Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race is on the eighth day of leg four, from Geraldton, Western Australia to Tauranga, New Zealand.
As the rest of the fleet powers towards Tasmania and the start of the Ocean Sprint at 150 degrees east, Singapore is making good speed of seven to eight knots under secondary steering towards Queenscliff at the mouth of Port Philip Bay where they will be able to pick up the specialist tools required to repair their steering system.
Skipper Ben Bowley reports from on board an upbeat Singapore, 'We have fallen into a different but already familiar watch rota. The new rota is allowing all the crew to get a reasonable amount of rest ahead of a busy couple of days and the intention is to ensure that the crew are well rested and ready to re-commence racing with renewed vigour.
'As we approach the infamous Port Philip heads at the start of the Bass Straits we are likely to see some fairly fruity conditions, up to 30+ knots from astern. This may seem like small fry after what the Southern Ocean has thrown at us over the last few weeks, but helming a boat down steep, choppy seas under secondary steering is no mean feat. We also have to ensure our arrival time coincides with slack water or last part of the flood tide entering Port Philip Bay so as to make the transit as calm as possible. Anyone who has tried entering Chichester harbour on an ebb tide and strong onshore breeze will tell you that the scariest waves are not always to be found out in the deep ocean.
'We are lucky to have a crew member aboard, Will Parbury, who has spent extensive time working out of the area on dive boats. With the addition of his local knowledge to some detailed pilotage plans I am confident that we can get ourselves into harbour, effect repairs, and be on our way again within a few hours.'
Ben continues, 'The crew and I would like to extend our thanks and appreciation for the kind emails of concern and support from all our followers. We look forward to seeing you in Tauranga where we anticipate receipt of our very own ‘Melbourne to Tauranga, Race 5.5’ yellow winner's pennant!'
Gold Coast Australia at the start of Race 5 in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Karl Monaghan/onEdition
Already in receipt of four yellow pennants in Clipper 11-12 is Gold Coast Australia, and if any of the other teams thought Tasmanian skipper, Richard Hewson, might be tempted to take a quick detour home in the next couple of days, they’re out of luck.
'We are now almost most northerly boat and we are making best speed for the Tasmanian gate. Tomorrow we should see the rocks of Pedra Branca sticking out of the water to the south of Tasmania as we sail past.
'It would be very tempting to alter course north into Storm Bay and sail into home waters. Unluckily for the other yachts in the race, my desire to win overcomes the desire to sail home so we will continue on past Tasmania to Tauranga!
'The winds over the next week are looking promising to make good speed to New Zealand and at the moment we are sailing in paradise in the Southern Ocean with a moderate 15-knot wind, sunny blue skies and flat seas.'
Visit Finland, in their mid-fleet position are also enjoying the conditions but skipper, Olly Osborne, knows they cannot allow themselves to become complacent as the next weather system approaches.
'This morning we are enjoying a fine reach and great speeds in the calmer seas,' he reports. 'There is a long swell building from astern which makes helming very exciting with the occasional surf getting into the twenties. And this also marks the approach of a much anticipated depression which looks set to arrive soon. As we dive further south toward the south west cape of Tasmania we are hoping to put as many miles in the bank as possible before it arrives, but overall we have been making great distances along with the rest of the fleet and, although our more northerly course has not provided us with such consistent winds, we are still pretty optimistic, and it's great to see we are still keeping pace with the pack.
'I think the most testing conditions still lie ahead in the Tasman Basin over the coming days, and although this is a relatively short leg in our journey the weather is likely to be much more severe than we have seen to date. The prospect of piling onto the continental shelf with a big following sea is one that focuses the mind somewhat, but the crew are in good spirits and are looking forward to the challenges, and the delights of New Zealand that lie ahead.'
Spirits have been lifted on board Geraldton Western Australia, where sea sickness and minor injuries have kept a number of crew off deck since the start of the race from their home port.
Juan Coetzer, skipper of the Western Australian entry, reports this morning, 'Yesterday seems so far away. The wind has been pretty constant and the sea relatively flat enabling us to steer a proper and true course in the right direction for a change. It is getting colder as we go south - so the crew are layering up with multi coloured clothing. The highlight was to have eleven of our crew on deck at Happy Hour for the first time since leaving G-town.'
Getting the crew from both watches together is an important part of the team building required to effectively race a yacht across oceans and the Geraldton Western Australia crew will take great comfort in knowing they are gaining in strength. The teams are not yet at the half-way point of this race and as they pass Tasmania and turn towards New Zealand there will be plenty of opportunity to gain ground on and overtake their competitors in the distance remaining.
De Lage Landen have also had a quiet night and are enjoying their traditional Sunday get-together for the crew as they continue to race towards Tauranga, making the most of the calm before the storm.
'On Sunday we have our deck party where we have a general catch up as a whole crew on deck and enjoy some nicer food and snacks and play party games, although I'm not sure what Bersi [German crew member Bersi Keuper, a user experience architect] has in mind for us today!' explains skipper, Stuart Jackson, ever mindful of the conditions ahead.
'The last frontal system passed through with a wind shift that gave us a pretty hefty crash gybe and a fair bit of damage and it looks like we are due to have another go through tonight, so we'll have to see what sort of gusts that brings.'
New York in Race 5 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Karl Monaghan/onEdition
De Lage Landen, as in Race 4, are putting the pressure on second placed New York, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by skipper of the American entry, Gareth Glover.
'Our friends from the last race, De Lage Landen, have now started to come back up from the south as we did and make good miles on the rest of the fleet and are now lying third only 20nm behind us at just under half way to Tauranga. The rest are only a few miles behind that so at this point we are happy to hold on to second, knowing we will have to fight to hold on to this to the end.
'The barometer has been dropping and we are awaiting a front from this low in the next 12 hours and expecting winds to get up to 40 knots which will suit us on New York as we reach towards Tasmania.'
Gareth is expecting there to be a change in positions among the fleet in the coming days.
Welcome to Yorkshire and Derry-Londonderry are engaged in a battle for supremacy and were close enough last night to enjoy a little banter over the airwaves.
'After a quick chat on VHF radio with Welcome to Yorkshire’s skipper, Rupert, we got back to constant trimming and concentrating on the helm which has paid dividends as we have managed to pull away slightly from them again!' says Mark Light, skipper of Derry-Londonderry. 'A very good headsail change up from Yankee 2 to Yankee 1 has helped proceedings – the evolution was briefed, timed and de-briefed and turned out to be one of our best ever – further proof that things are really coming together on board and that focus and hard work remains high on our priority list.'
The English yacht’s crew are making the most of their current challenge to hone their helming skills, as Rupert Dean reports this morning.
'Last night was a tricky one on Welcome to Yorkshire. Having dropped our heavyweight kite the previous day, we had been expecting a night of beam reaching under fresh but moderating north westerly winds, under main, Yankee 1 and staysail. Instead they remained fresh and very gusty until this morning, making keeping the boat in a straight line for helm and trimmers very challenging.
'Keeping your yacht in a straight line is one of the key ingredients to success in ocean racing. It demands real concentration and technique. So important is it that on some yachts only specialist helms are allowed to do it. On Welcome to Yorkshire all get to helm the boat, in accordance with the traditional values of the Clipper Race and those of our campaign. After all, the race is about the crew and what they aspire to achieve out of the experience.
'The challenges of helming last night were compounded by the loss of damping gas in our steering compass. This stops the compass from wildly swinging back and forth through great arcs as it is disturbed by waves and the turning momentum of the yacht. Without it, it becomes very difficult to know exactly when you are steering on course, resulting in a lot of over-compensation at the wheel and a far from straight line. Experienced helms know not to over rely on the compass, using other stimuli to do a good job. The feel of the wind on your face, the apparent wind angle and strength, angle of the swell, feel of the boat beneath your feet, windex and visual references in the sky (sun, moon, stars) all help. The latter are particularly useful, so were very much missed during the cloudy night last night.
Welcome to Yorkshire in Race 5 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - Karl Monaghan/onEdition
'The crew on Welcome to Yorkshire will have to rely on much more on their senses for the remainder of this race to Tauranga. By embracing this challenge, hopefully they will become much better helms and sailors for it.'
Qingdao’s crew have an equipment issue of their own – their navigation computer has stopped working. Salt water and electronics are not the most comfortable of bedfellows.
'It makes it hard to view the weather updates that the Race Office sends us daily but in terms of navigation it is not an issue,' comments skipper Ian Conchie. 'We all carry paper charts and have been plotting positions and courses on the charts as well as the PC since the race start in Southampton.
'It shows what a harsh environment the Southern Ocean can be on both people and equipment whilst providing some amazing sailing at the same time. We are reminded of this with every update as we monitor the progress of Singapore.
'We have had some lovely sailing conditions for the last 24 hours, reaching along with around 20 knots apparent wind with a full main and our number 2 Yankee. This has been giving us good speed towards the next gate off Tasmania. Unfortunately the temperature has also dropped and frequent showers are making our life that bit harder too. All of this puts a strain on the crew who look tired but remain cheerful and upbeat, looking forward to our next stopover in Tauranga.'
'Today Baz (round the world crew member, Barry Chamberlain, a project manager) and I managed to do a full assessment of our mast track damage and initiate a temporary repair which will allow us to fly the spinnaker again or pole out a head sail,' reports Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s skipper, Gordon Reid.
'For now we continue on a fast beam reach under conventional head sails. The sky is looking angry, the swell is building and gusts are increasing in frequency and strength,' reports 'The latest navigational warnings are predicting winds of 50 knots plus and a sea state of very rough to high. The crew are a little bit nervous but mainly very excited as the storm front approaches.
'The conditions last night were fairly lively and again today as the weather patterns in the Southern Ocean are more typical and extreme than when we were this far south in the last race: preceding fronts, followed by low pressure systems one after another, bringing with them lots of rain but also plenty of wind are making this race a fairly fast one so far.'
The fleet is expected to arrive slightly earlier than anticipated in Tauranga, between 21 and 25 November. Positions at 1200 UTC, Sunday 13 November Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 2,027nm
2 New York - 2,072nm (+45nm DTL**)
3 De Lage Landen - 2,097nm (+70nm)
4 Derry-Londonderry - 2,100nm (+73nm)
5 Welcome to Yorkshire - 2,106nm (+79nm)
6 Visit Finland - 2,118nm (+90nm)
7 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 2,170nm (+143nm)
8 Qingdao - 2,173nm (+146nm)
9 Geraldton Western Australia - 2,180nm (+153nm)
10 Singapore - 2,386nm (+359nm)
DTF* = Distance to Finish, DTL** = Distance to Leader Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found online
. Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website