brushing in the galley sink (fair enough) and Roberto, our Bosun, remind us to put back his tools after any daily repair work. On a boat, maintenance is daily - a floating Forth Road Bridge, where once you have finished any job it is pretty much time to start doing it again!'
New York's closest rivals in the race so far have also been enjoying champagne sailing conditions as they head south, but as the wind turns light again it's all about the trimming according to the team's skipper Olly Osborne.
'Sunrise sees us striking south towards Cape Finistere with New York still in our sights. A game of light airs trimming and careful steering at the moment but it is good to be getting into deeper water.'
Whilst fortune has smiled on the Finnish entry, things haven't gone so well for the Scottish team on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, but this hasn't stopped the crew giving it their all to keep the boat moving.
'Edinburgh Inspiring Capital continues to do battle with the fickle winds and strong adverse tides as we make our way south towards Ushant and the Bay of Biscay,' says skipper Gordon Reid. 'Mainsail in, mainsail out, Yankee 1 up and down, windseekers up and down, peeling to lightweight spinnaker, gybing spinnaker to port then starboard, it's all happening in a valiant effort to keep the good ship Edinburgh moving towards Madeira.'
The crew on board Qingdao has also been working hard to keep their boat moving, but whilst most of the teams were able round Ushant before the tide changed, the Chinese entry wasn't so fortunate.
'At anchor again!' exclaims skipper Ian Conchie. 'We had our best days sailing of the race yesterday. The wind finally filled in and we reached south, first under the lightweight kite and then peeling to the medium as darkness fell. Unfortunately the wind dropped this morning just 20 miles from Ushant! Another piece of extreme anchoring this time in 106m of water!
'So we're waiting for the wind to build and tide to change so we can continue to head south.' Positions at 0900 UTC, Wednesday 3 August Boat / DTF* / DTL**
1 New York / 1022nm
2 Visit Finland / 1023nm / +2nm
3 Gold Coast Australia / 1024nm / +3nm
4 Singapore / 1035nm / +13nm
5 Geraldton Western Australia / 1038nm / +16nm
6 Derry-Londonderry / 1038nm / +17nm
7 De Lage Landen / 1040nm / +18nm
8 Welcome to Yorkshire / 1044nm / +23nm
9 Qingdao / 1109nm / +87nm
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital / 1109nm / +87nm NB – position at 0800 UTC
*DTF = Distance to Finish, DTL** = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found here
. Clipper Round the World website