Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. Day 2, Race 7 from Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia to Singapore.
'I have just woken up to Christmas tunes playing in the saloon and a breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Wow! And we are still in first place!'
That’s the kind of present Juan Coetzer likes to receive on board Geraldton Western Australia on Christmas morning.
He and his crew have some stiff competition though. Despite today’s festivities the racing continues and, although it’s the season of goodwill, that doesn’t necessarily stretch to ceding ground to your rival teams in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.
'It has been a rather surreal race start as only a few watches in it is Christmas,' comments Stuart Jackson, skipper of De Lage Landen, one of the teams putting the pressure on Geraldton Western Australia. 'Thankfully Santa did manage to find us and there are presents for all under the tree. Thank you to everyone who helped to decorate the boat. We are all excited to be back out to sea and racing what looks to be a very exciting leg.'
He signs off, 'Merry Christmas from all on board De Lage Landen and love to all our friends and families.'
It’s all business on board Gold Coast Australia where skipper, Richard Hewson, says, 'All I want for Christmas is another yellow pennant.'
'We had an interesting start to Race 7. The conditions gave us fantastic winds but there was a rather large sea and swell,' he continues. 'As we lined up for the start the alarm system below started ringing and I went down to investigate. To my horror the bilge had over a foot of water in it. Since we had just come out of our dry dock phase at The Boat Works I thought that one of the sea cocks may not have been secured correctly however after further investigation it was the stern gland that wraps around the engine shaft separating the normally dry hull from the surrounding water. The stern glad had split. Rather than return to port we decided to try to fix it ourselves, and with a bit of sikaflex, self-amalgamating tape and a can-do attitude, the leak has now been reduced to a dribble.
'While we were dealing with this at two minutes to go before the start, as we were tacking for our final approach to the pin end of the start line one of our Yankee sheets came off so the Yankee had to be dropped and the sheet re-attached. Thankfully this didn’t take long and we still had a good start.
'Gold Coast Australia has been making fantastic ground up the coast and at the last sched we were in second place. We have since headed back to sea to look for an East Australian Current eddy that is located to the west of the low pressure system that was Tropical Cyclone Fina and which is giving us our wind at the moment. To my delight our Speed Over Ground (SOG) is now more than our Boat Speed, indicating that we are now in the current. Even better than this we have 30-35 knots of following wind to push us up the coast.'
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is making the most of the conditions on a day to remember.
'Following an exciting and lumpy race start on the rolling swell, we have a lively sea state and very good winds from behind and are making excellent progress up the eastern coast of Australia, with the pack still fairly tight and mostly all within sight of each other. It is nice to have a bit of company on this most bizarre of Christmas days!' says skipper, Gordon Reid.
'Just after midnight we had a wee dram to celebrate Christmas and were duly reminded that we are on the edge of a tropical depression when the wind rose to over 40 knots in an instant and it was time to reduce sail. Today the sun is shining, the sea is wild and there are frequent gusts. We have just dropped the Yankee 2 to repair a small tear and are making fast progress under poled out Yankee 3 and staysail whilst we get stitching.
'If you are watching Jaws on TV, as it's always on at this time of year, spare a thought for the ocean racing team on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital who yesterday saw a great white shark half the size of the boat, swim menacingly along beside us only a few feet away. I am sure he was giving us the eyeball looking for his Christmas dinner!
'On this most surreal of Christmas Days, from the skipper and the crew of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, we wish all of our loved ones and supporters a very Merry Christmas and hope Santa brings you what your heart desires.'
His words are echoed by New York’s skipper, Gareth Glover. 'May I take this opportunity to wish you all across the world a very Merry Christmas,' he says.
'We had an emotional but very fond farewell from Gold Coast yesterday. I think all will agree it was a fantastic stopover and we were continuously made to feel very welcome by everybody we met. Southport Yacht Club was unbelievable and the people there really went out of their way to give us a stopover to remember. We all met some amazing people and made memories for life, so thank you to all the people of Gold Coast and a big Thank You to staff and members alike at Southport Yacht Club for making the stopover so memorable.
'As we made our last phone calls home and gave our last hugs of farewell on the pontoon, we all did our best to keep emotions at bay and concentrate on the race ahead. It still hadn't quite hit home that it was Christmas Eve. It was warm and the sun shining, this is something we don't tend to see in the UK at this time of year. Having Christmas on the Gold Coast, with the sun shining, has been a pleasant experience.'
Each of the teams was presented with a hamper of Christmas goodies by the restaurants that had adopted the ten crews for the stopover.
Gareth continues, 'On board New York spirits were very high, especially after raiding our hamper. The restaurant that adopted us during our stay, Hard Café, gave us a fantastic hamper, complete with a ham joint and Christmas pudding for Christmas Day. Thank you Hard Cafe, it was a fantastic hamper and much appreciated and enjoyed by all.
'Our race start went well and crossed the start line in first place. This was a brilliant effort from all on board. As time passed we continued to race well and maintain our good position. As the sun went down we could see two boats on our starboard side and the battle to catch them began. Having the motivation of other boats around you really helps push you on especially on the first few days, as life back on board is tough as you attempt to settle back into the watch system.
'As the day’s events unfold thoughts of family and friends back home are always close by. As Christmas lunch is served in our multi coloured, non-slip dog bowls complete with a spork, we will be raising a toast to all those friends and family around the world that we can't be with during the festive period. May you all have a fantastic Christmas Day and enjoy the extra servings of turkey and Christmas pudding.
'Lots of love and festive cheer from all on board on New York.'
The fleet is spread out in a line approximately 80 miles wide. Further to the west than New York is English entry, Welcome to Yorkshire, under the command of Rupert Dean.
'Since the spectacular windy start, we've been power-reaching along under a reefed main, staysail and Yankee 1,' he says. 'As the wind has veered further south we have recently changed to a poled out Yankee and are making good progress, surfing down some impressive seas.
'Today is a very special day on Welcome to Yorkshire as it is the first Christmas the crew will have celebrated on a racing yacht at sea. Special arrangements have been made to make this as pleasant and memorable as possible for everyone as they spend Christmas away from loved ones, most of whom live on the other side of the world! Our Christmas tree and decorations are out, special meals have been prepared and, this afternoon we will have Secret Santa joining our ranks. All of us on Welcome to Yorkshire are thinking of you at home and wish you the very best for Christmas and the New Year.'
Furthest to the west of the fleet, the Chinese entry’s skipper, Ian Conchie, says, 'Happy Christmas to everyone from the crew of Qingdao!
'It was an interesting and crowded start but we all made it through. Unfortunately taking the inshore route to the first mark didn't pay off as we hoped but we have been heading north staying close to the coast which has allowed us to make back some places.
'There has been no respite for the new crew however. Big waves and plenty of action on deck has seen the return of the hated sea sickness.'
More season’s greetings from on board Singapore, from where skipper, Ben Bowley, says, 'Merry Christmas everyone!
'I have to say, though, that for the last 24 hours Christmas has been fairly low on our agenda. Our priority aboard Singapore has been to get ourselves into a decent position in the early stages of this long race. We had an excellent start and found ourselves in second place passing the last of the start markers.
'Our position reported now is a little deceiving as we may have a slightly different plan to some of the other yachts who are choosing to stick religiously to the rhumb line. We made a decision last night to invest a little ground in heading off shore and this has cost us, but it is a mighty long race!
'Last night was a little different to the usual Christmas Eve drinks with old friends in my home town of Winchester. Instead of bright lights and log fires we had nav lights and cold showers! The wind and sea state have given all the new leggers something to think about right from the get go in this race and sadly several have succumbed to the dreaded sea-sickness. I am not surprised though as the sea is mighty confused and the wind very up and down, making for lots of gruelling sail evolutions.
'Today should see the winds peaking and after that we hope to enjoy some excellent food in the form of roast turkey with (almost) all the trimmings. Tomorrow will be another day of eating courtesy of good people of Tempt Pizza on the Gold Coast who treated us to a whole ten-kilo leg of smoked ham in our departure hamper. A big thanks to all those on the Gold Coast who made us feel so welcome over the last 12 days!'
Visit Finland is pressing on with plans for a proper Christmas dinner, despite the conditions. And Santa Claus, a resident of Lapland in the north of Finland, has been enjoying a different kind of sleigh ride on the big swells running down the Queensland coast.
'Well, a very Merry Christmas everyone!' says Olly Osborne, Visit Finland’s skipper. 'We are having a very exciting one this year with a big following sea and some great speeds to see us on our way up the coast. The sun has made an appearance and things are already feeling pretty tropical. The question at the moment is how to serve a Christmas dinner whilst holding down a turkey with one hand and a tray of spuds with the other as the boat pitches and lurches, but Lexi (Van Geest) and the mothers are doing a brilliant job and the turkey is pre-cooked and smelling good I might add!
'Spirits are cheerful, and we are well stocked with Chrimbo goodies including crackers, tinsel and pressies, and it will be a few days until we have got through our festive food supplies. Quite a few people are suffering with sea sickness sadly, so a good meal should set them right when the weather calms down and everyone is pulling together well. It is hard to be away from loved ones at this time of year and I think in the back of everyone’s mind are thoughts of home, but it will be quite a story to tell next Christmas around the table, and it is an experience that not many people will have in their lifetime.
'Our Visit Finland Santa has been very busy indeed, and I hope he brings you something good tonight on his travels, and although a Clipper 68 isn't his normal mode of transport he seems to be doing fine. So, wishing everyone much festive cheer back home, and I am sure we will be raising a small glass of something bubbly to you all this afternoon.'
'Merry Christmas everybody from all on board Derry-Londonderry,' writes Mark Light, skipper of the entry representing the UK City of Culture 2013.
'Christmas Day and we are sailing fast in pretty windy conditions with Christmas music playing and tinsel flying. We are all eagerly awaiting our special lunch of fresh bread, luxury cheeses, meats, dips and of course, Christmas pudding and crackers followed by a glass of champagne.
'At this time our thoughts turn to friends, family and loved ones, most of whom will celebrate at home in a more traditional manner. I would like to say a special thank you to our superb sponsors and everybody in the city of Derry-Londonderry. Have a fantastic Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year. We all know it is going to be a big one and thank you so much for your continued support. We hope we are doing you all proud.
'A big thank you and best wishes to all friends and family back at home – we miss you all!' Positions at 1800 UTC, Saturday 24 December
1 Gold Coast Australia 4,327nm
2 Qingdao 4,331nm (+4nm DTL*)
3 Singapore 4,338nm (+11nm)
4 De Lage Landen 4,340nm (+13nm)
5 Derry-Londonderry 4,341nm (+13nm)
6 Geraldton Western Australia 4,341nm (+14nm)
7 Welcome to Yorkshire 4,342nm (+14nm)
8 New York 4,342nm (+15nm)
9 Visit Finland 4,344nm (+17nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 4,347nm (+20nm)
*DTF = Distance to Finish, DTL = Distance to Leader
Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com