Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are currently on day twenty six of race seven, from the Gold Coast to Singapore.
The ten strong fleet of ocean racing yachts continue to ‘cruise’ along the Celebes Sea in Stealth Mode between the first and second phase of race seven.
After a decision made by the Race Committee yesterday to extend this phase of the race to allow for refuelling, the first convoy of boats has reached the refuelling destination in Malaysia and is making progress towards the restart gate to resume racing tomorrow.
As the first to refuel, Derry-Londonderry is keen to get back on the water and continue their journey and skipper Mark Light reports, 'While refuelling all crew were confined to the boat and there were people lying beside swimming pools, drinking cold beer not more than 40 yards from us. Bikini clad women, sizzling steaks and bars! I now have five crew AWOL, three lashed and gagged in the lazarette, six disgruntled on the verge of mutiny and one foaming at the mouth. But apart from that it’s all good!' he jokes.
As the Northern Irish entry make their way to the rendezvous waypoint and await further instructions and the rest of their convoy en route towards the restart gate, thoughts turn to the light and fluffy weather conditions.
'The conditions are very similar to the last few days – very hot with little cloud cover and only a slight sea breeze from the north. We are currently sailing with our staysail up making approximately two knots Speed Over Ground waiting politely for Gold Coast Australia to finish their refuel and catch up. It is quite amusing that we are waiting for Gold Coast Australia to catch us up!'
On board the Australian boat skipper Richard Hewson reports that the lack of wind has made conditions on board 'extremely hot' and the team is grateful for its water maker as the crew consume large volumes to maintain hydration.
Richard continues, 'The distinct lack of wind emphasises the good decision made by the Race Committee to postpone racing until the fleet has replenished its diesel supplies and there is adequate wind to make the race competitive, fair and safe. These waters contain many hazards such as reefs, fishing vessels, pirates, large merchant ships, oil rigs, flotsam and jetsam. Trying to sail in these waters without wind could prove not only frustrating but very hazardous.'
As they continue along the coast of Malaysia towards the restart gate, Richard adds that the team has been sailing close to the land and islands and has been able to look at the beautiful scenery and Malaysian way of life.
'Last night the horizon was littered with fishing boats with bright lights catching squid, which is a sign of things to come as there will be more of these boats as we travel north to China on the next leg.
Over the last 24 hours, travelling companions Qingdao have been making their way towards the refuelling point using a mixture of motor and sails and the team is expected to arrive tomorrow morning.
In the meantime skipper Ian Conchie reports that the team has been able to work on a list of maintenance jobs on the boat and the preparations continue.
'We have even lent our sewing machine to Geraldton Western Australia to allow them to continue repairing one of their kites. This involved meeting up with them so we could transfer the machine carefully to them. All in the spirit of the Clipper Race so as all the boats are in full racing trim,' he says.
A vote of thanks comes from the WA team, led by Juan Coetzer who explains, 'The idea of the boat to boat transfer to borrow the sewing machine was to allow us to repair our medium weight kite and have less to do in Batam. Thanks Qingdao!
'The happy trio are safely out of the Sulu sea, heading south towards next way point,' adds Juan.
The third member of the trio travelling together is Singapore. The team is experiencing some problems with their communications computer on board. Salt water and technology are uneasy bed fellows and the very humid conditions in this part of the world can play havoc with delicate connections and the PC they use to write home and send diaries, photos and videos for the website is distinctly under the weather.
Skipper Ben Bowley is able to contact the race management team via the back-up Sat C system and all are well on board but friends and family expecting to receive emails and team followers addicted to the diaries and photos from the team may have to wait until the team arrives in Batam early next week.
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De Lage Landen, whose skipper Stuart Jackson reports his team hopes for a little wind to sail as they make their way towards the refuelling point, is expected there tomorrow.
'Last night saw us transit through some of the Philippine Islands with a fair amount of commercial traffic, which made for an interesting evening listening to all the chats on VHF,' he says.
'Everyone is starting to enjoy some down time after the frenetic activity of maintenance over the last couple of days. We are looking at doing a DVD trade with New York later when we stop our engines for around an hour. Also a good time to have a swim to cool off and keep us all smelling fresh!'
Now traveling in the company of Visit Finland and Welcome to Yorkshire, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital skipper Gordon Reid reports that the three teams have kept in constant radio contact with one another and are taking full advantage of today’s wet conditions for their own personal hygiene programmes.
'Today is a total contrast to yesterday weather wise. Since the thunder and lightning storms of the wee small hours, it has been raining non-stop, sometimes heavy but mostly light drizzle. A welcome alternative to the blazing hot sunshine and an excellent opportunity for a much needed deck shower. The key is to get the shower gel on and yourself washed and rinsed during a heavier downpour to avoid being left covered in soapy bubbles!'
With little wind forecast over the next few days, the Scottish entry is making haste towards the refuelling stop, and as the re-start gate comes ever closer, thoughts turn to the race ahead.
'We are eagerly awaiting news of where and when the race will restart. Whilst we are enjoying the cruise phase and making good use of the time by organising and maintaining the boat, we are here to race and eagerly anticipate the re-start,' adds Gordon.
Gareth Glover reports that on board New York, progress has been made getting the boat ready to sail and thoughts are also turning to the second phase of the race and what awaits them in Singapore.
'After a great few days on board, everyone is looking forward to getting racing again and the next stopover. The crew have been working as always at getting her ready to race and all the little jobs that were at the bottom of the list are being done.'
With all maintenance jobs in order Gareth and his team are able to fully enjoy the scenery surrounding them, while for others it has been a valuable opportunity to expand their sailing knowledge.
'We have had some of the best sunrises and sunsets of the trip so far and some of the crew are working on getting their Yachtmaster Ocean qualification have been getting out the sextant and the sight reduction tables with lots of head scratching at the same time,' explains the New York skipper.
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Meanwhile on Welcome to Yorkshire, where the crew continue to work their way through their maintenance list, they’re combining efforts with their racing opponents to avoid the debris in the water as they make good speed towards the fuel pit stop.
Skipper Rupert Dean reports that in addition to this team exercise, Welcome to Yorkshire’s crew have also been getting to know their fellow competition a little better.
'Dusk yesterday proved to be a highly enjoyable occasion for all the crews of Welcome to Yorkshire, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and Visit Finland. At 1600 while we were resting the engine we rafted up either side of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital for a fuel transfer and crew party. After so long away from them it was great to catch up with our fellow racers and friends, sharing banter and stories. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital became the 'music' boat, whilst we supplied the catering and Visit Finland became a platform for activities, chief of which was shimmying up to the spinnaker pole before diving into the crystal clear warm waters of the Celebes Sea.'
In between the stops for engine checks and a little fun with the neighbours, Olly Osborne and his team on Visit Finland are all business.
'The weather is changeable although we are not experiencing the squalls of the South Pacific. We have erected a fairly effective cover over the boom which allows us to carry out maintenance as we make our way towards the South China Sea. We are hoping to strike most of the jobs off the list, and get ourselves sailing when the weather permits.'
The first teams are due to arrive at Nongsa Point Marina in Batam early next week and will muster there ahead of a spectacular, colourful welcome ceremony at Marina at Keppel Bay in Singapore on Saturday 28 January. 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 1551.06 16 January 2012 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website