Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are currently on day eighteen of race seven, from the Gold Coast to Singapore.
The last 24 hours have seen new tactics being applied in the race. While Derry-Londonderry is still leading, Gold Coast Australia’s decision to take a more northerly route has seen them jump up the leader board from sixth to second position.
'Yesterday at our midday happy hour team Gold Coast Australia set ourselves a goal to make up the 70 miles lead that was being held by Derry-Londonderry at the time. We managed to take away 51 miles over a 24 hour period putting us back into second place,' says the Australian entry’s skipper, Richard Hewson.
'Our northerly position is finally starting to bear fruits as we have more wind and assisting current taking us towards the beautiful island of Palau. Currents and wind for the next few days should be in our favour and we should also have few more knots of wind than the boats to the south which will place us in a good position in the fleet.'
Race Director, Joff Bailey, has been anticipating the Aussie teams surge up the leader board on Twitter for several days.
'I have been predicting that Gold Coast Australia’s tactics will pay dividends and they are now climbing their way up the leader board.
'The historic wind charts which each team has access to clearly shows that there should be more pressure the further north you go, but with the desire to make good miles towards the finish line it can be tempting to turn west early.
Joff continues 'Mark Light and his team have made great progress on board Derry-Londonderry with a more direct route but Gold Coast Australia should benefit from the stronger winds in the north and could open up a substantial lead in the next few days.'
And the last 24 hours have indeed been challenging for the Irish front runners, with numerous different winds including no wind at all, very light winds from astern, strong winds from the beam and a couple of squalls.
Skipper Mark Light says, 'One squall this morning came up very quickly while we were flying our heavyweight spinnaker. We altered course to free off from the wind further and sailed on. Without warning, a large gust, more powerful than any normal winds that day, caused the boat to round up violently and we broached.
'After gaining control, we proceeded to hoist a headsail followed by lowering the spinnaker. But just as the spinnaker hit the deck we were caught in a deluge of torrential rain that brought visibility right down to 200 metres. All in all, it was a great learning experience for the crew and just another situation well handled. Every day is a school day,' concludes Mark in his 0600 report to the Race Office.
Currently in third place New York is feeling fiercely competitive and has observed the north south tactics.
'The wind has been up and down over the last 12 hours which has made it hard to make good VMG (Velocity Made Good) to the gate, we have been trying hard to reel in Derry-Londonderry ahead of us but have been unable to catch them. The yachts to the north now look like they are getting better wind and now angle to the gate and will pull back any lost miles to the southern fleet,' says skipper, Gareth Glover.
'We have also managed to rip the head off and one of the luff tapes down the port side of our medium weight kite, which the crew recovered and we put up a head sail to replace it in a very quick time. It just shows how much the crew can now deal with problems we sometimes have and move on.'
<:img Alt_CLR1112GCsh_M69621.jpg :>
The variable winds are affecting the rest of the southerly fleet, including Visit Finland.
Skipper Olly Osborne says, 'Today has proved quite challenging in some respects with the conditions being very changeable. The variable wind angle has kept us working hard throughout the night and into this morning, and at times it is possible to fly our spinnakers, but we have to drop them often due to strong squally gusts and reduced visibility.
'To compound the situation further we damaged one of our spinnaker pole tracks this morning which meant another spinnaker drop and will now leave us with only one for the rest of the race. None the less we are still in good spirits and everyone is becoming well practised at wooling the kites!'
It seems that all the Clipper 11-12 Race crew are impressing their skippers, as their racing skills become more evident. On board Geraldton Western Australia skipper Juan Coetzer praises the team.
'The wind over the last 24 hours has been ranging from six knots to 30 knots, and shifting from 40 degrees to 80 degrees. This has resulted in numerous sail changes, from heavyweight kite to medium to Yankee 1. Doing these sail changes are vital and when done in time with the wind shift, can result in large gains in the right direction. The crew have done well and kept their focus.'
Meanwhile Edinburgh Inspiring Capital has gained speed, but has experienced the same variable weather, with big squalls over the last 24 hours.
Skipper Gordon Reid says, 'Looming large on the horizon came a bank of around eight dark squall clouds heading our way, whilst we observed I pondered if ‘Big Frank’ (medium weight kite) could take the strain. The squalls drew closer and closer, we held our nerve but as soon as the wind hit 22 knots apparent it was down with the kite and up with the Yankee 1 and staysail, just in time for the wind to veer 40 degrees and increase to 30 knots.
'Happy days we could hold our course and ride in front of the squalls as they came one after another in quick succession. The squally conditions continued for most of the morning, bringing a welcome opportunity for the by now hot and sweaty crew to have refreshing deck showers and cooling the deck and the inside of the yacht with it.'
Welcome to Yorkshire has maintained seventh position and whilst observing the north south divide, they remain focussed on catching up on their southerly competitors.
'The north fleet are capitalising on stronger trades and being out of the Equatorial Counter Current. We are not competing on the same playing field as them at the moment, so need to focus instead on hunting down our rivals ahead – namely Derry-Londonderry, Visit Finland and New York,' says skipper, Rupert Dean.
'It has been a very squally day and unfortunately we got caught out by one and now have a significant repair to do on our lightweight kite. Not what one wants on predominantly a light winds race. Hopefully we will make some progress. One things for sure, the end of the first phase of Leg 5 will be a close run thing.'
Also holding their position, Qingdao is sitting firmly in the middle of the fleet, but skipper Ian Conchie assures families at home that they are doing all they can to push forward again.
'Yesterday we were engulfed by rain clouds and then a huge wind hole. Unfortunately, this cost us many miles on the rest of the fleet but I am happy to report we are back up and sailing again under the heavyweight spinnaker and making good time again at last.
'Sitting in a confused sea with very little wind has to be one the most frustrating parts of ocean racing, especially when you know your competitors have good wind. We are now focused on trying to catch the boats ahead of us before the next gate and to our supporters back home - rest assured, we are moving and pushing hard again!'
The upbeat spirit is mirrored on De Lage Landen despite running out of the crew’s favourite breakfast cereal and having the tide against them.
Skipper Stuart Jackson says, 'The good news is that we have great sailing conditions, around 20 knots of wind, spinnaker up, blue skies and a great crew. So all in all not a lot to complain about, it looks like we should keep some good breeze for a while longer, then in a few days’ time it looks like it is going to go a bit light and fluffy again.
'Hopefully this will give us a chance to make up some ground on the fleet after we invested heavily by heading north after New Ireland, all to no avail! So onwards and hopefully upwards.'
<:img Alt_Singapore1.jpg :>
Singapore has remained their eighth position and has had a good 24 hours.
'We have had a superb day of charging along with ‘Vicky’ (medium weight kite) doing us proud. Speeds in excess of 20 knots - the likes of which we have not seen since the Southern Ocean – have gone some way to regaining our previously lost ground on the fleet,' says skipper Ben Bowley.
'We've had some furious kite trimming on today, but are, however, still punching some pretty strong current and although our speed has regularly been in excess of 15 knots through the water it is the best we can do to keep our VMG (Velocity Made Good) above 10.5 knots.
Race 7 is one of the longest of the Clipper 11-12 Race and while 18 days at sea may not seem a long time the Singapore skipper sums up the crew’s cravings for their arrival on the island of Batam in Indonesia prior to the coordinated arrival in their home port at the Marina at Keppel Bay on 28 January.
'The craving for simple comforts of cold beer, hot steak and chips and air conditioning becomes quite strong after about ten days at sea. After two weeks a cold can of coke can be traded for numerous onerous tasks aboard. Our stomachs and livers will not know what will hit them when we cross the finish line.'
You can find out how to get on board for the Clipper 13-14 Race at the London 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. Positions at 1200 UTC, Tuesday 10 January
1 Derry-Londonderry - 2214nm*
2 Visit Finland - 2230nm (+16nm**)
3 New York - 2237nm (+22nm)
4 Geraldton Western Australia - 2246nm (+32nm)
5 Qingdao - 2251nm (+37nm)
6 Gold Coast Australia - 2260nm (+46nm)
7 Welcome to Yorkshire - 2269nm (+55nm)
8 Singapore - 2348nm (+134nm)
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 2411nm (+197nm)
10 De Lage Landen - 2413nm (+199nm)
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