Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are currently on day thirteen of race seven, from the Gold Coast to Singapore.
It is fitting that on the day that Clipper Ventures Plc, which owns and runs the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, announced a two-race sponsorship deal with Qingdao, the yacht representing China’s Sailing City has moved into the lead in race seven.
Qingdao, host of the sailing events of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, will continue its participation in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race through to 2016.
Qingdao has fielded an entry and hosted the event since 2005 and has credited the Clipper Race with helping it not only prepare for hosting the Olympics but also in developing its brand as China’s Sailing City. It will now become the first destination in the world to sponsor six editions of the unique biennial event.
'This is excellent news,' said William Ward, chief executive of Clipper Ventures. 'I am proud of the role the Clipper Race has played in helping Qingdao to be successful, promoting its sailing achievements and helping to tell its story around the world. It also brings our sponsors together in Qingdao to stimulate international trade between China and the rest of the world.'
Madam Lin Zhiwei, Chairman of Qingdao Sports Federation, said, 'We have decided to continue our collaboration in Clipper 13-14 and Clipper 15-16. It has become an important event to build our brand as the Sailing City of China.'
Out on the race course a mixed day’s racing was had by the ten-strong fleet in the last 24 hours as they cross back into the Northern Hemisphere on their sprint to Singapore. As the teams continue north, the fluky winds and Doldrums are almost out of sight as they are greeted by the sought after trade winds that are forecast to be more consistent over the next few days.
On board Qingdao skipper Ian Conchie reports that the pomp and ceremony of Neptune’s return rewarded the team with some great downwind sailing, seeing the Chinese entry move to first place in the fleet.
'We had to drop the kite for six hours last night as we had a few squalls coming through but we have been making good ground towards the next way point. We are still heading slightly north of the rhumb line to try and make the best of the trade winds which should build the further north we go.
'It was great to see all our hard work paying off as we were posted as in first place in the midnight position reports - so it’s still close even though Geraldton Western Australia and Gold Coast Australia are well north of us,' Ian said.
Ian added that the team is looking forward to the days ahead, and is well aware that as west is the way to play for, any mistakes or wind holes could change their position significantly.
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital know this all too well. In a more westerly position in a bid to try and make the most of the Southern Equatorial Current, Gordon Reid and his team have experienced a race of two halves, as they continue to battle with the variable weather conditions.
'After a great run yesterday for most of the day in constant wind doing around nine knots, just before sunset we were hit by another massive squall. The wind increased to over 35 knots as we reefed the main sail, we had a huge downpour of warm tropical rain, the wind backed 30 degrees and as we accelerated away and out the other side the wind veered 90 degrees. This continued for another 30 minutes or so and then as the squall moved off it sucked all of the wind and energy with it and we were left drifting, thankfully still with over two knots current to carry us along!
'This has been the pattern for the last 24 hours as we chase the squalls just trying to stay just ahead to achieve the best course, or tacking as it veers,' Gordon said.
Meanwhile, on board New York, skipper Gareth Glover reports that crossing the Equator from south to north was a special moment for the team, a new experience for some and a feeling of heading homewards for those who have been circumnavigating since the race started. Gareth adds that the team received a delayed visit from King Neptune which may have been a bad omen as they struggle to find wind.
'We are still looking for the north easterly trades that are forecast but have been under the heavyweight kite overnight as the wind is filling in from the south east. We are well in the area that the north easterly winds are forecast but have not had any fill in yet. With the wind still being light we are having to head up more than we like and are making a more westerly course,' Gareth said.
Hot on the heels of Gareth and his team is Visit Finland who has experienced a good couple of days sailing and what skipper Olly Osborne describes as 'a turn for the better' with only four miles between them and the American entry. The team is keeping a keen eye to windward for any approaching squalls as it enters the northern hemisphere.
'The crew of Visit Finland had a celebratory tot of champagne with our porridge at the 0600 watch change this morning, with the spinnaker set and the miles ticking under the keel nicely. Just after lunchtime we were treated to a magnificent welcome from the local wildlife as a pod of what looked like a hundred or more dolphins passed close down our starboard side leaping high into the air as they went,' Olly added.
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'The current plan is to head strongly north west to avoid a high pressure windless zone that is developing to the west of us,' reports Welcome to Yorkshire skipper, Rupert Dean.
'As I write we are shaping a good course, but the fickle winds do not empower us to do this all the time. As far as sailing evolutions go, we've been alternating between the Yankee1 and lightweight kite. However, this morning a minor tear to our lightweight forced us to hoist another whilst a repair could be made. Jim Stamp made a sterling climb of the mast to sort out a twisted halyard on the re-hoist.'
As the team make gains moving up the leader board to seventh place, Welcome to Yorkshire is in high spirits and praising Neptune as they cross the Equator.
'King Neptune, Queen Amphitrite and Royal Clerk of the Deep, Davy Jones, will be holding court on Welcome to Yorkshire. The Pollywogs (marine Equator crossing virgins) will be tried and sentenced accordingly, followed by a great party for all on board. It's sure to be a memorable for all,' Rupert added.
After holding second place in the fleet yesterday, on board Gold Coast Australia, skipper Richard Hewson admits that in this race there is no certainty as to where to find the wind as they slip into third on the leader board.
As the team try to claw back the miles, Richard likens their experience of the Pacific so far to a video game.
'To get a better idea of the conditions of sailing in the Pacific this time of year, it is like turning on your Nintendo to play Super Mario outside in the rain. We are bounding along singing a merry tune whilst trying to avoid the evil squall clouds. If we sneak past the squall clouds we receive bonus points in the form of wind and good mileage in the right direction. If the evil squall clouds manage to catch us then we are frozen in the game. The first thing that happens when hit by an evil squall cloud is that we are hit by 25 knots of wind, then it starts to rain, then the wind drops out altogether and we are left as ‘frozen Super Mario’ as the game time continues to run,' Richard said.
Loose stitching in the medium weight spinnaker on the Australian entry caused the team to notice further damage on the sail following a recent repair and the team are sailing under a smaller watch as two crew members carry out the task of re-stitching the seams. As the majority of this race will be downwind in moderate wind strength the medium weight spinnaker is the team’s biggest and most used sail.
On Geraldton Western Australia, Juan Coezter reports a 'rather intense' night as they, too, battle with the varying conditions which have ripped their medium weight spinnaker in half. The team is repairing the sail, naming the kite the ‘luff buster’ and working hard in a bid to make up the ground they have lost.
'The Yankee 1 went up, the kite halyards were untwisted, guys and sheets re-run and we hoisted the heavyweight. The wind decided to play games with us all night. Next the wind shifted 180 degrees and the kite got backed through to the wrong side of the boat. Once again it was a quick drop, resulting in the Yankee 1 having to go up again. So to play it safe, we kept the Yankee 1 up until first light, before we hoisted the heavyweight again.'
Meanwhile on board De Lage Landen after a frustrating 24 hours sailing at the hands of Neptune the Dutch entry has slipped down to the back of the fleet.
'All in all a fairly slow 24 hours with changeable conditions, from sunshine and light to no wind on one hand and squalls with torrential rain lasting hours on the other. So never a dull moment . This morning has seen the wind gently fill in and we are managing to make reasonable speed and course, which is a welcome change,' reports skipper Stuart Jackson.
With everything still to play for, Stuart and his team hope to glean back some points as they continue to head north.
'We are still keen to get plenty of north into our track to reach the more consistent trade winds, which has not been working well for us so far but, as they say, patience is a virtue!'
As the third yacht to cross the Equator, Singapore enjoyed their party, paying respect to King Neptune and the mystical seas that he rules as skipper Ben Bowley describes 'a clear canopy of stars mingling in reflection with the phosphorescence churned up by our wake.'
The team soon experienced the reality of Neptune’s ways as they struggled to find wind.
'In the wee hours of dawn the radar showed that we were being slowly stalked by a wolf pack-like collection of squalls. Before too long were totally surrounded by their ominous blackness and the kite had to come down. An unsettled six hours followed where we dared not put up anything but white sails. Gusts over 30 knots made it prudent to do so.
'Around 0900 local the radar had cleared up and the wind had settled down in direction; no longer did we have to gybe back and forth to be on the making gybe so we decided to hoist our least favourite kite, Mabel (our medium weight.) She is a high maintenance lady but we have been able to keep her flying all day now and finally the wind has come more round to the north of east, allowing us to head a little more directly to the next set of waypoints,' Ben added.
As the team continue on their chosen route, Ben and his team will need to start turning some of their northern advantage into velocity made good to give them a chance of rising up the rankings.
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Derry-Londonderry has had steady sailing over the past 24 hours, as they change tactic and chase the promised winds after a few windless days in the Solomon Sea.
'There is a lighter patch of wind forecast directly to the west of us so we have now gybed over on to starboard tack in order to make a more northerly course under full mainsail and our light weight spinnaker, with a view to climbing up and over the top, hopefully avoiding the lighter winds,' reports skipper Mark Light.
'This afternoon we had our crossing the line ceremony – King Neptune and Davy Jones both paying us a visit to induct all the new Pollywogs into the Order of the Deep. Just before we crossed within three miles of Visit Finland I called up skipper, Olly, just to say that if he spots any erratic movements or many people on deck dancing around in bright pink grass skirts and lots of fancy dress costumes that he should not be alarmed but should definitely keep clear!' Mark added.
You can find out how to get on board for the Clipper 13-14 Race at the London International Boat Show from 6 to 15 January. Visit us on stand G102 in the North Hall to meet former crew members and to discover more about the exciting new Clipper 70 fleet which will enter service in the next edition of the race. There are presentations each day at 12.15pm in the Knowledge Box, next to the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race stand. Positions at 1200 UTC, Friday 6 January Boat - DTF*
1 Qingdao - 2,788nm
2 Geraldton Western Australia - 2,808nm (+20nm DTL**)
3 Gold Coast Australia - 2,848nm (+60nm)
4 New York - 2,861nm (+73nm)
5 Derry-Londonderry - 2,862nm (+74nm)
6 Visit Finland - 2,866nm (+78nm)
7 Welcome to Yorkshire - 2,900nm (+113nm)
8 Singapore - 2,901nm (+114nm)
9 De Lage Landen - 2,944nm (+157nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 2,947nm (+140nm)
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