Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 third leg from Cape Town, Africa to Geraldton, Western Australia is currently underway.
Gold Coast Australia has extended its lead overnight as a cold front bringing winds up to 30 knots powered the Australian team led by Tasmanian Richard Hewson towards the finish line off Geraldton.
'The front is the first sign of the massive high pressure system making its way closer to our current position, bringing with it rising pressure and lighter winds,' he said.
'We’re hoping to maintain our speed to enable us to sneak to the north of the high pressure system and remain in good winds all the way to the finish,' Richard added.
Since yesterday, the team on Gold Coast Australia has managed to extend its lead over De Lage Landen to 91 miles. Richard Hewson said that he now expects to finish slightly earlier than he was predicting to a few days ago.
With just under 600 miles to run to the finish, Gold Coast Australia is expected to arrive in Geraldton on Sunday.
After a gruelling 4,800-mile race from Cape Town, the ten teams are looking forward to visiting the port that became an instant hit with the crews when the city hosted its inaugural stopover during the last edition of the event, Clipper 09-10.
This morning meteorologist Simon Rowell informed the teams that the centre of the high looks as if it will move to sit over the South Australian Basin. 'This is fairly normal behaviour and the ridge will slowly rotate anticlockwise, hopefully moving south over the fleet as they hack north through it,' he said.
Despite losing some ground on the leading boat, De Lage Landen has also been enjoying some 'very pleasant sailing', according to skipper Stuart Jackson.
'After the wind picked up and the direction changed, we were finally able to hoist our freshly repaired medium weight spinnaker and with a solid 15 knots of wind, we are averaging some good speeds,' he said.
After over three weeks of what he describes as 'top notch racing', Stuart reports that the focus and spirits on board are high as the final approach is planned.
'Only a couple more days to go and we'll be enjoying the wonderful beaches and wines of Australia,' he added.
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
Also gunning for one of the coveted podium spots is New York, and round the world crew member, Adrian Kingsbury, said his team is in good spirits as the breeze builds and the temperature rises for their final approach to Australia.
'The weather has begun to change and started to resemble the conditions we are all hoping for in Geraldton. As we leave the lower latitudes behind we are beginning to climb to warmer more pleasant climes,' he said.
Adrian reports that the New York crew woke their skipper, Gareth Glover, this morning as the breeze began to back and build, and he called for a gybe. The team also dropped their medium weight spinnaker, dubbed ‘Zorro’ due to its extensive repairs, and hoisted their heavyweight.
Adrian reports that the whole evolution took longer than usual as New York is now sailing with just one pole, known on board as ‘Frankenpole’, an amalgamation of two snapped spinnaker poles which the team has fashioned into one.
Despite the lengthy process, the wind shifted following the hoist of the heavyweight and the New York team switched to the Yankee 1.
'We are now trucking along at a healthy 10 knots making good progress to the finish. The talk is beginning to turn to beer once again and our estimated time of arrival has been under 100 hours for quite some time now, so stand by Geraldton, here we come!' Adrian said.
The countdown is also well underway for the Geraldton Western Australia team’s arrival into their home port. Skipper Juan Coetzer reports that his team has enjoyed a good day’s sailing in the warmer Indian Ocean.
'Albatross have been gliding along with us gracefully as we close in on our home port,' Juan said, adding that things were going smoothly until a wind shift called for a gybe and a kite drop.
'All of a sudden it became busy on deck and the crew sprung into action dropping the lightweight kite and hoisting the staysail and the headsail and we are back on course again. Now the crew is left with a snakes’ wedding to sort out [a mass of tangled ropes] and a kite to pack,' Juan said.
On Singapore, Ben Bowley and his team were hampered by their lack of a functioning medium weight kite as the wind built.
'We spent 12 hours sailing with a poled-out Yankee 2 when a medium weight spinnaker would have been ideal, so it has been slow and painful stuff,' Ben said.
'It was a little disheartening to have caught Qingdao again, and then watch them sail off over the horizon under spinnaker as we crawled along under white sails,' he added.
Having picked up some breeze, Ben is hoping that he can escape the light and fluky winds they have experienced over the past few days. 'Having squeezed our way through between these two high pressure systems, the race is now on to stay in the band of stronger south easterly winds before the high opens up again and swallows us up in a big windless hole,' he said.
As they gear up for their run to the line, Ben and his team are looking forward to 'a few cool tinnies' after what Ben describes as a 'long and eventful' race.
Still holding onto their spot in the top half of the leader board, the team on Qingdao is focused on the distance to finish, and Ian Conchie reports that there was 'another cheer' as they passed the 800-mile mark.
'We have been trying to keep up our boat speed to try to outrun the worst of the high pressure that has been threatening to engulf us, using spinnakers, Yankee headsails and the staysail as needed. Only time and the exact passage of the high will tell but everyone on board is looking forward to Geraldton,' Ian said.
'The fleet is coming closer and closer together as the wind benefits some and not others as we close on the finish. I suspect there will be many long tales and sea stories to be told over a cold one when we arrive,' he added.
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
Sail changes a plenty have been carried out on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, as Gordon Reid and his team passes through the ever expanding high pressure system.
'Testing for sure but we had fun doing sail changes all night long,' he said.
'Today we are enjoying the sunshine, surrounded by sea birds and joined for a time by a pod of passing whales. We are stoked to be out here and part of the great adventure that is the world’s longest yacht race,' Gordon added.
The passage back into the Indian Ocean from the Southern Ocean and the accompanying sense of accomplishment was celebrated with a tot of rum on Derry-Londonderry.
'We have now left the Roaring Forties of the mighty Southern Ocean and entered a very flat, azure blue South Indian Ocean,' Mark said.
'This sort of thing does not happen every day like crossing a road or going to the shops and it serves to remind us what an incredible thing we are all doing here,' skipper, Mark Light, reports.
'Now the forecasts are becoming much clearer and with the large high pressure moving away we can all concentrate on making best speed towards Geraldton,' he said.
'The fleet has bunched up somewhat in ocean racing terms and with just under 1,000 miles to run there is still plenty of racing to be had and lots of important decisions still to be made,' Mark said.
'All the teams are in different states of health when it comes to being able to fly spinnakers so this could also be a critical factor in determining who finishes where in the final run in,' he added.
Rupert Dean reports that it has been all change on Welcome to Yorkshire overnight as the wind finally materialised heralding the end of frustrating sailing in light airs.
'One thing's for sure. It's going to be a nail biting sprint to the finish,' Rupert said.
'Essentially we have just sailed through the middle of a double high pressure system and are now coming out the other side. As we progress north east, we can expect the winds to drop again in a few hours, head us, then re-establish themselves strongly from the south east for the run up the Australian coast to Geraldton,' he said.
Rupert reports that his team experienced a dramatic wind shift at around 2300 UTC due to a localised front.
'The latter part of this leg is very much shaping up to be a drag race to the finish and we're conscious of every mile won or lost against our competitors. With the boats and crews so evenly matched, as one would expect in one-design racing, progress is all about good helming, trimming, marking the boats behind you and trying to place your boat on the side of the fleet nearest the stronger winds,' Rupert said.
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 news that his team was set to win the extra point for the Ocean Sprint proved a 'great morale booster' after the team’s setbacks earlier in the race including major damage to their mainsail.
'Spirits are high on board and as we make our way through the last 800 miles it seems that it’s still all to play for,' he said. 'The whole crew has put a lot of effort into repairing damaged gear to get Visit Finland back up to full capability, and we are hoping to take advantage of this in these last few days of racing.
'Great concentration is required from everyone on board to react quickly to the numerous wind shifts, and as the whole fleet is now more or less in the same belt of winds and making a similar course, it is becoming a battle of the trimmers,' he added.
Olly said the position reports received every six hours are eagerly awaited by his team to work out whether their efforts have paid off. 'As the fleet reshuffles in the lighter airs it promises to be a really exiting finale to this marathon leg,' he added.
When they arrive in Geraldton, the crews will be able to enjoy the typically Australian atmosphere of Melbourne Cup Day with a day out at the Geraldton Turf Club; they will visit the stunning Abrolhos Islands; and pay their respects in a wreath laying ceremony at the HMAS Sydney II Memorial where the new reflection pool is due to be officially dedicated next month. Positions at 0900 UTC, Thursday 27 October Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 597nm
2 De Lage Landen - 689nm (+91nm DTL**)
3 New York - 745(+147nm)
4 Welcome to Yorkshire - 755nm (+158nm)
5 Qingdao - 771nm (+173nm)
6 Visit Finland - 799nm (+201nm)
7 Singapore - 817nm (+220nm) position at 0600
8 Geraldton Western Australia - 833nm (+236nm)
9 Derry-Londonderry - 905nm (+308nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 991nm (+394nm) 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