Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 third leg from Cape Town, Africa to Geraldton, Western Australia is currently underway. Gold Coast Australia’s team is on a high while the high pressure is making some of the other teams feel distinctly low.
'Gold Coast Australia is having a dream run up the West Australian coastline with fantastic fresh winds from the east south east,' says Richard Hewson.
The Australian skipper continues, 'Overnight we were delighted when we received each sched and noted that our lead stretched to a phenomenal 260nm over the nearest yacht and it makes it even sweeter to be sailing in these perfect winds knowing that if things had not gone according to plan we could be drifting in the high pressure system to the south for another two days.'
The team, which has just emerged from Stealth Mode, is expected to arrive in Geraldton at approximately 0700 local time on Sunday (2300 UTC Saturday).
'Everybody on board is very excited and continues to race hard towards Geraldton with the expectation of arriving early tomorrow morning. Things that we have been dreaming of for the past three weeks such as dry beds, hot baths, food that you can chew and refreshments that don't hydrate you will soon become reality.'
De Lage Landen is still keeping up the chase for second place and has been in Stealth Mode since midnight.
'We’re nudging our way to the Big G,' writes Stuart Jackson, the skipper. 'We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we may make it for the Melbourne Cup Day races. Numerous sail changes are taking place to catch any gust of wind most effectively: anything to try to get out of this high. Recorded boat speed went up again to seven to nine knots earlier this morning and so far it has been holding.'
Visit Finland and Geraldton Western Australia have managed to wiggle their way towards some decent breeze in the last 24 hours and overnight made some good gains, Visit Finland nudging ahead into third place at the 1200 UTC position update. It is a remarkable run for the team who were struggling at the back of the fleet ten days ago.
Olly Osborne, skipper of the Finnish entry, says, 'We are now enjoying fantastic sailing conditions as the breeze fills in and allows us to make the course we have been hunting for the last few days. Hopefully this spells the end of the grips of the high pressure system and, as we work our way into the more consistent south easters along the coast, the prospect of a long reach in the right direction is very appealing. It looks like all the boats are beginning to find their way into the better breeze and so our run of good fortunes may be harder to maintain as rest of the fleet look to make a more direct course toward the finishing line.'
The news will come as a blow for the crew of New York who have held on to a top three place for the majority of this race.
Gareth Glover, the skipper of the US yacht, reports that they also appear to have escaped the high pressure system, saying, 'At last the wind has filled in from the east around at around eight knots. After only making a few miles in the last 12 hours we were working hard to keep the yacht moving in the right direction and with the best speed to see us hold pace with Visit Finland and Geraldton Western Australia. They are over 100nm to the north of us and look like they have been sailing in more wind and had the time to sail around the light-to-no wind we have been having for the last 48 hours.
'We hope, now the wind has filled in, that we are going to be able to hold them off and see us get a top three result after all the hard work the team on New York has put in over the past three weeks.'
Geraldton Western Australia races away from Cape Town - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. - Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
The eagerly awaited home boat, Geraldton Western Australia, has moved from seventh to fifth place in the last 24 hours and one thing is sure, the yacht will be sparkling by the time she is greeted by the good people of Geraldton.
Skipper Juan Coetzer says, 'It’s been a day of housekeeping: the boat is getting a clean from top to bottom and the mothers are baking us treats.'
The much needed wind has turned light and fickle though, and, says Juan, 'The generator was playing up this morning so Ian got stuck in and serviced the water cooling system under Mick’s guidance.'
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital has had one of the best runs of the last 24 hours and has moved from tenth to ninth place. Skipper, Gordon Reid, explains, 'Sailing proves once more that it is a dynamic game as we ride the sweet spot on edge of the high. In ocean racing, as in life, you need to choose a route. We have lots of weather and routing information to help us make our decision but in the end your instincts tell you what to do and you hope that you have chosen the right course. With the race hotting up and closing fast on the finish line we will soon know.
'The team on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital have a level of commitment second to none; we are focused and will drive her hard right to the finish line.'
Singapore’s fortunes have seen a slight upturn as well, comments skipper, Ben Bowley. 'The last 24 hours have seen us make very sedate progress toward Geraldton. Speeds of six knots or more are rare but very welcome when they show themselves. We have been slipping along, searching for whatever zephyrs we can as the ridge of high pressure opens and shifts about ahead of us.
'We decided yesterday, due to our poor position within the fleet, that it was worth trying to find a path through to the east rather than sail back towards South Africa and go around the western end of the light airs. The idea behind this is to be set better to the winds when they do eventually reappear from the east.
'So far this has been working out OK for us but we look set for another period of almost no wind over the next 12 hours. At least the sea state has calmed down and is no longer shaking what little breeze we find out of the sails.'
The Chinese team has also been finding progress frustratingly slow and, in common with Singapore, has been using the time to work through their jobs list in order to make the most of their time in Geraldton.
'The high pressure that has been sitting over us stubbornly refuses to release us from its grasp,' explains Ian Conchie, skipper of Qingdao. 'Occasionally we get a patch of wind which gets the boat moving nicely and our ETA tumbles but then the wind drops again. In the meantime we are doing as much as we can to save time in the stopover. Sails are being inspected, lockers cleaned and so forth.
'This morning we had a welcome sight with Welcome to Yorkshire appearing on the horizon, so that has given us something to work towards as a target but it will be hard work in these light airs.'
The ‘Most Frustrated Skipper’ crown passes today to the man in charge of the English entry, Rupert Dean.
'It's hard to put a positive spin on racing life on Welcome to Yorkshire at present,' he tell says. 'For days we've been stuck in this everlasting, stinking wind hole, whilst competitors both to the east and west make massive gains on us. Whilst we're doing everything we can to get out of this mess, the wind (not that there is any) is resolutely coming from where we want to go, making tacking angles and achievable VMG (Velocity Made Good – speed in the right direction) hideous to say the least. It is very dispiriting to watch boats, which a few days ago were scores of miles behind, overtake and sail blissfully towards the finish line.
'To the credit of the crew, morale on board Welcome to Yorkshire remains surprisingly high. Having been involved in and fully briefed on our racing strategy since the start, they know how we came to get here, are putting a brave face on it, and are sailing their backsides off to get us out of this mess.'
Derry-Londonderry races from Cape Town, South Africa, at the start of Race 4 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Bruce Sutherland/onEdition
The team on back marker, Derry-Londonderry, is trying very hard not to fall into the same trap and skipper, Mark Light, is smiling, despite the frustrations of fighting the light airs and is sympathetic to the plight of those teams trapped by the high pressure system.
He says, 'We are doing our best to avoid the centre of the high pressure and I can see from our position updates that some of the other boats have got stuck at the moment with some very painful six-hourly runs. I do feel for you guys sincerely... We all know how frustrating it can be and it is cruel so close to the finish as well. I know as skippers, we all recognise the trials and tribulations of this profession and, if it makes anybody feel better, we on LegenDerry have good speed but in the wrong direction and our mainsail repair has finally relented. I can tell you that sailing with one reef in the main in an area dominated by high pressure does not make me feel on top of the world, to say the least! I think all skippers and crews definitely deserve a break, furnished with some lovely cold beers and an Aussie BBQ.
'The sun is still shining and as I write this I can’t help cracking a smile to myself... life is good! Positions at 1200 UTC, Saturday 29 October Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 110nm
2 De Lage Landen - 493nm (+383nm DTL**) (Stealth Mode: position at 0001)
3 Visit Finland - 532nm (+423nm)
4 New York - 534nm (+425nm)
5 Geraldton Western Australia - 559nm (+449nm)
6 Welcome to Yorkshire - 581nm (+471nm)
7 Qingdao - 581nm (+471nm)
8 Singapore - 589nm (+480nm)
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 654nm (+544nm)
10 Derry-Londonderry - 668nm (+559nm)
*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