Durban lead race four which is a very close run thing with the top eight boats split by less than 80 nautical miles in terms of Distance To Finish. With the fleet so close to each other it will make for exciting viewing over the next week as they approach the Western Australian coast and the eventual finish line at Fremantle's Swan River.
Despite not getting the infamous Southern Ocean surfing conditions that are legendary to the stretch of ocean south of 40 degrees the whole fleet as enjoyed some impressive 12-hourly runs since the start of Race four. This has been due to the steady wind conditions and relatively calm seas they have been experiencing in the region. The latest cold front that is going through the fleet at the moment, with wind strengths approaching 40 knots from the north, has helped to maintain the consistent daily runs. Nearly all the teams have recorded runs of over 120 nautical miles in the past 12-hours.
New York has done a great job in managing to reduce their earlier deficit by half and the US team were the first to feel the effects of the approaching front. Skipper Duggie Gillespie commented: 'There's a feeling of relief on board New York this morning after being passed over by a front last night. We're now in sunshine, drying out a week's worth of soaking wet gear from down below.'
A high pressure system has now developed in front of the fleet and is moving eastward at a similar speed to the boats. This should enable the teams to continue to achieve high daily runs over the next few days.
With the fleet packed so closely together there is excitement onboard every 6-hours as the Race Office informs each boat of the location of their nine competitors. Hannah Jenner, skipper on Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper, commented this morning: 'As the fleet tightens up the nav station gets swamped with eager crew desperate to find out if we are still ahead of Nova Scotia or if we have gained on westernaustralia2011.com. This is one crew with a lot of fighting spirit in them!'
Once the teams get closer to the finish the winds will become more changeable as the heating and cooling of the land effects the wind over the sea and can provide some good overtaking opportunities.
Joff Bailey, Race Director: 'The local sea breeze near the finish is known locally as the 'Fremantle Doctor' as each afternoon it arrives exactly on time and blows at considerable strength on to the shore. The down side of this is that in the evening the wind drops to nothing for a while and then a slight offshore breeze can sometimes develop as the land mass cools down. This will provide further opportunities to overtake at the eleventh hour.
There is nothing worse than being in the lead and being becalmed within sight of the finish knowing that his second placed boat still has wind and is charging up behind you. This race is so close we could see positions gained and lost even once the teams enter the finishing straight in the Swan River.'
The first boats are predicted to arrive in Fremantle around the 16 December. They will be berthed at Fremantle Sailing Club for the duration of the stopover with open days for the public on 29, 30 and 31 December. The race is scheduled to restart on New Year's Day.
Current positions and the Clipper 07-08 Race leaderboard can be viewed in
full at www.clipperroundtheworld.com