Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 third leg from Cape Town, Africa to Geraldton, Western Australia is currently underway.
The fleet is being compressed as a concertina effect comes into play with the back markers benefitting from stronger winds and the leaders remaining hampered by the lingering high pressure system.
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, Derry-Londonderry and Visit Finland, the three most north westerly boats, have all logged triple-digit 12-hour runs whilst the boats at the front of the pack have continued to struggle in light airs.
'We continue our battle to get on top of the high with the other two back markers,' Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s skipper, Gordon Reid, said.
'With the high pressure system moving south east and expanding, there is a second high converging with it from behind us, so we may just be able to squeeze through before the whole thing expands massively and starts moving back westwards. We are taking a big risk but at this stage it's all or nothing and sometimes the greatest risk reaps the greatest reward,' Gordon said.
On Derry-Londonderry, skipper Mark Light, reports that 'morale is great' on board and his team has been enjoying very consistent winds, good boat speeds and some decent distances covered in the last 48 hours.
'We came out of Stealth Mode on our north easterly course looking to skirt around the top end of the large high pressure system only to find that lots of the other boats have decided to follow this same course of action,' Mark said.
'I must admit that when we made up our mind to go for this we were the only ones to show it and that did make me kind of nervous to see us heading in one direction the nine other boats going the other way. This now gives us more confidence in our choice of tactics but I can’t help feeling like our ‘little secret’ has been discovered,' Mark said.
The boats towards the back of the fleet will be hoping that they are dealt better conditions for the Ocean Sprint than the leaders.
New York has declared their elapsed time for the Ocean Sprint, covering the distance between 90 and 95 degrees east in 31h 48m 2s.
Skipper Gareth Glover said that it had felt more like a drift than a sprint, and their time of 31h 48m 02s wasn’t fast enough to beat the time set by De Lage Landen of 27h 10m 46s. With the chasing pack closing in, Gareth is aware that their position is precarious.
'The race now is about who is going to get to the other side of this high first and get into new wind. After almost three weeks of racing and keeping the rest of the racing fleet at bay, it looks like the yacht to the north have better wind and are making up miles on us and it will be hard to hold them off in the wind we have' Gareth added.
'We have been trying every sailing trick we know to get New York moving in this light wind but trying to get a 40-tonne yacht moving in light wind is difficult,' Gareth added.
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, skipper Olly Osborne reports that shorts and t-shirts have made an appearance as the sun gets hotter.
'The sailing has been fantastic during the last couple of days with a consistent reaching breeze which is only disturbed by the odd mild squall,' Olly said.
'We have just entered the Ocean Sprint phase of this race and the trimmers are doing their best to eek every last fraction of a knot out of the sail plan in the hope of passing through the 300-mile stretch of ocean the fastest, but with the forecast promising lighter winds there are some important routing decisions to be made,' he said.
'The big decision is whether to sail the shortest distance and suffer the effects of a massive high pressure system, or to head off on a detour and try to find a way through. It really is a case of the lesser of two evils,' Olly added.
One team that has opted for the latter option is Gold Coast Australia but Richard Hewson and his team are still lacking the wind they need to power them to the finish line in Geraldton. The team finished the Ocean Sprint in a time of 27h 51m 13s yesterday, but De Lage Landen’s faster time dashed their hopes of an extra point.
'We’re becalmed yet again in a wind hole half the size of Australia for the third time this race,' Richard said. 'As the boat rolls in the Southern Ocean swell, the sails hardly fill as team Gold Coast Australia drifts towards Geraldton.'
'Unfortunately, our position in this high pressure system was unavoidable unless we sailed west towards the back of the fleet or east to Esperance [in Western Australia], so our only option is to continue our current course and hope we pop out the other side eventually,' Richard said.
Although the low pressure has bought with it overcast skies and drizzle, Richard said that it has also bought a temperature increase. 'Crew are able to peel off at least one layer of thermals as the temperature has soared to a balmy 15 degrees Celsius. It’s still far from bikini weather but a lot better than the 5 degrees we’ve had for the past two weeks,' he said.
Crew are already starting to appreciate what they have achieved in this challenging race. 'We have covered a substantial amount of miles to date and endured some very extreme conditions, so it is no wonder everybody is already feeling proud,' Richard said.
Welcome to Yorkshire races from Cape Town, South Africa, at the start of Race 4 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
Rupert Dean reports that all is calm on Welcome to Yorkshire as they sail close-hauled in light airs. 'As we sail across some of the most potentially rough waters of the world, all is calm here in the Southern Ocean. Indeed, so flat are the seas you could play billiards on them, assuming of course, your balls would float!' he said.
'Around us the rest of the fleet are taking similar lines around the western edge of this massive anticyclone, with the exception of Gold Coast Australia, who is attempting to round it to the east. Whilst we are keeping an eye on them, we're more concerned about the boats to the west of us who, by virtue of being further from the eye of the high, are maybe experiencing higher average wind speeds,' Rupert said.
'On the other hand, those same boats could experience headwinds for longer than us, so it's all a balance and remains anyone's race,' he added. Welcome to Yorkshire has failed to pick up an extra point in the Ocean Sprint after recording an elapsed time of 30h 48m 40s.
On Geraldton Western Australia, Juan Coetzer and his team have experienced light and variable wind for the Ocean Sprint.
The team has also had an unwelcome visitor in the form of the chafe monster. 'Our main halyard has been wearing through in a bad area, and there is very little we can do as the chafe is where the rope exits the mast,' Juan said.
However, his crew remain in high spirits and are starting to think of well-deserved beers and the local delicacies they will enjoy they arrive in Geraldton.
On Singapore, the Ocean Sprint has proved challenging due to a lack of wind and skipper, Ben Bowley, says their progress is more akin to a 'stroll'.
'We crossed the start of the Ocean Sprint yesterday afternoon and almost immediately the breeze died right off to around 6 knots of true wind,' Ben reports.
'Our tactics for the Ocean Sprint and for dealing with the expanding high pressure to the north east are seeing us take a bit of a hit in the overall positions, but this was to be expected. We are making a little investment to the east now that we hope will pay off in a few days time,' he said.
'We also have to think a little differently from some of the other boats who still have use of their spinnakers. It is tough though to get back into fifth and then give two places away but we must have faith in the plan and hope to reap the benefits in the closing stages of the race,' Ben said.
Stuart Jackson on De Lage Landen sums up the last 24 hours as 'tedious' due to flat seas, very little wind and next to no boat speed despite logging the fastest Ocean Sprint time to date.
'We’re sitting just on the edge of the high with nothing to do but wait for it to move. It's frustrating to be in these weather conditions when we are only just over 1,000 miles from Geraldton, making the elusive finish line seem even further away,' Stuart said.
Qingdao in the Parade of Sail in Cape Town, South Africa, at the start of Race 4 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
Qingdao also started the Ocean Sprint yesterday and Ian Conchie and his team will need to have finished by 1127.01 UTC today in order to beat De Lage Landen’s time. Geraldton Western Australia needs to finish by 1914.19 UTC today to beat the current fastest time, if Qingdao fails to improve on the Dutch team’s time.
If Qingdao fails to beat Stuart Jackson’s time, Singapore would need to finish by 1521.45 UTC today to be in with a chance of winning the extra bonus point. The teams have to declare their start and finish times for the Ocean Sprint to the Race Office within three hours in order to be eligible for winning the bonus point.
Ian explains that his team has put its overall race strategy ahead of their Ocean Sprint tactics. 'We decided not to sacrifice our race strategy by heading too far east trying to set a fast time, and it seems that the boats around us have adopted the same plan as heading east would take us directly into the centre of the high,' he said.
'Apart from a couple of brief moments, we’ve been enjoying some lovely sailing under the Yankee 1 and full main. We had to threaten with the wind seeker at one point this morning but by the time it was rigged the wind had filled in again,' he added.
The fleet is expected to arrive in Geraldton in Western Australia between 26 and 31 October. Positions at 0900 UTC, Monday 24 October Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 1,178nm
2 De Lage Landen - 1,253nm (+75nm DTL**)
3 New York - 1,271nm (+93nm)
4 Welcome to Yorkshire - 1,291nm (+113nm)
5 Qingdao - 1,319nm (+141nm)
6 Geraldton Western Australia - 1,328nm (+150nm)
7 Singapore - 1,353nm (+175nm) position at 0600
8 Visit Finland - 1,429nm (+251nm)
9 Derry-Londonderry - 1,433nm (+255nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 1,473nm (+295nm) position at 0600
*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