Clipper Round the World Yacht Race second race in leg one, which started in Madeira and will finish in Rio De Janeiro, is currently underway.
'As we crossed the Equator, we were sure that the move south was more psychological than practical,' explains New York watch leader Andrew Priest, as the American entry joins Gold Coast Australia, Singapore and Welcome to Yorkshire in the Southern Hemisphere.
'Last night around 0200 boat time or 0300 UK time, New York finally crossed the Equator. Our switch to the Southern Hemisphere came as we changed watches meaning everyone was on deck and able to cheer as the dial ticked down the final few minutes of the final northerly degree,' continues Andrew, with New York placed in fourth keen to reduce Welcome to Yorkshire’s lead in third.
'The Equator has been a psychological goal for the crew for the last few days, ever since we left our position off Dakar to head south westerly and a goal which kept us focused during long, windless days in the Doldrums. We now do believe it exists!'
The next target for the teams after crossing the Equator will be the first Ocean Sprint of the Clipper 11-12 Race. Positioned between 5 degrees south and 10 degrees south, the team with the shortest elapsed time between the two points will receive one scoring point, which could prove the difference between podium positions in the overall race.
The first team to begin the Ocean Sprint are leaders Gold Coast Australia, who passed across the 5 degree south point at 0504UTC this morning.
'For the hours prior to passing through the first Ocean Sprint point, we had passed through a number of isolated weather systems that were rather confused and fluky. The team did a really good job steering through the changing wind direction and altering the sail trip to suit the varying wind strengths that was ranging from two to 30 knots within minutes of each other,' reports skipper, Richard Hewson.
'Minutes before we reached the Ocean Sprint, the wind resumed consistency and backed to the east, so now we have perfect conditions to win the sprint. One crew member light heartedly likened the fluky winds prior to the gate to doing windmills to warm up, or at one stage, like putting your socks on the wrong feet just prior to a running race.
'So now the wind is steady, and we are sprinting along at some ten knots over ground and I’m about to go back to bed after only an hours sleep all night before the wind started to dance.'
Meanwhile on board Visit Finland, skipper Olly Osborne is predicting a lunchtime crossing of the Equator.
'It would seem the wind gods are smiling upon us at last!
'The last couple of days have seen the mid pack boats jostling for position as we near the crucial point at which each team must decide whether they have enough easterly distance in the bank. A good interpretation of the weather files is essential to be in the right position to make the long curving port tack which will carry them clear of the north Brazilian coast and into the final part of the journey. Too far east and you will have covered unnecessary miles, but too far west and you will bump into the coast and be left with an upwind beat on your hands,' explains the Finnish entry’s skipper.
Placed just 56 nautical miles behind fourth placed New York, Olly and his crew are focused on improving their position after gaining a place over Qingdao.
'The wind has shifted recently and has been what the port tack boats have been waiting for, and we are now striking south as fast as possible to make the most of it. In some respects this race has been a case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer until now, as the lead boats pull away into the more favourable beam winds. Although the recent scheds might suggest that they too are facing a new challenge further south.
'It is a refreshing thought to think that it is all still to play for in this race, with over a thousand miles to go and some challenging conditions ahead, it really isn't over until the fat Santa sings!'
Expecting to cross into the Southern Hemisphere this evening is Dutch entry De Lage Landen, whose crew will have double celebration on board as Brazilian crew member Jose Campos enjoys his birthday on the way to his home land and Rio de Janeiro.
'As we close the Equator the wind has begun to back at last. We can now almost sail the yacht straight towards where we want to go, but not quite,' says skipper, Mat Booth.
'As we continue into the Southern Hemisphere we should finally pick up the south easterly trade winds which will allow us to keep up with the leading pack. The routine of the yacht is really settled as does the wind speed. Yesterday we only had to change sails twice. We hoisted the Yankee 1 after the wind dropped only to have to change back to the number two an hour later as the breeze picked up again.
'As I type she's wonderfully sailing along at 9.5 knots almost in the right direction under full main, staysail and our work horse Yankee 2.'
Having already crossed into the Southern Hemisphere, Singapore and Welcome to Yorkshire, current occupiers of second and third respectively will follow Gold Coast Australia into the Ocean Sprint later today.
Singapore set sail in race two (from Madeira to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. - onEdition ©?nid=87708
On board Singapore, skipper Ben Bowley reports, 'Once again, the last 24 hours have been very similar to the previous 24. Sailing just shy of close hauled for speed and following the wind shifts up and down as they come through.
'This has enabled us to stay a little to the east of the rhumb line and keep good enough pace to put a little distance between us and Welcome to Yorkshire whilst still keeping a little height in the bag to clear round the headland off Cabo Branco. It did not however give us quite enough height to clear the islands of Fernando de Noronha so for safety's sake we had to bear off a little and head to the west of them.'
Intent on closing the gap between them and the Singaporean entry are Welcome to Yorkshire, but the only English entry of the Clipper 11-12 Race have been faced with fickle conditions.
'As I write this we are caught in a wind hole some 25 miles east of Fernando de Noronha. The winds are very light and from a direction which does even allow us to clear Cape Calcanhar, let alone Cape Brando near Recife,' explains skipper, Rupert Dean.
'With light winds forecast, unusually, from the SSE there will be challenging times ahead, so we can take nothing for granted on Welcome to Yorkshire. It could all come good yet for New York and the boats further east.'
Moving into the Southern Hemisphere sparked celebrations on board as King Neptune paid the crew a visit.
'He arrived, amidst great fanfare, sporting a gold skirt and cloak, pink wig, crown and trident. Assembling the frightened crew together he immediately admonished them for crossing the Equator for their first time without prior permission, then presided over a court to hear about their multifarious sins since leaving Southampton; ably assisted by Welcome to Yorkshire’s legal supremo Guy Jackson!' continues Rupert.
'It was a great party and one which I hope the crew will look back on with fondness and pride in future years. Special thanks to Guy Jackson and James Charlesworth for their mothering efforts during the day and to Hannah Richards, for her amazing chocolate rice crispy cakes.'
Qingdao set sail in race two (from Madeira to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. - onEdition ©?nid=87708
The celebration of crossing the Equator is one that Chinese entry, Qingdao, now look forward to as they too battle against light winds.
'Preparations for crossing the Equator continue as we push southwards. The wind has still not cooperated and is stubbornly from the south and to make matters worse we not have a westerly currently meaning one tack is fast and one is slow. All of this combined has meant we have lost another place to Visit Finland,' reports Ian Conchie, skipper of Qingdao.
'None of this dampens our spirit though just makes us more determined to push hard once we make it through this wind nightmare.'
Currently further east, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, are thriving under strong wind conditions.
'We have at last found the wind again and now we are moving fast and closing on the fleet. We have the biggest amount sail up. Driving fast right on the edge and the crew are loving every minute! This is what they signed up for, crashing through wave after wave at ten knots plus!' enthuses skipper, Gordon Reid.
'They say, ‘be careful what you wish for’ and although the conditions are almost perfect for fast upwind sailing, the heeling of the boat and odd free fall moment makes everything so much more of a mission down below. To encourage harmony on the boat I have invited the crew to tuck their skirts in, dig a little deeper and just man up! This is ocean racing!
'We are fast approaching the Equator and the Southern Hemisphere, there is a gale further south and it will be interesting to see how things shape up as we converge with it. The crew are strangely excited by the prospect of meeting a gale. But having never been in an ocean gale they will be in for a bit of a surprise - and not in a good way,' continues Gordon.
'Ocean racing is a dynamic game and it just keeps getting more dynamic every day. For my daughter Poppy, what did you do today? Oh nothing much, just racing a yacht around the world!'
Geraldton Western Australia will also meet King Neptune today after a day of trips up the mast for some of the Australian entry’s crew.
'Our course is good and the crew are getting excited about today’s festivities. Happy days on board Geraldton Western Australia,' says skipper, Juan Coetzer.
'Yesterday was a day of high maintenance. Our tri colour light stopped working during the night, which in turn meant we could not see the wind indicator either. The tri colour lights are important for other ships to see, as this gives them an idea of which way we are heading and what kind of vessel we are.
'Luckily in the middle of the ocean there are not a lot of big ships. We saw a big ship on our ships AIS, his course was heading straight for us. I called him up on the VHF. The person on watch could not understand what a sailing boat was doing out here, not using an engine!' continues Geraldton Western Australia’s skipper.
'During daylight Desmond went up the mast to change the nav bulb, on his way down the spinnaker halyard kept jamming. We discovered what the problem was. Desmond was too tired to go back up again, so Peter volunteered to go up. We were glad to have come across these issues now, rather than when flying the spinnaker.'
On board Northern Ireland entry, Derry-Londonderry, Mark Light may have received the news he has been waiting on for days.
'Once downloaded, I opened the new Grib files to check the latest weather situation and was very happy to see the first indication of a backing wind (from SW to S) therefore allowing us to make a better, more direct route to Rio!
'At last! As said before, conditions have been very good, just the wind in exactly the wrong direction (both tacks appear to be 50 degrees off our rhumb line course directly to Rio!). Morale is high on board, team spirit is never in doubt and being the Northern Irish entry in the race we have a fantastic ‘craic’.
'At our 1400 all crew briefing on deck the subject of boat cleanliness and hygiene was raised, discussed at length, slightly ranted about and then acted upon. The response was almost immediate and very effective! Galley and heads were re-cleaned, nav area tidied, saloon and all other floors scrubbed, the deck re-washed and even the ships registration plaque removed, polished to new and re-fitted! The next project is the ship's bell! Derry-Londonderry looks beautiful once again. What fantastic people I have in this crew.'
With Gold Coast Australia, Singapore and Welcome to Yorkshire beginning their fight for a valuable point during the Ocean Sprint the rest of the fleet will cross the Equator and continue their focus on reeling in the leading pack. Positions at 0900 UTC, Thursday 25 August Boat / DTF* / DTL**
1 Gold Coast Australia / 1258nm / 0nm
2 Singapore / 1290nm / 32nm
3 Welcome to Yorkshire / 1325nm / 67nm
4 New York / 1578nm / 320nm
5 Visit Finland / 1639nm / 381nm
6 Qingdao / 1695nm / 437nm
7 Derry-Londonderry / 1718nm / 460nm
8 De Lage Landen / 1735nm / 477nm
9 Geraldton Western Australia / 1738nm / 480nm
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital / 1808nm / 550nm
DTF* = Distance to Finish, DTL** = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found here
. Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website