Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 third leg from Cape Town, Africa to Geraldton, Western Australia is currently underway. After clinching the bonus point for the Ocean Sprint in race four yesterday, Visit Finland has stormed up the leader board overhauling two boats into sixth place.
Olly Osborne and his team declared an elapsed time of 26 hours exactly for covering the distance between 90 and 95 degrees east. This time proved to be 70 minutes speedier than the second fastest boat, De Lage Landen, and Visit Finland looks set to pick up the coveted point.
Despite missing out on the Ocean Sprint victory, Stuart Jackson and his team have managed to nibble 11 miles out of Gold Coast Australia’s lead as they benefit favourable winds to the west.
Stuart reports that his team is managing to make some 'easy and stress free miles towards Geraldton' in what he describes as 'reasonable' winds.
Now that the top half of the fleet has less than 1,000 miles to the finish in Geraldton, the skippers are focusing on the weather and trying to work out how to escape the lingering high.
'All eyes are now on the high pressure system we are all trying to get through, and watching where it reforms after splitting in two,' Stuart said.
'As we have continued north and prepare to head out of the Roaring Forties, the weather has been warming up considerably, and the crew are now naming the 'Roaring Forties' the 'Boring Forties' after the last week’s weather,' he said.
Stuart said his team is hoping that today is the last day of very light winds for this race as everyone is 'keen to get in to Geraldton to enjoy steak or local seafood and a few ice cold beers'.
On Gold Coast Australia, Richard Hewson reports that his team has experienced a 'very frustrating but rewarding' 24 hours despite losing ground to the Dutch team closing in from behind.
'With De Lage Landen sailing in better winds to the west of us, they are slowly eating away at our lead. Hopefully we can get to the new south easterly winds that are currently blowing around the south west cape of Australia first and we will be well positioned for the final run up the coast to Geraldton,' he added.
Gold Coast Australia’s crew continues to try to weave through the high pressure in the variable conditions.
Richard reports that he is now approximately a third of the way across the high pressure ridge and experiencing fickle winds that have varied by over 90 degrees in direction and 15 knots in strength.
'This variation in the wind makes it very frustrating to try to develop tactics and convey the best course to steer for helmsmen and trimmers,' Richard said.
As the leading boat closes in on Geraldton, thoughts are turning to what has been achieved on this gruelling race across the Southern Ocean.
'Now that we are less than 1,000 miles from the finish, the rest of the race is basically a countdown. With every 100 miles burnt off, a feeling of reward and pride sweeps over the boat as we can now see our end goal is finally in sight after such a massively physically, mentally and tactically enduring race,' Richard said.
Just over 100 miles behind the leaders, New York is preparing to leave the Southern Ocean and re-enter the Indian Ocean
'The wind has been more stable but light, and the high we were sailing round has moved to the north west enabling us to sail a better course towards the finish and we’re now seeing more miles come off our distance to the finish,' skipper, Gareth Glover, said.
'Looking at the weather charts this wind will stay for the next few days and may build. There is still a small high to get pass before getting to the coast of Australia but we’re hoping to get to Geraldton in the next five or six days. Let’s see what the wind gods have in store for us,' he said.
'After 3,500 miles of racing, eight of us are within 50 miles of each other,' he said, noting that the skipper’s will be looking over their shoulders as they close in on the finish.
On Welcome to Yorkshire, Rupert Dean reports that his team is having a time of 'quiet reflection' as they prepare to leave the Southern Ocean at 40 degrees south.
'This has been a truly epic Southern Ocean leg, one of highs and lows, storms and tranquillity. We've had the frustration of losing ground to our competitors, through being becalmed in Table Bay and having to veer radically off course to avoid icebergs, to the elation of making up the ground lost on both occasions,' Rupert said.
'Discomfort and occasionally fear has been felt during times of cold and heavy weather, which now feels so long ago during these warmer more quiet times,' he added.
'The remoteness of this vast ocean has been hard to take in too, as being far away from any shipping lanes, we haven’t seen another vessel since leaving Cape Town some 4,000 miles ago,' he said.
'In all it's been a real privilege to sail through this wild, remote and unforgiving part of the world, one which I will certainly treasure for years to come,' he said.
Rupert admits that with the majority of the race already sailed, it is easy to forget that with 1,000 miles to go, there is much racing to be done.
'For any sailor outside the realms of ocean racing, that is a very long way indeed. The challenge for all of us, therefore, is to reinvigorate our concentration, focus and teamwork for the final push to the finish,' he said.
Despite taking miles out of the leading boat, Singapore has slipped down a place due to Visit Finland’s gains but Ben Bowley reports that his team has found some consistent breeze.
'We still have to pick our way through a slim trough of low pressure between two highs but if we can find a way through over the next 24 hours there is a good chance we shall be free and on our final run to Geraldton,' he said.
Although he had a sleepless night as his team flew their only remaining spinnaker, they managed to keep the lightweight kite flying in one piece through the night.
'We can now only hope that any moderate to strong wind is far enough forward of the beam to rule out using kites, or else our handicap will start to be felt strongly in the closing stages of this Southern Ocean epic,' Ben 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 has been racing within sight of Singapore and the two skippers have managed to have a welcome catch-up via VHF radio after the trials and tribulations of the last three weeks.
'It never ceases to amaze me that out here with nothing else for miles two Clipper yachts can be drawn to each other like magnets,' Qingdao skipper, Ian Conchie, said.
The Qingdao crew has also been joined by a pair of southern right whales who showed their tails just 10 metres from the boat. 'We think it was a mother and calf so we are grateful we didn't sail between them and anger the mother,' Ian said.
As Ian and his team push north east to try to escape the high, plans are afoot for spinnaker repairs and shopping for fresh provisions in Geraldton.
'One area of concern is cracking on with the repair of our medium weight spinnaker during what looking to be a short stopover, so getting the materials and tools we need is urgent,' Ian said.
On Derry-Londonderry, Mark Light reports that his team is making good progress under a full main and heavyweight spinnaker with a consistent 12 knots of wind.
'Looking ahead to the weather charts for the next few days it looks like the centre of the high is moving away and the wind will fill in nicely, which will suit our northerly position in the fleet,' he said.
It has been 'an eventful few days' below decks on Derry-Londonderry, Mark reports.
He said one of his crew, Sarah Varney, took a fall and badly injured her ankle. 'Sarah is being well looked after and now has a heavily strapped ankle which is awaiting an x-ray in port,' Mark reports.
In addition to the injury, Mark’s team is dealing with water maker and generator problems but both issues have now been resolved after some arduous and messy repairs. 'Good job, because I now need a shower!' Mark said.
On Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, skipper Gordon Reid said that fickle winds overnight had tested his team with 'lots of wind holes, localised small fronts, light drizzle and 30 degree wind shifts'.
'We had to work very hard just to stop the boat from parking up,' Gordon reports.
Eventually the wind settled and up went our heavily stitched medium weight kite, and since then our speed has picked up to an impressive 10 knots,' he said.
'Having lost a few miles from our massive gains made over the previous 48 hours, we are as keen as ever to continue to take those miles and more back from the fleet,' he added.
'We eagerly await the next weather update to see how things are forming and looking to finalise or exit strategy as we will inevitably pass through the high in the next 48 hours or so,' he said.
Geraldton Western Australia arrives in Cape Town at the end of Race 3 of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. - Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
As Geraldton Western Australia enters the closing stages of the race into her home port, Juan Coetzer and his team have gained some ground on the leaders despite slipping down as place on the position table.
Although one of the Geraldton Western Australia crew is more accustomed to making sure Formula 1 cars maintain peak performance on the race track, Ed Gibson has been putting his engineering skills to good use on board his team’s Clipper 68.
Ed, a 35-year-old round the world crew member on Geraldton Western Australia, is a Systems Engineer for the McLaren Formula 1 team.
'Before starting Clipper 11-12, my job was mainly to make sure that the cars got to the end of the race without any problems. The ethos of racing a yacht and a car are quite similar. A F1 race lasts for about two hours and is pretty intense for the mechanics and engineers as you have to be prepared for anything to happen,' Ed said.
'So far we have been racing this leg for three weeks and, while it is not quite as intense as an F1 race, it is pretty hard work and there hasn't been any let up for three weeks,' he said.
Ed has faced one challenge head on, despite a lack of previous experience in his Formula 1 career, when he set about fixing his team’s two heads.
'One thing you won't find on any racing car is a toilet, or 'heads' as they are known on yachts. We were having problems with our heads not working properly since starting the race and I got the job of trying to finally fix them in Cape Town. It's not a particularly pleasant job as you know what goes down them and through the hand pump and the rest of the pipes,' Ed said.
'It took two full days of changing pipes, checking all the jubilee clips were tight, changing parts of the pump internals that didn't look quite right and then putting it all back together. I was quite pleased at the end of it all as there were no leaks and the pumps were working quite well,' he said.
Of all the transferrable skills to bring to the Clipper Race, Ed’s engineering skills have shown that it is often abilities other than sailing experience that prove most useful when mid-ocean. Positions at 0900 UTC, Wednesday 26 October Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 835nm
2 De Lage Landen - 903nm (+68nm DTL**)
3 New York - 941nm (+106nm)
4 Welcome to Yorkshire - 958nm (+123nm)
5 Qingdao - 978nm (+143nm)
6 Visit Finland - 1005nm (+170nm)
7 Singapore - 1011nm (+176nm) position at 0600
8 Geraldton Western Australia - 1014nm (+179nm)
9 Derry-Londonderry - 1079nm (+244nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 1120nm (+285nm) position at 0800
*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