Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-2012 third race, from Rio De Janeiro to Cape Town, is currently underway. De Lage Landen is leading the charge to the Scoring Gate as they open up their lead after a day of exhilarating downwind sailing.
According to Race Director, Joff Bailey, the next 24 hours of the race look set to be exciting as the battle for the points on offer at the Scoring Gate plays out.
'At the moment it looks like the Australian teams are staying south and missing the Scoring Gate altogether in order to maintain their southerly positions and with Singapore going into Stealth Mode this morning, it’s going to be interesting to see how the next day of racing develops,' Joff said.
The winds for the next two days look favourable but with the new South Atlantic high pressure system building from the south west and set to overtake the fleet, all of the teams will soon experience strong head winds.
'The skippers and navigators will have to work hard to pick the best route into the next band of favourable westerly winds,' said Joff.
After a day of exhilarating sailing, a series of squalls overnight forced De Lage Landen to drop their heavyweight kite but the team continued to work hard to gain extra ground on the rest of the fleet.
Skipper Stuart Jackson said, 'We’ve had another great day’s sailing with the wind behind us. We had the heavyweight spinnaker up until around sunset when we had a series of small squalls come through with wind in the high 30s [knots] so we dropped it before the more ominous looking ones came through.'
Qingdao in the Clipper 11-12 Race fleet parade of sail in Rio de Janeiro. - Daniel Zeppe/onEdition
Ian Conchie, skipper of Qingdao, reports that he has decided to be a little more conservative after hearing about the breakages across the fleet yesterday.
He said his team has been enjoying some good surfing with a poled out headsail with the best speed overnight being 'a good 17 knots'.
Despite there being a distance of around 2,500 nautical miles separating the teams from the finish line in Cape Town, Ian’s team is already looking forward to the stopover in South Africa.
'People have already started to talk about what they want to see or, more importantly, what they want to eat with the most popular choice being fresh meat,' Ian said.
As there is no fridge or freezer on board the Clipper 68s, crews have to be creative to make palatable meals on long transoceanic races.
Visit Finland has slipped back to fifth place after badly damaging their heavyweight kite whilst attempting to unwrap it yesterday. Not only does such damage cause a team to lose ground whilst they are sorting out the problem, but they are also hampered when one of their key sails is out of action whilst repairs are undertaken onboard. For major damage, a sail might be out of action until the boat reaches port where professional repairs can be undertaken rendering a team severely handicapped.
Following the damage to their heavyweight kite skipper, Olly Osborne, said his team was taking a more cautious approach. 'It’s a welcome change to be under white sails and reaching well. The sea state has been steadily building over the last days and the crew are learning fast in the more challenging night-time conditions.'
With the front runners closing in on the Scoring Gate, some of the teams realise that the sought-after points are probably now out of their reach. De Lage Landen is now just 180 nautical miles from the prospect of three points for reaching the Scoring Gate first.
On Welcome to Yorkshire, skipper Rupert Dean is mulling whether to make a dash to the east for the points at the Scoring Gate even though it would potentially be at the expense of a better position to pick up the wind to the south into Cape Town.
'The big question for us now is for how much longer do we hold this course towards the southern end of the Scoring Gate. With De Lage Landen, Qingdao and Derry-Londonderry to the east, it is increasingly tempting to bear away by 20 degrees and sail directly under goose-wing to the east,' Rupert said.
As the teams bear down on the Scoring Gate, Ben Bowley and his team are adding to the excitement by opting to go into Stealth Mode so that their position remains secret for 24 hours until 0600UTC tomorrow.
Ben said his team has been experiencing wind speeds between 12 and 40 knots resulting in numerous sail changes. 'There has been no time for the crew to get bored in the last 24 hours as there’s generally been one headsail change, drop, hoist, reef in or reef out per watch. And all this with cold spray sweeping the deck,' he reports.
Ben said his team are enjoying the South Atlantic with its 'clean crisp air, towering swells and a plethora of marine life' and he notes that the temperature has dropped a fair amount as they head further south.
New York crew at the start of Race 3 of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Daniel Zeppe/onEdition
On New York, the team has been enjoying some South Atlantic surfing in wind gusting up to 52 knots.
'The competition amongst the helmsmen to record the highest speed is hotting up. At the moment, 18.5 knots surfing down a wave is the speed to beat,' New York crew member and investment manager, Victoria Caddick, said.
Gold Coast Australia has been 'going like a freight train' for the last 24 hours, according to skipper, Richard Hewson. His team logged the highest 12-hour run in the last position report, covering 129 miles putting them 33 miles behind the leaders.
'The wind has been blowing from the south west averaging about 30 knots and gusting to about 38 knots which unfortunately is too windy for our heavy weight spinnaker,' Richard said.
Yesterday, we saw 50 knots over the deck when a squall hit us. For most of the crew it was the first the first big squall they’d seen, with water being lifted off the tops of waves,' he said.
The crew on Gold Coast Australia is hoping its southerly position will give them a large advantage over the rest of the fleet. 'Already we have been excited to see our position climb up the leader board as we slowly pick the other boats up one by one,' Richard said.
One person who will be hoping that Richard and his team’s tactics pay off is Gold Coast City Mayor, Ron Clarke MBE. In a letter to the team he congratulates them on their success to date in the race.
'We look forward to providing you and the crew of Gold Coast Australia with a warm welcome when you arrive into our city in December. In the meantime, we will be eagerly following the race and supporting the efforts of the team,' he said.
Skipper Mark Light on Derry-Londonderry said his team had also been busy with sail changes due to squalls.
'A large inky black squall approached us from the south west looking very menacing and bringing lightning,' Mark said. He reports that the Derry-Londonderry team changed down from the Yankee 1 to the Yankee 2 and reefed the main in 'the pitch black with torrential rain, driving almost horizontally with gusts up to 40 knots' before enjoying a well earned dinner.
On Geraldton Western Australia, skipper Juan Coetzer celebrated his 35th birthday yesterday and he reports that life is good on board his Clipper 68 as they surf their way towards Cape Town under a poled out headsail.
'I’ve enjoyed a birthday cake baked by my crew, watched an albatross glide by and the day was topped off by dolphins swimming with us just before sunset during a head sail change,' Juan said. Positions at 0900 UTC, Thursday 15 September Boat - DTF*
1 De Lage Landen - 2410nm
2 Qingdao - 2436nm (+26nm DTL**)
3 Welcome to Yorkshire - 2442nm (+32nm)
4 Gold Coast Australia - 2443nm (+33nm)
5 Visit Finland - 2450nm (+39nm)
6 Derry-Londonderry - 2459nm (+49nm)
7 New York - 2462nm (+52nm)
8 Singapore - 2491nm (+80nm) In Stealth Mode at 0600UTC
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 2512nm (+101nm)
10 Geraldton Western Australia - 2512nm (+101nm)
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