The inevitable headwinds associated with the north east monsoon this time of year has meant that the boats are having to tack back and forth across each others track to try and gain a few yards of advantage. This makes the leaderboard a bit unstable at the moment as one boat could be on the making tack one day and take pole position, but the next day as they tack back another boat can move into the lead.
With the boats experiencing some close quarter sailing the skippers and crews need to be on full alert and occasionally the sailing gets a little too close for comfort as skipper Hannah Jenner on Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper described this morning: “An exciting night of sailing with some extremely close cross tacking with New York, at one point in the pitch black you could have stepped across from one yacht to the other!”
Deciding when to turn during these tacking duels tests the teams and their skippers as Mark Preedy on Uniquely Singapore explains: “We have four clippers in sight most of the time and it hard to know which one to tack with and which one not to. Do we trust the weather files or don't we? Sometimes they can be spot on and at other times not at all!”
Losses and gains in this kind of up wind yacht racing are measured in a few metres each day as the crews try and squeeze every ounce of power they can out of the wind and sails. The whole fleet is presently experiencing north north-easterly winds of about 10-13 knots which suggests they will be sailing under a full main sail and their largest headsail.
The squally weather means that wind conditions can change quickly and deciding to increase the amount of cloth by putting up larger headsails is a tough call to make. Overall race leaders Durban 2010 and Beyond has chosen their largest headsail, although their skipper Ricky Chalmers suggested this morning that he delayed the decision longer than he should have done: “We have gone back to the Yankee 1, perhaps a little late as we should really have made the change a little earlier. Still, it was a slick change when it finally happened and an indication that the crew are working well as a team.”
On the race viewer it looks like the two extremes of the race course have benefited Hull & Humber in the north and Jamaica to the east but all it will only take a 10 degree wind shift to wipe out any lead that these two boats have.
Skipper of Qingdao Marcus Cholorton-Brown: “Looking at the spread of the fleet this is fast becoming a very interesting race. Every time you think that there are no more options someone breaks off in a new direction as more weather information comes in. It may be we all arrive north west of Bunguran about the same time but in wildly different positions. Surprise, surprise, we have decided to do something a little different in the changing wind pattern so hold your breath and keep your fingers crossed it pays off.”
The fleet is aiming towards a waypoint at the southern edge of Taiwan, which the teams must leave to port before heading on to Qingdao. Struggling to catch up with the rest of the fleet before this waypoint is the West Australian team following a costly decision in their positioning at the race start. However, skipper of westernaustralia2011.com Martin Silk remains optimistic that they can move up the race standings:
“It was a testing start to a potentially hard leg, having picked the wrong side of the course on the start line. Losing touch with the fleet makes things harder and trying to work our way up from last in these fickle winds will be a challenge. Fortunately the crew are focussed and working hard, however many sail
changes or tacks it takes.” Positions at 12:00 GMT 29 January 2008
1 Hull & Humber 2272 DTF 0 DTL
2 Jamaica 2279 7
3 Liverpool 08 2281 9
4 New York 2285 13
5 Glasgow:Scotland with style 2289 17
6 Qingdao 2290 18
7 Nova Scotia 2291 19
8 Uniquely Singapore 2294 22
9 Durban 2010 and Beyond 2302 30
10 westernaustralia2011.com 2308 36
(DTF = Distance To Finish, DTL = Distance to Leader)