Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-2012 third race started from Rio De Janeiro in Brazil and will finish in Cape Town.
Welcome to Yorkshire looks set to claim the bonus point for the race three Ocean Sprint, covering the distance between longitude five degrees west and longitude two degrees east in 32 hours and 10 minutes, 29 minutes faster than New York and 40 minutes quicker than Singapore.
Geraldton Western Australia has also declared their Sprint time as 33 hours and 17 minutes, the fourth fastest in the fleet. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is just over half way into the time trial having started at 1206 UTC on Saturday 24 September.
Skipper of the English entry, Rupert Dean, says, 'We've had some fantastic sailing on Welcome to Yorkshire averaging nearly 10.5 knots during the Ocean Sprint. The crew have done themselves proud. Time will tell if we have done enough to win this valuable point.'
The changing wind conditions have allowed most of the teams to fly their spinnakers in the closing stages of the race across the South Atlantic from Rio de Janeiro to Cape Town – something they haven’t been able to do for a while.
Rupert continues, 'Last night saw more heavyweight kite action. Helming for the crew was quite a challenge in disorientating, moonless conditions, with wind on the beam. However, now daybreak has arrived things are a little easier. As the miles click down, all of us are looking forward to a warm reception in Cape Town.'
'Well done to Rupert and his crew, a fine effort,' says Ben Bowley, Singapore’s skipper. He and his team are also flying spinnakers again, albeit after something of a false start. 'We spent most of the day yesterday sailing on a beam reach with the Yankee 1 up. At one point we tried to use the heavy spinnaker but the angle was still a bit tight for the wind strength. The kite came back down and the Yankee 1 back up. As the afternoon wore on however, the wind backed round a little and we were finally able to hoist our Vicky, giving us an extra knot to knot and a half of boat speed.'
Singapore’s crew have nicknamed their heavyweight spinnaker ‘Sticky Vicky’ because of the amount of tape used to repair the sail in Rio de Janeiro.
'All credit to the crew, they did an excellent job of helming and trimming the kite in pitch black conditions; not bad considering we have not had a spinnaker up at night for a couple of weeks. We have been making excellent course and speed all night and were delighted to see that we got past Qingdao in the early hours of the morning; Derry-Londonderry may be a slightly tougher nut to crack however as they are sailing in much the same conditions as us. We can only hope that once again our more southerly position comes to fruition in the closing stages of this hard fought race,' continues Ben.
The teams are enjoying the change in conditions, Gareth Glover, skipper of New York, remarking after a trip up the mast to repair a broken halyard, 'When I was up there I took five minutes at the top looking down at New York and the stars and sea. It was so quiet and peaceful and I was thinking how lucky I was to be a part of the New York team and Clipper.'
Second quickest in the ocean sprint, Gareth and his team have enjoyed, 'a great few days on New York. We have been sailing at around 10 knots for the past three days, white sail reaching, and after placing third in the last Ocean Sprint we were hoping to do better.'
De Lage Landen’s crew have also been able to appreciate the majesty of racing across the open ocean, according to skipper, Stuart Jackson.
He reports, 'The crew welcomed the change in wind conditions that allowed us to hoist our heavyweight spinnaker yesterday morning and we've enjoyed good speed under both sunny skies and starry nights. Everyone is in good spirits, looking forward to arriving in Cape Town in a comparatively good position relative to Leg 1 and, of course, sampling some famous South African wine!
'At the same time, we can't let up, and the crew well understands the importance of continuing to work hard to protect our position. At present, we're looking closely at the approaching high pressure system, seeking to avoid the lighter wind conditions, and to circumvent as much of it as is possible as we move toward the final few hundred miles to Cape Town. We've already encountered some diminished wind and changed down to our medium weight spinnaker but continue to make good speed. Night watches blend sharp focus on helming and trim with an aesthetic appreciation of a beautifully illuminated kite.'
In between the fleet and the finish line in Cape Town is an area of light winds which will have to be negotiated before they reach their destination. In addition, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s crew may well have to endure some tough headwinds in the next few days.
It hasn’t been plain sailing for the team representing Scotland’s capital. 'While we were doing 14 knots we hit something in the water and it damaged the speed and log transducer, leaving the sea to flood in under the galley sink, where the transducer was located,' skipper Gordon Reid told the Race Office this morning. 'On a boat moving fast, the water floods in at a fair old rate and, if unattended, within two minutes the boards are floating!'
Gordon manoeuvred himself under the galley sink to replace the broken transducer with a blank – a plastic bung the same size and shape as the transducer – before he and his crew emptied the bilges and prepared to hoist the medium weight spinnaker.
'We had been flying it rather nicely for a few hours doing around 10.5 knots, nice and steady with no gusts, wind angle around 110 to 120 degrees, pole around two feet from the forestay and very stable. The sail had no contact with any of the rigging and was flying well, when suddenly it just pulled apart at the port seam, just above the top of the clew reinforcements, around two feet from the actual clew. We got it down very quickly and it is unfortunately in shreds. We’re not sure why it ripped, so adapt improvise, overcome.'
Derry-Londonderry at the start of Race 3 of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Daniel Zeppe/onEdition
On Derry-Londonderry skipper Mark Light and his crew seem to have shaken off the bad luck that dogged them in the last race.
'I am a great believer in things balancing out in the end and I am certain that we are now getting a little chunk of the luck that deserted us on the last leg where everything seemed to conspire against us!' says Mark. 'The ocean is a great leveller. We have been flying our largest Yankee 1 headsail along with our staysail and full main for the last 20 hours or so and the wind has been a fraction forward of the beam – perfect for this sail plan. Now at night the wind is showing signs of backing from the north to north northwest and we have our medium weight spinnaker all prepared, up on deck, with the port spinnaker pole rigged and ready to go. All we need now is Mother Nature to allow us and we will be off again downwind at pace.'
Mark paid tribute to the team’s Mother Watch which yesterday served up a feast fit for King Neptune himself: tuna with pasta, garlic bread and a potato, onion and mushroom bake all followed by homemade fruit crumble with orange cake and hot custard.
'The on watch have taken charge of the deck and the off watch have gone to sleep happy and with full bellies!' Mark notes.
An army marches on its stomach according to the old adage and it’s no different for an ocean racing team. Tasty and filling food served up to a tired and cold crew is the biggest morale booster possible.
Geraldton Western Australia’s crew were also able to bring some cheer to birthday girl, Hilly Bouteloup, who suffered suspected cracked ribs in the gruelling conditions of the early stages of this race. Now on the mend and able to move around the boat again, the crew sang to her while she was on deck during happy hour.
All of the teams have an hour or two during each day, usually referred to as ‘happy hour’, when both watches overlap, the skipper holds a team briefing, birthdays and special occasions are marked and it provides an opportunity to air any concerns that people on board have. In the close confines of a 68-foot ocean racing yacht with little in the way of personal space, small niggles can soon turn into full blown rows if grievances are not aired and addressed as soon as they arise.
Early yesterday evening a rope attached to Geraldton Western Australia’s spinnaker broke free.
'Sadly we had to drop our heavyweight spinnaker and re-run a new guy and hoist the medium weight spinnaker. We lost an hour doing all this,' says skipper, Juan Coetzer. 'On the flip side the crew worked extremely hard and sailed the boat really well. Now the race is on for Cape Town.'
Now, with the leading teams counting down the hours until their arrival in Cape Town, there are still tactics to play out and the African land mass will also begin to influence local conditions as the boats close in on the finish line.
'It looks like the tactical decisions of the fleet are once again divided as each boat decides how to negotiate the fickle winds nearer the South African coast,' says Olly Osborne, skipper of Visit Finland. 'Those that opt for the more southerly course will see the better breeze, but stand to sail extra miles, and those that stick to rhumb line will take their chances in the lighter and less predictable air stream. We are in a more northerly position and will have to make the right choices if we are to maintain our position in the pack, and with the setbacks earlier in the leg due to sail damage a podium position is on everyone's minds.'
Qingdao in the Clipper 11-12 Race fleet parade of sail in Rio de Janeiro. - Daniel Zeppe/onEdition
The same question is being mulled over by Ian Conchie and his crew on Qingdao. 'After several days of great sailing the wind continues to drop and has allowed Singapore to continue to reel us in and then overtake us through the night. The crew continue to work hard to try and keep the dragon moving but until the next system catches us up we know we will continue to lose time to the boats south of us. We hope that sailing the rhumb line (shortest route) will pay dividends later when the wind fills in again,' he says.
Meanwhile, at the front of the fleet, Gold Coast Australia is on 'the homeward strait' according to skipper, Richard Hewson.
'The seas out here at the moment are incredibly flat for open ocean and we are awaiting the swells from the large depression far to the south west that is slowly catching up to us. Hopefully by the time the swell catches us the wind will have increased making for good surfing conditions for the final stretch. While our southerly course has taken a big loop around the high pressure to the north it has given us more wind and we are hoping that it will result in good pressure all the way to Cape Town,' he says.
Already the first signs of life outside of the yacht are beginning to come through, this morning’s atmospheric conditions allowing transmissions from Cape Town to reach the team’s VHF radio which crackled into life for the first time in more than a week.
'This was the first time we had heard any noise from our radio since our last communication with Singapore over a week ago and it was very nice to hear a friendly voice from the outside world.
'Sunrises as we get closer to Africa are amazing and can only be graded as a ten out of ten every morning. Now we have the sunrise on the starboard bow it rises up just under our Gold Coast Australia spinnaker providing what can only be described as a beautiful scene.'
Gold Coast Australia is expected to arrive at the V and A Waterfront in Cape Town on Tuesday 27 September with a further six teams expected to finish by the evening of Wednesday 28 September. Race three Ocean Sprint:
Welcome to Yorkshire: 32 hours 10 minutes
New York: 32 hours 49 minutes
Singapore: 32 hours 52 minutes
Geraldton Western Australia: 33 hours 17 minutes
Derry-Londonderry: 35 hours 8 minutes
Visit Finland: 36 hours 30 minutes
Qingdao: 37 hours 47 minutes
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital: started at 1206 UTC, 24 September
Gold Coast Australia: ineligible
De Lage Landen: ineligible Positions at 0900 UTC, Sunday 25 September: Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 420
2 Visit Finland - 484 (DTL**64nm)
3 De Lage Landen - 511 (+91nm)
4 Derry-Londonderry - 563 (+143nm)
5 Singapore - 612 (+192nm)
6 Qingdao - 643 (+223nm)
7 New York - 676 (+255nm)
8 Welcome to Yorkshire - 719 (+299nm)
9 Geraldton Western Australia - 760 (+339nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 1,005 (+585nm)
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