Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are on day two of race eight, from Singapore to Qingdao, China. The teams taking part in the race are well aware of what lies ahead on this stage.
While the majority of the world’s longest yacht race follows the prevailing winds, this section of the 40,000-mile course is upwind, meaning the crews will be facing life at an angle for the next two and a half weeks.
In addition, the conditions as they pass Taiwan and head north into the East China Sea will be some of the most challenging they will face, sailing up the face of steep waves and slamming into the trough behind them. Add plummeting temperatures to the constant bashing upwind and it makes this one of the most gruelling legs of the 15-race series.
So the steady winds since yesterday’s start from Singapore have been a welcome way of easing themselves back into race mode and preparing for the intensity of the conditions to come.
The Qingdao crew are determined to do well on this race and are hoping to secure their first podium finish, as well as become the first team to win a race to their home port in this edition of the Clipper Race. They have taken a westerly course while the rest of the pack stays to the east.
'After all the worries about the potential lack of wind at the start it filled it to give us a lovely 13 knots true,' reports skipper, Ian Conchie. 'Unfortunately we got boxed in at the start and stuck in several boats’ dirty air and in a bad position so we had to bear off and lose height to get clean air. However the crew sailed the boat really well to recover all the lost ground.
'We decided to tack north early to try and position the boat to take advantage of the wind today and tomorrow. Unfortunately this meant taking some pain early on as we fought the current up the coast which has dropped us down the leader board but we are hoping that over the coming days it will pay dividends. We are all up for trying everything to try and get a good result into our home port and make them proud of us!'
Over to the east, after their false start yesterday, Gold Coast Australia is leading the field by just three miles over Geraldton Western Australia and Welcome to Yorkshire.
Richard Hewson, skipper of Gold Coast Australia, explains, 'With five minutes to go the ten yachts were all jostling for position and flinging the 68-foot yachts around like Laser dinghies. With our bow girl, Lisa Blair, calling the distance to the line we made our approach as New York ducked behind our transom and sailed into the gap below us leaving us very little room to manoeuvre. There was a stronger tide than expected and since we could not bear away, we ended up slightly over the line at the start. As a result we were required to sail around the end of the line and re-start.
'Thankfully it was a quick manoeuvre and less than five minutes was lost when we crossed the line for the second time and started to chase down the fleet.
'Thanks to some good tactics, navigation, sail trim and helming Gold Coast Australia has managed to gradually overtake the other yachts one by one and at the last sched we were leading the fleet who are almost all now lined up to the south of us and in sight. The crew have been working and concentrating very hard to keep up our boat speed and height as we sail through the South China Sea in almost perfect sailing conditions,' he concludes.
Welcome to Yorkshire leaves Marina at Keppel Bay, Singapore, at the start of Race 8 of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. - www.howiephoto.com/onEdition
There is renewed determination on board Welcome to Yorkshire where the team, according to skipper, Rupert Dean, 'made an impressive start at the favoured end of the line flying full main, Yankee 1 and staysail.
'With wind speeds double those that were predicted, the upwind sailing conditions were fairly feisty causing several boats in the fleet to change to the Yankee 2. However, we made the call to hold on to the Yankee 1, which was the right one considering the wind reduced later that afternoon. Since then, we've been heading north east in close proximity to Gold Coast Australia, Singapore and Derry-Londonderry, and are currently in an excellent third place. The crew are focussed and have been working really well together.'
Rupert is also full of praise for the hospitality in Singapore, adding, 'The reception and departure celebrations really were first class. A big thank you to our Keppel hosts and all involved in making us feel so welcome. After a long race from Gold Coast, the stop in Singapore was just what the fleet needed. A great chance to kick back, sample the sights and delights (especially air conditioning) and recharge the batteries.'
His words are echoed by Juan Coetzer, skipper of Geraldton Western Australia, which is currently just ahead of the English entry.
'What a great send off from Singapore,' he says. 'Out on the water again, we had a brilliant start once again. Came flying through on a port tack and stormed off leaving the fleet in our wake. The breeze picked up a little, so we had to do a sail change from the Yankee 1 to the Yankee 2. Not one of our best sail changes, with the sail half in the water and then wrapping itself around the Yankee sheet. This cost us a little, but we still have a fair way to go. Once we started to pack the Yankee away, we discovered that there were parts covered in oil.
'Later on in the evening the wind started to die off again, so another sail change was needed. The crew did a great job this time, and even got a compliment from one of the other boats. All is well on board and the crew is adjusting nicely to being at sea again,' signs off Juan.
De Lage Landen, Singapore and Derry-Londonderry are neck and neck just seven miles behind the leader, with De Lage Landen furthest to the east.
'What a spectacular send-off we had from Marina at Keppel Bay,' says skipper, Stuart Jackson. 'We would like to send our heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped make Singapore such a memorable stopover. It seemed to be a hit with friends and family as there seemed to be more in port than in previous stopovers.
'Race start was a pretty lively affair with the boats all jostling for a good position on the start line. It has been great to get back into the racing mind-set for everyone after around three weeks of down time. Everyone now seems to have settled back into the old routine and are mainly over their sea sickness.'
Stuart continues, 'The weather has been very kind to us giving us a good breeze to get safely away from Singapore and the busy shipping lanes. Next up will be the numerous islands and their reefs which will keep us on our toes with our navigation.'
His counterpart on board Singapore, Ben Bowley, is also appreciative of the welcome he and his team received in their home port.
'The crew and I would like to extend a huge thanks to the people of Singapore and Keppel in particular for making us all feel so welcome,' he says. 'Our arrival and departure ceremonies were probably the most lavish yet, testament to the city's rich and vibrant culture.
'It is, however, excellent to be back out on the water racing again. After an exciting close start yesterday we have spent most of the last 24 hours on port tack making our way to the east. Most of the fleet has been doing the same, taking advantage of the east setting current that was slowing us down as we approached Singapore. The wind has lifted us a little over the last 12 hours but is due to go a little lighter over the coming few days. This is no bad thing for the crew as it is giving them a chance to get used to up-wind sailing again.
'Almost all of the last race was spent under spinnaker and it can often take a while to readjust to living life at a 25-degree angle of heel where simple tasks become rather tricky. This way at least we are not having to contend with smashing through solid walls of water or the bone jarring crash as the bow slams at the bottom of a trough. There will be plenty of time for that as we head further north!'
It’s good to be sailing again, according to Derry-Londonderry’s skipper, Mark Light.
He tells the Race Office, 'We have had a very good break in Singapore and all feel well rested and recharged, ready to do battle with the elements once again. On behalf on my crew I would like to thank everybody very much for a fantastic stopover. We had great hosts and the welcome was outstanding.
'This race start was pretty exciting with lots of jostling and close quarters manoeuvring at the line and it did get a bit congested at the eastern end of the line. We got away safely and have (in typical Derry-Londonderry style) clawed our way up the fleet during our first night at sea, to put ourselves in a decent position within the northern pack of boats.'
Visit Finland leaves Marina at Keppel Bay, Singapore, at the start of Race 8 of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. - www.howiephoto.com/onEdition
Like the crew of the Northern Ireland entry, who had their first taste of podium success in the last race, Visit Finland’s crew are also determined to see themselves there again after their disappointment in Race 7. But spirits are high on board, according to skipper, Olly Osborne.
'We had a good start yesterday joining the first few boats over the line at full speed, and as we had taken the more risky port tack approach we would have had to have given way to the yachts coming from the other direction, but we found a way through and the first few hours of racing until dusk were very exciting,' he says.
'This has been a good chance to make some ground to the north with our Yankee 1 and we are now striking out on a more easterly route and hoping to maintain a good windward advantage over the fleet to the south. The route through the more southerly latitudes is strewn with obstacles both natural and man-made, so picking the right course will be very important over the next few days.
'We are seeing less shipping today, although last night was busy as we passed through the large anchorage off the Singapore Straits and past the crowded shipping lanes, and we have seen a couple of large trawlers as well. I am sure these will become a very familiar sight during this leg, but the deck watches are getting good at determining the aspect of these vessels now.'
New York skipper Gareth Glover at the helm of New York at the start of Race 8 of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race - www.howiephoto.com/onEdition
New York is following a similar central-fleet course to Derry-Londonderry, and skipper, Gareth Glover explains how his team’s tactics have played out.
'Choosing which head sail to start with was hard as the wind was up and down,' he describes. 'We went with the Yankee 2 which gave us less power to get off the line but a bit more manoeuvrability which was needed after a close call at the pin end of the line. A few yachts were on port tack as we came in on starboard and tacked over after the start.
'We now find ourselves racing close to most of the fleet and with the wind we are in we are finding it hard to point as high as some of the other yachts without dropping speed.'
One of those yachts on port tack was Edinburgh Inspiring Capital which is with the most easterly of the ten yachts, De Lage Landen and Geraldton Western Australia.
'We started the race favouring a port tack to the eastern end, which allowed us to get power up and cross the line and in the mix under speed, making best use of the tidal stream flowing east and getting high on the wind,' writes skipper, Gordon Reid, this morning.
'With renewed vigour we drove the Purple Beastie hard into the night and today we are in the lead pack of five yachts, using the frequent lifts to point higher and make our intended north easterly course.
'The crew have agreed to be pushed hard and so far we are delivering, our new sense of focus and commitment has been embraced by all.'
The teams are expected to arrive in Qingdao between 22 and 25 February. Positions at 1200 UTC, Sunday 5 February Boat DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia 2,281nm
2 Welcome to Yorkshire 2,284nm (+3nm DTL**)
3 Geraldton Western Australia 2,286nm (+5nm)
4 Singapore 2,289nm (+8nm)
5 Derry-Londonderry 2,289nm (+8nm)
6 De Lage Landen 2,289nm (+8nm)
7 Visit Finland 2,291nm (+10nm)
8 New York 2,294nm (+13nm)
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 2,298nm (+17nm)
10 Qingdao 2,313nm (+32nm)
*DTF = Distance to Finish, **DTL = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found online
. Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website