Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-2012 third race started from Rio De Janeiro in Brazil and will finish in Cape Town. Visit Finland is gaining ground on Gold Coast Australia, taking 20 miles out of their lead in the last 24 hours, as they approach the closing stages of the race.
Olly Osborne and his team on Visit Finland are now just 41 miles behind Gold Coast Australia who opted to sail a more southerly course after they discovered that the extra point for the Ocean Sprint was out of their reach.
Gold Coast Australia and De Lage Landen have both made themselves ineligible to win the extra point on offer for being the fastest boat to sail between longitude five degrees west and longitude two degrees east after failing to report that they had begun the Ocean Sprint within three hours in accordance with the Sailing Instructions.
The team which covers the distance of approximately 420 miles in the fastest time will be awarded an extra point, and with two boats now out of the running, the contest is wide open.
Visit Finland, Derry-Londonderry, New York, Qingdao and Singapore have all made provisional declarations to the Race Office that they have started the Ocean Sprint. The fastest time logged out of the five will be the one to beat for the rest of the fleet as long as they are deemed to have made their start and finish declarations within the designated time.
On Gold Coast Australia, Richard Hewson and his team have headed south for more wind now that the Ocean Sprint point is out of reach.
'While we were sailing in the Ocean Sprint we were trying to stay on a close reach to build up the apparent wind speed in order to increase our boat speed. Unfortunately this was taking us further north than our desired track into lighter airs and I was starting to get concerned that we would run out of wind,' he said.
'Now we are free to sail the best tactical route to Cape Town and make best use of the ever changing pressure systems,' he said.
As they eat up the miles to the finish line, the De Lage Landen crew is starting to think about what they will do when they arrive in South Africa.
'Thoughts are already turning to the first meals everyone is going to have and icy cold beers, not to mention the world-class Cape wines,' Stuart said, adding that his team had enjoyed a good day’s sailing with 'a nice breeze, a fairly flat boat and plenty of sunshine'.
With all the boats converging, Stuart said that he expects the final stage of this 3,300-mile to be a drag race as the north west winds fill in with the approaching low pressure system.
Qingdao in the Clipper 11-12 Race fleet parade of sail in Rio de Janeiro. - Daniel Zeppe/onEdition
Qingdao started the Ocean Sprint at 1909 UTC yesterday and the team is hoping that the wind holds so that they can set a fast time.
'We have been on a close reach all day with sunny weather and good boat speed. We are currently holding about 10 knots so fingers crossed the conditions stay the same,' skipper, Ian Conchie, said.
The Qingdao crew has been taking advantage of the clear conditions to the north for some star gazing and have been trying to identify constellations using star maps.
'Last night we had a full panoramic blanket of stars with the Milky Way and Southern Cross clearly visible. For those that haven't see it, the view of the stars on a clear night out in the ocean is an amazing sight, and one that will stay with crews for a long time,' he said.
But further south visibility has not been so good. Skipper Juan Coetzer on Geraldton Western Australia reports that his team has been sailing in thick fog all day making it hard for passing wildlife to spot them.
'The fog is so bad that a large black bird flew into the rigging, fell downwards hitting Russell on the shoulder, before falling onto the deck, scampering around and then bailing over the side into the sea,' Juan said.
Welcome to Yorkshire has also been experiencing chilly and foggy conditions but skipper Rupert Dean said spirits have not been dampened by the gloomy weather.
'Given that the wind is coming from the north west, one would expect it to feel warm down here in the Southern Hemisphere. Paradoxically, it doesn't due to the fact that this is cold air that has been circulated clockwise up to us from the Antarctic, via the easterly moving depression moving beneath us,' Rupert said.
'It's not uncomfortable, just fresh, with prolific fog caused where this cool moist air meets relatively warm water, causing dew point to be reached,' he added.
Welcome to Yorkshire and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Daniel Zeppe/onEdition
Despite the inclement weather, the Welcome to Yorkshire team is relieved that the wind has finally filled enabling them to point the boat at the finish. Whilst they push hard to ensure they maintain their lead over Geraldton Western Australia, sewing parties are working around the clock to repair their medium weight spinnaker to maximise time ashore in Cape Town.
On Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, skipper Gordon Reid reports that his crew is in high spirits with a renewed sense of determination following the rendezvous with HMS Edinburgh yesterday.
As the team sailed close to the Tristan da Cunha group of islands, they were called up on the VHF radio by a group of scientists who are living in a hut studying the habits of the local bird population.
'The friendly group explained that they were studying the local bird life including the albatross. They told us that there are three types and we saw a few gliding on the up drafts across the waves around the first island,' Gordon said.
The team representing the Scottish capital sailed within 1.5 miles of the aptly-named Inaccessible Island, which was shrouded in thick fog as the waves of big ocean swell broke against the 335-metre-high cliffs that surround the island.
They then passed within two miles of Tristan Island, home to the world’s most remote permanent human settlement called Edinburgh, and a volcanic peak towering 2260 metres above sea level.
'What a fantastic sight to behold the towering volcanic mountain in the middle of the ocean. It was truly like something cast from myth and legend, and a once in a lifetime sight for all on board and made all the more enjoyable by the fact that we were trucking past in a nice wind belt at 10 knots plus,' Gordon said.
On Derry-Londonderry the team is focused on maximising boat speed to pick up the point on offer for the fastest team in the Ocean Sprint and trying to catch De Lage Landen to get onto the podium.
'It was great to finally get our heavyweight spinnaker back up early yesterday morning after all the upwind sailing over the last few days. So with a much flatter boat, we are showing very good speeds and we even have the unfamiliar sight of sunshine showing through from patches of blue sky,' he said.
'All that we can do is sail safe and well to keep Qingdao firmly behind us and make every effort to catch up and overtake third-placed yacht De Lage Landen but only time will tell,' Mark said.
New York declared to the Race Office that they began the Ocean Sprint, reached the start point at five degrees west at 0917 UTC.
After a frustrating 24 hours with very little wind and watching the boats to the north pull away, Gareth Glover said his team’s mood improved as the wind started to fill in. 'It’s amazing how a little wind can lift the mood of the crew,' he noted.
With visibility down to less than half a nautical mile, Gareth said he had a crew member stationed in the navigation station at all times to monitor the radar as there has been some shipping in the vicinity.
As the coordinates on the boats’ instruments start to read a longitude of east once again after passing the Greenwich Meridian, the familiarity is prompting some of the teams to think of home.
Gold Coast Australia at the start of Race 3 of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Daniel Zeppe/onEdition
On Gold Coast Australia, skipper Richard Hewson, who hails from Hobart in Tasmania, said that his crew now felt like they were homeward bound.
'Just plotting south and east on the chart seems more familiar and makes everybody on board feel closer to our wide brown land. Even the sunrises and climate feel more familiar,' he said.
'One crew member remarked that it now really feels like we are sailing home,' he added. On 5 October the ten teams will set sail on race five from Cape Town to Geraldton in Western Australia, the first of two Australian stopovers in the 12-month series. Positions at 0900 UTC, Friday 23 September Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 861nm
2 Visit Finland - 902nm (+41nm DTL**)
3 De Lage Landen - 948nm (+87nm)
4 Derry-Londonderry - 1004nm (+143nm)
5 Qingdao - 1042nm (+181nm)
6 Singapore - 1083nm (+222nm)
7 New York - 1162nm (+301nm)
8 Welcome to Yorkshire - 1219nm (+357nm)
9 Geraldton Western Australia - 1240nm (+379nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 1421nm (+560nm)
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