Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are on day twenty eight of race seven, from the Gold Coast to Singapore. All ten yachts have entered the South China Sea, marking steady progress towards Singapore.
Yesterday, the Clipper Race Committee announced that the course would be shortened due to potential hazards, and the extremely light winds that have plagued the fleet in the second half of this race.
The positions of the yachts at the Celebes Sea Gate, which marked the end of the first phase of the race from Australia, were taken as the final standings for race seven, and declared Gold Coast Australia as the winners, closely followed by Derry-Londonderry and Geraldton Western Australia.
Gold Coast Australia Skipper, Richard Hewson, says, 'The Gold Coast Australia crew worked immensely hard during the Gold Coast stopover and throughout the race to achieve this first place result and it is well deserved. It was defiantly a tough race and things did not go to plan for the first few days when our stern gland was leaking very badly between the Solomon Sea and Palau, then the wind we were expecting to get in the north did not evolve. - The crew on Gold Coast Australia overcame these difficulties and worked extra hard to maintain our boat speed to try to match the other yachts in the fleet and did a tremendous job.'
On news of their motoring companion Derry-Londonderry’s success in securing second place and a spot on the podium for the first time, the Australian entry has been enjoying the jubilations with their fellow pennant winners.
'We immediately turned the boat around and motored alongside them to give them three cheers and congratulate them on second place. A bottle of Jansz Champagne that has been in the bilge since Taraunga, New Zealand, was opened and was deservedly drunk for our victory. We both then stopped off for a swim while the celebrations continued, giving us a chance to check our engines prior to proceeding towards the Singapore Straits. En-route, Gold Coast Australia and Derry-Londonderry exchanged photographs and had a good play around in the meantime,' Richard adds.
As the two teams continue to motor towards Batam, in addition to taking second place, Derry-Londonderry is also celebrating a break in the weather as skipper, Mark Light, reports, 'We have had some wind this morning and we hoisted our mainsail (initially with a reef, now full) and sailed with our Yankee 1 headsail up for a short while.
'It was lovely to experience the sounds of sailing once more and not to listen to the constant drone of the engine. This however, was short lived and the wind quickly decreased so we dropped the Yankee and fired up the old faithful donkey (engine) which has affectionately been nicknamed the beer-seeker by my very thirsty crew!
'Life is good on board as we have cleared quite a number of cleaning and maintenance tasks that would have normally waited for dry land. We are also still enjoying the feeling of our second place and really looking forward to taking our place on the podium in the fantastic location that is Marina at Keppel Bay,' he adds.
'Our little convoy has been expanded to five boats now!' reports Qingdao skipper, Ian Conchie, as the Chinese entry is joined by De Lage Landen and New York.
On board, Ian says that his team is making the most of the calm conditions as they motor out through the shoals and start to head south towards Singapore.
'We are now focusing on board to get as much of the stopover work done as we can to maximise our rest and recuperation time but unfortunately the weather is not co-operating. With lots of rain squalls around today is not the best place to service our sails and remaining winches. The rain showers are welcome however to cool down and the lower temperatures make life on board less sticky.'
Elated at the news of being awarded third place, Geraldton Western Australia skipper, Juan Coetzer, explains, 'The crew are over the moon with their achievement.'
As they motor closely in convoy with half of the fleet, Juan says that the team has been keeping a close eye on the busy waters of the South China Sea. 'The traffic has become rather intense with ships running to and from the oil rigs and a line of five Clipper Race yachts have been weaving in and amongst all this hive of activity. There are still a lot of logs in the water, and these are really big, nasty, chunky ones. Squalls come and go, giving the crews a shower and a chance to hoist the head sails, just before the wind dies off again.'
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On board De Lage Landen, skipper Stuart Jackson hopes that the convoy has successfully migrated away from these ‘obstacles’, saying, 'Our cruise in company continues with very little wind so we have been motoring for the last 24 hours. Hopefully this has cleared us far enough offshore to be out of the way of fish farms and far reaching fishing nets, we have been making our way through the oil rigs as we continue our way south to Batam.
'Everyone is now really keen to get into Batam and on to Singapore where it sounds like there is quite an arrival planned and many friends and family waiting,' Stuart adds.
Echoing concerns of the extremely light winds is New York skipper, Gareth Glover, who says, 'The wind has been up and down but most of the time it has been less than ten knots and it would have been impossible for the yachts to make it to Batam in good time with the wind we are getting.'
In the meantime, the American entry has been able to work on a list of maintenance jobs, and the preparations continue. 'It has been a cleaning day today, getting New York ready for Singapore, as we motor on with the other four yachts.' Gareth explains.
The fifth member of the group, Singapore, continues to experience difficulties with their communications computer that has hampered their ability to send a report. Race Assistant Director, Justin Taylor, says, 'Unfortunately Singapore is currently unable to send and receive emails except through the Sat-C system. It is the hardware equipment of the team’s communications software that they use to write home and send diaries, photos and videos that is currently offline.'
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.
While seven of the teams have refuelled, Welcome to Yorkshire, Visit Finland and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital are making good progress towards the refuelling pit-stop as they leave behind the Sulu Sea.
'This morning we entered the South China Sea via the Balabac Strait fringed by various beautiful tropical Islands. The water here are littered with flotsam and jetsam including some huge tree trunks, coconuts, clumps of sea weed and lots of man-made rubbish, some of which need to be carefully avoided so as not to wrap around the prop or damage the hull,' reports Edinburgh Inspiring Capital skipper, Gordon Reid.
'With the lack of wind, it is once more roasting hot above and below decks, we have rigged our temporary awning under the boom and the wind sock forward to ventilate the crew accommodation (aka the ghetto), after 28 days at sea there are some interesting smells coming from bachelor towers, a quick issue of some antibacterial spray should take care of that and removal of the dead animals they stow under their bunks!'
Visit Finland has also noticed the vast difference between the two seas as they continue to head towards the refuelling point.
'So farewell to the Sulu Sea and into the South China Sea! The rugged coastline and the outlying islands are clearly visible through the midday heat haze as our trusty 6 cylinder ‘Perkins’ chugs ever onward, and the tropical jungle looks more or less un-touched through the binoculars. Our fuel consumption has been higher than it should have been recently so I went over to look at the propeller this morning, reports skipper, Olly Osborne.
'Sure enough it had a large hessian sack wrapped around it which I was able to cut off with a bread knife, quite an eerie experience in the crystal clear water, seeing the rays of sunlight disappearing into the depths beyond my feet. The fact that we saw a large shark only yesterday in the Sulu Sea kept me cutting as fast as I could!'
On news of the Race Committee’s decision yesterday to shorten the course in this stage from the Gold Coast to Singapore, the Finnish team reflect on the outcome and the challenges of ocean racing. 'The close of racing for this leg has left us with eighth place which is disappointing. The realisation that we will not have a chance to better our place is not an easy one, but after such a long race it was apparently our best effort. I guess that is equatorial sailing for you, and the chance to tick off the jobs list is welcome as the time ashore is always precious.' Olly adds.
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Welcome to Yorkshire skipper, Rupert Dean, agrees, saying, 'The news that the course of this race has been shortened has been greeted with due fortitude and pragmatism. Whilst it would have been a difficult decision for the Race Team to make, we acknowledge that had this not been done, the whole fleet would have been marooned out here for a very long time indeed.
'Now that we have the freedom to make our best speed towards Batam, we do so in the knowledge that our families and friends will be able to see us, the crews will have a well-earned break, and the fleet's timetabled commitments in ports ahead remain on schedule.'
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. Provisional Race 7 Results. 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