Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are currently on day twenty four of race seven, from the Gold Coast to Singapore.
Nine of the ten yachts are now in Stealth Mode for the cruise phase between the first and second parts of race seven. The fleet is divided into three groups, accompanying each other through the Celebes and Sulu Seas for safety reasons.
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is approximately 50nm from the gate and will be the final boat to go into Stealth Mode as part of the race organisers’ anti-piracy measures.
Assistant Race Director, Justin Taylor explains, 'The plan is for them to rendezvous with Visit Finland and Welcome to Yorkshire. They have both held station for 12 hours and are now progressing at a reduced speed to allow Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, which is approximately 100nm behind these two, to catch up.'
Yesterday the Race Committee made the decision to allow Edinburgh Inspiring Capital to use their engine before the gate for the finish of the first stage in order to allow them to transit the Celebes and Sulu Seas in company with the other two teams.
Skipper Gordon Reid says, 'We have utilised the engine in short stints, but ironically sailed for most of yesterday and last night in some fairly constant breeze. We are now about to cross into the Celebes Sea and rendezvous with the other yachts and the wind has once more died off.
'Yesterday we entered yet another patch of light variable wind. The crew are well practised and have been taught to see the wind and seek the wind and, like giddy children, they indeed did find wind where others may have failed.
'The light conditions have also allowed us to crack on with many boat jobs, essential maintenance and repairs, but on every racing yacht the jobs list is never empty, the crew are very fond of the ‘Purple Beastie’ and like to look after her well. It's great to see such enthusiasm.'
In the meantime the leading group consisting of Clipper Race frontrunner Gold Coast Australia and Derry-Londonderry are approximately 170nm from the restart gate located in the South China Sea. It is estimated that they will restart in the next 24-36 hours.
Justin explains, 'Gold Coast Australia must restart within 95 hours of beginning the ‘cruise’ phase which is before 2054.59 UTC tomorrow. Derry-Londonderry must restart tomorrow before 2214 UTC. They can restart at any time before this, however I suspect that they will leave it as long as possible as the wind conditions in the South China Sea are a bit light at the moment with the wind forecasted to increase slightly in about 48 hours’ time.'
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Skipper Mark Light from Derry-Londonderry expresses gratitude for the Race Office’s decision to suspend racing on this stage of the race.
'The idea of motoring was partly due to the very low risk of piracy activity and partly due to the general lack of wind in this area. This has proven to be a very wise decision as we experience another windless day with very high temperatures and a flat, shimmering sea,' he explains in his 0600 report to the Race Office.
'We are making good progress and have only 175nm to go until the re-start gate. Our 12-hourly stops for engine checks bring a welcome opportunity for a swim between the boats. The water is a great temperature (we estimate approximately 27C). We also managed to do a book exchange this morning. So, all going well, no pirates, no sharks and plenty of sleep. Roll on the re-start gate and let’s get racing!'
They may not have seen sharks, but aboard their current companion, Gold Coast Australia, the crew has been spotting plenty of other activity in the water.
'Sailing through the Sulu Sea has bought with it an abundance of wildlife and we have been spotting dolphins, whales, massive schools of fish and a rogue squid that jumped aboard in the middle of the night and squirted ink from the foredeck to the cockpit covering the mast, sails and everything in its way with spots of ink!' says skipper, Richard Hewson.
He continues, 'Whilst I love racing yachts more than anything else in the world there are times where I am very grateful that we are in a cruise phase. The last couple of days have been perfect cruising days with very little wind, sunshine and a view of Philippine paradise. After breakfast we hailed Derry-Londonderry and stopped for a swim while we conducted our engine checks.'
As the teams motor-sail towards the restart gate, the crews have been able to put to the test some of the other skills learned during their pre-race training.
Justin explains, 'As De Lage Landen have been using their main engine to charge their batteries during the race from Australia, they have a little less fuel than the other yachts. As a precautionary measure they completed a yacht to yacht fuel transfer from New York yesterday. This involves transferring jerry cans from one yacht to the other. It’s an exercise that we cover in the pre-race training for just such an eventuality.'
De Lage Landen’s skipper, Stuart Jackson, says, 'Finally the weather has sorted itself out for our cruise section of the race. We now have blazing sunshine and have been enjoying a refreshing swim when we stop our engine to do routine maintenance checks. At lunchtime today we and New York did this together, so it was great for the crews to see some other familiar friendly faces to have a chat with.
'It hasn't been all sunbathing and relaxing as we have been working hard on our maintenance list to give us more time off during the stopover. With the weather being calm and dry these have been the perfect conditions to do this and carry out a thorough deep clean of the boat.'
New York’s crew also have maintenance on the agenda.
'The time under motor has for the first time let the crew relax and enjoy the views and get on with jobs around the yacht. I have been fixing our sewing machine for the past five hours so we can sew our now taped medium weight kite, which the crew have been working on for the past few days,' says skipper, Gareth Glover.
The rest of the teams are also making good progress across the Sulu and Celebes Seas and tactics on the next stage is one of the topics of discussion on board all of the yachts.
Singapore’s skipper Ben Bowley says, 'We have nearly finished polishing all the stainless, gel-coat and re-splicing all spectra loops on kites and poles. Winches are being serviced and halyard ends attended to.
'Presently there looks to be very little wind all across the South China Sea and we shall have to work hard to ensure that we finish at least an hour ahead of either Geraldton Western Australia or Qingdao to claim another podium. I fear that with Derry-Londonderry and Gold Coast Australia being a little further ahead they may catch a little puff of wind and extend their lead before it dies away. That's not to say that they are un-catchable; when the wind does come back there is every chance it will fill in for the boats further back first, allowing us (and the guys behind us!) the chance to catch up. Time will tell,' he adds.
For Juan Coetzer and his crew on board Geraldton Western Australia, the chance to take a dip during the engine checks has been more important than just cooling off.
'In the afternoon the wind died completely and the sea was as flat as a pancake, so it was a good time for a swim. After hitting the logs a few days earlier, I had been waiting for a good opportunity to check under the boat for damage. So we took this time for a swim and an inspection. The news was good,' he reports.
The skipper of Qingdao, with whom Geraldton Western Australia is travelling, Ian Conchie, says, 'Last night we passed through the Basilan Strait and into the Sulu Sea without fanfare and we are now looking forward to reaching the re-start point to try and improve on our race position on the next leg to Singapore. We are just praying there will be wind.'
The teams took the opportunity when they stopped last night to have a little bartering session and swap some supplies.
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They are not alone, as Visit Finland’s skipper has been doing some bartering of his own.
Olly Osborne says, 'Today began with a surprise visit from the Welcome to Yorkshire crew who swam over and joined us for cake and coffee which was a great opportunity to share stories and see some friendly faces.
'The locals are proving very friendly, too, and the large yachts attract a lot of attention from the local fishermen who come up alongside in their wooden skiffs, which are a lot like canoes with motorbike engines on the back. At first this caused me some concern but it soon became clear that they only wanted to offer us fish. So today I exchanged two packets of tobacco for four small tuna and a large dorado, which seemed like a very good deal as far as the fisherman was concerned. We will cook these tonight and I am sure they will be a very welcome addition to our usual fare.'
Visit Finland and Welcome to Yorkshire are the third group and are employing a fuel-saving method as they wait for Edinburgh Inspiring Capital to join them.
Olly explains, 'We are taking turns to tow each other in order to save fuel and to stay in company. We will remain here on station until the Edinburgh Inspiring Capital crew joins us, so we are enjoying a break from frequent sail changes and squally conditions, and instead have rigged a sun cover over the boom and have the fire hose going to keep cool.
Welcome to Yorkshire skipper, Rupert Dean, says his crew are also enjoying the company from the Finnish entry, but are eager for Edinburgh Inspiring Capital to join them so they can get going.
'They are now around 100nm behind us, so hopefully we will all be able to motor in convoy together in a day or so in the interests of fleet security.
'Without the pressure of sailing our yacht to the max, we are focussing on other things. The most important of which is doing as many maintenance jobs as possible before we arrive in Singapore.
'There is no doubt all the fleet would like more wind from the correct direction at the moment, which would enable us to make far better progress towards the finish line. In the interests of fleet security and fuel economy we need to motor slowly in convoy at present. The former to look out for each other, for we're continually being accosted by friendly fishing boats; the latter being improved by sharing towing duties, reinforcing the skills learnt during our training all those months ago before the race start in Southampton.'
If you want to see what participating in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race requires, the second episode of Against the Tide airs in the US on Velocity at 10pm Eastern (7pm Pacific) today. It will be repeated at 1am, 5am and 10am (Eastern) on Tuesday mornings and at 5pm Eastern on Fridays.
ESPN and STAR Sports channels start airing the series from this week – dates and times vary, check local listings for details in China, South East Asia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Malaysia.
After a very successful airing in the UK, Against the Tide, is also available on DVD online
Teams are required to restart within 95 hours of suspending racing. Gate crossing times. All times are UTC
1 Gold Coast Australia 2154.59 13 January 2012
2 Derry-Londonderry 2314.00 13 January 2012
3 Geraldton Western Australia 0229.40 14 January 2012
4 Qingdao 0313.25 14 January 2012
5 Singapore 0325.31 14 January 2012
6 De Lage Landen 0936.29 14 January 2012
7 New York 1224.02 14 January 2012
8 Visit Finland 2022.00 14 January 2012
9 Welcome to Yorkshire 0322.20 15 January 2012
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital DTF* 1,409 at 1200 UTC 16 January
DTF* = Distance to Finish. Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website