Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 fourth race from Cape Town, Africa to Geraldton, Western Australia is currently underway.
Gold Coast Australia is preparing to start the Ocean Sprint as they hold their lead over their nearest rivals, De Lage Landen and New York.
Richard Hewson, skipper of Gold Coast Australia, said he expects to start the Ocean Sprint at around midday tomorrow, and although he does not anticipate 'record-breaking' conditions he said his team would give it their best shot.
The fastest team to cover the distance between 90 and 95 degrees east will receive an extra bonus point, regardless of their position relative to the rest of the fleet so the competition is wide open.
'At this stage in the race when we are so close to the finish, we have being sailing very conservatively and do not want to jeopardise our position or the safety of the boat and equipment by pushing too hard in the Ocean Sprint,' Richard said.
Crew members across the fleet are piling on the layers in the increasingly cold conditions, and on Gold Coast Australia, hot water bottles are proving popular additions inside the Henri Lloyd wet weather gear and numerous base and mid layers.
'It is not surprising that we are cold as our position in nearly closer to Antarctica than Australia,' Richard said.
'After the sprint, Gold Coast Australia is looking forward to heading north to enjoy the more tropical climate of Geraldton,' he added.
After a stint of high pressure, the teams will be scrutinising the latest weather reports to work out when and where the wind will fill in.
'The weather has definitely calmed down for the fleet now, perhaps too much, but the good news is that the high is definitely moving,' meteorologist Simon Rowell, who is providing the fleet with daily weather forecasts, said.
De Lage Landen races away from Cape Town, South Africa, at the start of Race 4 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
On De Lage Landen, skipper Stuart Jackson said the wind has been decreasing and he expected it to keep on doing so over the next 48 hours.
'With boat speeds dropping due to the decreasing wind, the crew is getting increasingly agitated about the progress of the rest of the fleet, so the six-hourly position reports are eagerly awaited. We are expecting to see a good degree of shuffling of positions within the fleet and the crews will all be working their hardest to keep the boats moving in the right direction,' Stuart said.
'We are all looking forward to making some miles north soon to warmer climes as it seems everyone has happily ticked the Southern Ocean off their 'to do' list,' he added.
New York has conceded their closely-guarded second place to De Lage Landen overnight, and has also lost miles to Gold Coast Australia as they struggled in the light conditions.
'With a second night of light winds we covered less miles that the rest of the fleet. As we know from previous races, we always have trouble getting New York moving in light airs. Give us a gale and we always sail well but now is the time to focus,' New York’s skipper, Gareth Glover, said.
'Ocean racing is all about the long game and some days you sail better that the rest and other days you don't have as much luck. With the high [pressure system] blocking the way and with new wind filling, New York will be back on the tail of Gold Coast Australia and taking back the second place that we have held for the past five days,' Gareth added.
Rupert Dean reports that his team on Welcome to Yorkshire has enjoyed a good 24 hours broad reaching under their medium weight spinnaker.
'We’re playing brinkmanship with the rest of the fleet to see who is going to go north first. At this rate we'll be in Fiji!' Rupert said.
Ian Conchie and his team on Qingdao have been focusing on recovery for the last 24 hours after yesterday’s incident when a crew member crashed into Ian on deck whilst descending from the rig whilst trying to deal with a wrapped kite.
'After our spinnaker fun and games we spent the night under Yankee 2 and with a reef in the main to allow everyone a chance to recover from the efforts of yesterday,' Ian said.
'Today we have been continuing to sort out the remaining tangles and, hopefully, by this afternoon we will have retrieved what is left of our medium weight spinnaker from up the mast and will be ready for whatever comes next,' he added.
Ian said he expects the high pressure system to create a lottery 'with the boats that manage to keep the wind doing well and those that don’t struggling, which could be a bit of a replay from the start at Cape Town'.
Geraldton Western Australia races away from Cape Town - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. - Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
Juan Coetzer on Geraldton Western Australia is mulling how to negotiate the high pressure system and trying to decide how far south to go before heading up towards his team’s home port. 'Head north too early and you could stop dead in your tracks,' he warns.
'Yesterday we had a tussle with Singapore and by lunchtime we had regained our sixth place. Our next goal is to pass Qingdao,' Juan said.
'The crew have been battling with the cold over the last couple of days, and keeping one’s energy levels up is very important in order to remain focused and driven,' Juan added.
Juan said he had decided to keep his team’s watch system on UTC [Coordinated Universal Time] so their meal times have been the same since leaving Cape Town and they are experiencing sunrise at midnight.
Often skippers opt to change the time by one hour as they pass through every 15 degrees of longitude, to maintain some semblance of normality in terms of daylight and darkness in relation to the time, whilst others chose to remain on UTC.
On Singapore, Ben Bowley reports that his team has experienced a 'fairly sedate' 24 hours giving everybody an opportunity to get some much-needed rest.
'It has also been excellent to be within VHF range of both Qingdao and Geraldton Western Australia. At times we have had visual on one or the other of the boats; this really helps to keep the focus and drive going on deck,' he said.
But with only one kite in action, the Singapore team has been forced to be cautious to avoid further damage en route to Geraldton.
Like the rest of the fleet, Ben appears to be sailing low across the bottom of the high but, like his peers across the fleet, he is wondering how far south to head.
'Now the question is, how low to do you go? We have taken a bit of a hit in terms of distance to finish over Geraldton Western Australia as they have elected to sail more of a direct course to their home port,' Ben said.
'This high pressure is likely to cover the whole fleet at some point and those who manage to escape its windless grasp first will be seeing big gains on the final run north to the finish,' he added.
On Derry-Londonderry, the focus is on how to fashion a repair for the team’s broken spinnaker pole.
'At the moment we are unable to fly a spinnaker due to not having a beak end to our spinnaker poles. We think we may have come up with a fix but do need a period of calmer weather to 'test drive' this solution,' skipper, Mark Light, reports.
Mark and his team are hoping to take advantage of the patch of lighter weather over the next couple of days to make good repairs to their poles and potentially also their mainsail which was torn earlier in this race.
In their southerly position, the Derry-Londonderry team is all too aware of the risk posed by icebergs and growlers, chunks of icebergs broken away 20 to 30 metres in length.
'We are well and truly in known ice fields so vigilance is critical. Our nights are very, very dark so a keen radar watch is set and we have our powerful searchlight plugged in and ready for routine use, sweeping the area in front of our boat at regular intervals. Down below the watertight bulkhead doors are kept shut and the crew have been well briefed,' Mark said.
Ahead of Derry-Londonderry, the team on Visit Finland is in high spirits after moving up into eighth place.
'As well as being competitors, there is a sense of camaraderie among the boats as we all pit our wits against this unforgiving place together. It is good to know that the other boats are close with ice reported on this latitude again yesterday and I have enjoyed talking to Mark Light on Derry-Londonderry over the VHF radio during the last couple of days,' Visit Finland’s skipper, Olly Osborne, said.
'We have had a good run out of our heavyweight spinnaker during the last 72 hours and it is great to see it is capable of withstanding stronger winds,' he said, noting that it was particularly satisfying given that it was in nine pieces earlier in this race.
Olly admits that he was doubtful that it would ever fly again. 'It does have the appearance of some sort of surgical experiment gone wrong but it seems to be holding its shape well for the meantime,' he said.
'So all’s good on-board and there is already talk of t-shirts and shorts appearing again as we turn north toward warmer climes,' he said.
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
On Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, skipper Gordon Reid said the Southern Ocean weather patterns are proving both 'fascinating and frustrating'.
'All the variations, with dominating high pressure systems encroaching even further into the Southern Ocean is making this race a tactical gem,' Gordon said.
With the massive high sitting right in the fleet’s path, he anticipates the fleet will park up. As the most southerly boat, the team on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is hoping to ride the stronger north westerlies.
'With almost 2,000 miles to go this race is about to get a whole lot more interesting,' he said.
'We peaked our southerly course at 46 degrees and 48 minutes south, heading slightly more northerly as we received reports of growlers being spotted just 10 miles further south. We have been monitoring the sea temperature and keeping a good lookout by mark one eyeball and on our ship’s radar so no dramas,' he said.
'Sometimes in ocean yacht racing, like in life, the bigger the risk the greater the reward, so only time will tell,' Gordon said.
The fleet is expected to arrive in Geraldton in Western Australia between 29 and 31 October. Positions at 0900 UTC, Thursday 20 October Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 1,799nm
2 De Lage Landen - 1,892nm (+93nm DTL**)
3 New York - 1,919nm (+120nm)
4 Welcome to Yorkshire - 1,963nm (+164nm)
5 Qingdao - 2,036nm (+237nm)
6 Geraldton Western Australia - 2,045nm (+246nm)
7 Singapore - 2,064nm (+265nm)
8 Visit Finland - 2,176nm (+377nm)
9 Derry-Londonderry - 2,183nm (+384nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 2,245nm (+446nm)
*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