Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 fourth race from Cape Town, Africa to Geraldton, Western Australia is currently underway. Crash gybes cause mayhem on Singapore and Visit Finland.
'No skipper likes to be woken up to find his boat sailing, on her side, backwards down waves in the pitch black at a fair speed,' according to Ben Bowley, skipper of Singapore. The 28-year-old refers to the situation he found himself in the early hours of this morning following an accidental gybe.
Ben has been dealing with a plethora of problems after the wind increased and his crew struggled to deal with the challenging conditions.
'The helm was unable to recover after the gybe and the boat ended up hove-to with the main pinned all the way out on one side and the Yankee headsail pinned all the way out on the other side by the pole,' he said.
This drama came after an earlier accidental gybe left the team’s medium weight spinnaker in tatters as they were preparing to drop it. Ben had opted for the poled out sail plan after the kite damage as a more conservative option.
'This set up was a little slower than we would have wished for but at least it was safe, or so I thought,' he said.
'The issue was further compounded by the fact that the helm had released the wheel in an effort to regain control and the rudder had spun full opposite lock and jammed hard a-port,' Ben said.
With the main centred and the Yankee dropped, Ben said he used a hammer to 'encourage' the steering quadrant back into place.
'Hopefully daybreak will give us the chance to make up some of the ground that we inevitably lost last night whilst we were reversing around roundabouts in the Southern Ocean,' Ben said.
Gold Coast Australia races away from Cape Town, South Africa, at the start of Race 4 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
Gold Coast Australia has pulled ahead from the rest of the fleet as the Roaring Forties proved they deserve their reputation as strong westerlies materialised across the board.
Richard Hewson, skipper of Gold Coast Australia, said his team had enjoyed a 'fantastic day’s run' as they extended their lead.
'This time yesterday the ocean was like a mirror and there was not even enough wind for the albatross to fly. Now we are flying downwind under full main and a poled-out Yankee 2 surfing waves in an ocean that is more like the Southern Ocean,' he said.
One team to benefit as the wind filled in from the west was Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, and Gordon Reid and his team are capitalising on the full force of the Roaring Forties.
'Down here in the wilderness of the Southern Ocean, the race team on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital have become hunters, hunting the wind and the surf for every last knot of boat speed, and more importantly, hunting down the rest of the fleet,' skipper, Gordon Reid, said, noting that his team had made gains on the rest of the fleet for a third consecutive day.
With the wind gusting over 30 knots, Gordon and his team opted for a poled-out Yankee 2 with a full main as they staged their charge from the rear.
'If the angle is good then she can also carry the staysail, easily giving us 12.5 knots, regularly hitting 16 to 18 knots on the surf. It’s awesome surfing dude!' Gordon said.
'Today we were greeted by a beautiful but very different type of sunrise and a feeling in the air the forties are about to start roaring,' he added.
On De Lage Landen, Stuart Jackson and his crew are also relieved that the elusive westerlies have finally materialised.
'The wind has finally arrived and we have been enjoying downwind sailing with 25 to 30 knots of wind and a relatively flat boat, so happy days,' he said.
'On the down side the air temperature has significantly dropped along with the sea temperature too. It seems our run of the Agulhas Current has come to an abrupt end and it looks like we are in for a chilly few weeks until we near the warmth of Australia. Thermals are being broken out and even gloves are making a debut, but it’s all good motivation to get to Geraldton as quickly as possible!' Stuart said.
One skipper who feels at home as he heads south is Richard Hewson on Gold Coast Australia.
'Our current latitude of 42 degrees 58 minutes south is coincidently the same latitude of my house in Southern Tasmania which I call ‘The Albatross’,' he said, adding that it felt good to be almost home again and sailing in such a beautiful isolated environment.
With the leading boats now around 1,000 miles from the Scoring Gate for Race 4, the battle is underway to claim the extra points on offer. The first, second and third teams to cross the imaginary line between 40 degrees south and 55 east and 45 south 55 east will be awarded three, two and one points respectively.
'The weather is looking fairly kind for the next few days as people start to make the charge for the Scoring Gate. It looks set to ease a little and come a little more southerly, so hopefully we will have a few good days of flying the spinnaker,' Stuart on De Lage Landen, said.
New York races away from Cape Town, South Africa, at the start of Race 4 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
New York has slipped to fourth place as Qingdao was amongst the boats to benefit from stronger winds in the south.
'After waiting out the wind hole, the winds from the high pressure ridge picked up from north east with a vengeance gusting holding steady at 20-plus knots and gusting to 30 knots,' skipper, Gareth Glover, said.
'Our heavyweight spinnaker is now up and we are heading north east,' he added.
Meanwhile, in the southerly group, Rupert Dean on Welcome to Yorkshire reports that his team has had a 'busy and eventful night' as they logged the second highest 12-hour run of 128 miles.
'Strong winds, big seas and big surf have been experienced all around, and have made it a bit too lairy for the heavyweight spinnaker, so we have gone for a goose-wing as the prudent choice,' Rupert said, referring to the sail plan when the headsail is poled-out on the opposite side to the main.
'Strong gusts and the odd irregular wave have made helming a challenge for even my most experienced crew and there have been two accidental gybes, both of which snapped the boom preventers in use. They have now been repaired and we are charging along again,' Rupert said.
'Proper Southern Ocean sailing is opening everyone's eyes to the exhilaration, yet inherent risks, of racing in this wild and wonderful area. Safety is very much at the forefront of our minds now and there is absolutely no room for complacency,' he said.
'Yet again, the ocean is proving to be a stern teacher and task master, but it will do all of us a lot of good in the long term,' he said.
Taking the middle road, between the northerly and southerly groups, Geraldton Western Australia also managed a triple-digit run in the last 12 hours. Skipper Juan Coetzer cautioned that 'you need to be careful what you wish for' when sailing in the infamous Southern Ocean.
'The wind came in and increased in strength steadily through out the day. As this happened we changed sail plain to suit the conditions. At one stage during the evening we had gusts of 45 knots,' Juan said.
'But all this wind is good as it is taking us in the right direction at a steady speed of 10 to 11 knots,' he added.
Meanwhile, just two miles are separating Derry-Londonderry and Visit Finland.
Visit Finland races from Cape Town, South Africa, at the start of Race 4 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. - Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
On Visit Finland, just holding the advantage over Derry-Londonderry, skipper Olly Osborne reports that his team’s hopes of making some good distance were thwarted by an accidental gybe this morning.
'Just before dawn this morning when we were running with a poled-out Yankee 2 and full main with two preventers [lines rigged to prevent the boom swinging uncontrollably across the boat], the helm was caught unaware by a particularly large wave and crash gybed,' he said.
'Sadly the preventer lines did not hold and snapped with an almighty bang as the main broke free taking the pulpit, the downhaul block and one stanchion with them,' he said.
Olly reports that the mast track also snapped off leaving the inboard end of the pole swinging free and tearing a large hole in the main.
'So now we have again slowed to a crawl due to gear damage and the mood on board is pensive with so many miles still ahead. This really is the last thing we needed and it will now limit our sailing options for the rest of this race but I am confident that we will be able to repair most of the breakages,' he said.
Mark Light reports that his team on Derry-Londonderry has opted for a poled-out headsail as a 'much safer and very stable' option. 'This is a lot easier to prepare and once hoisted a lot easier to manage if the wind picks up,' he said.
'We have been making 10 to 12 knots consistently hour by hour and this feels more like the Southern Ocean now as the swells are becoming larger and more powerful,' he said, noting that they have been logging up to 15 knots as they surf the growing swells. Positions at 0900 UTC, Tuesday 11 October Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 3,815nm
2 De Lage Landen - 3,865nm (+50nm DTL**)
3 Qingdao - 3,892nm (+77nm)
4 New York - 3,903nm (+87nm)
5 Geraldton Western Australia - 3,925nm (+110nm)
6 Welcome to Yorkshire - 3,931nm (+116nm)
7 Singapore - 3,979nm (+164nm)
8 Visit Finland - 4,021nm (+206nm)
9 Derry-Londonderry - 4,024nm (+208nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 4,041nm (+226nm)
*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