After 17 days of racing since leaving Singapore the fleet has experienced constant headwinds that have tested both the crews and the boats. Over the last few days the temperatures have dropped dramatically and several of the skippers have reported having snow this morning.
One such skipper was Hannah Jenner on Glasgow: Scotland with Style Clipper, who lyrically described the first snowfall of the race: “'Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!' As we tacked just metres away from Durban 2010 and Beyond this morning snow was falling. It really is very cold out here, especially when everything you are wearing is damp.”
To help battle the cold conditions crew members are starting to layer up as the skipper of westernaustralia2011.com Martin Silk explains: “Two sets of thermals, one mid-layer, woolly socks, boots, mittens, balaclava, oilskins, ski goggles and a lifejacket is all you need to go on deck today! Thirty minutes later it’s back down below for hot chocolate in the saloon in an attempt to thaw out. Cold, wet and almost icy would describe the Western Australian boat at the moment. We may not be winning but we’re certainly living!”
Joff Bailey, Race Director said: “Only ten days ago the crew were writing that they could not wait for the cold weather as they were tacking in the tropical heat, now the story is different.
“This has been a very hard race and the crew will have been through hell, with many wishing they could get off and curl up in a warm bed. At the end of the day, however, these are the sort of life experiences and hardships that you tell your grandchildren about.”
Due to the gruelling nature of the race from Singapore in relentless headwinds, the fleet has made slower than expected progress to the finish in Qingdao. At a meeting earlier today the Race Committee, using provisions provided within the Clipper sailing instructions and the International Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS), made a decision to shorten the course.
Clipper Race Committee Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “The main consideration in this decision is to allow sufficient time for the skippers and crews to carry out routine in-port maintenance in preparation for the next race to Hawaii. The Race Committee believes that this is the best course of action to ensure the overall safety and well-being of the fleet.”
Each of the teams will finish either when they pass through the ‘East China Sea Gate’, approximately 230 nautical miles south-east of the original finish line, or at 0000GMT on 14 February, whichever is sooner. Finishing order will be calculated based on the elapsed time of the race when a boat crosses this pre-determined gate or on the distance to this shortened finish line, whichever is appropriate.
Joff Bailey: “It was a tricky decision to make but it is the best way forward for all concerned. It should not change any tactics and all of the teams have been informed of the decision and have known for some days that it was a possibility. They are now into a 12-hour sprint to get to the designated finish line first.
“With New York currently leading Race 6 and a fierce battle raging between Durban 2010 and Beyond and Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper, the fight for the podium positions will be a close one.”
Upon completion of the race the fleet will motor-sail to the brand new Olympic Sailing Marina in Qingdao, which will host the sailing events of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The majority of the boats are expected to arrive on Saturday 16 February and it is hoped that the last boat will be alongside by the end of the day on Sunday 17 February.
The security at the Olympic Marina is very tight. For leg 5 crew that are joining and any friends and family that are visiting the boats in Qingdao, security passes and entry tickets can now be obtained via the Clipper Race Office. Passes and tickets can be picked up from the Haiqing Hotel in Qingdao. Please ring the Race Secretary, Lizzie Nicholas, on UK mobile +447891062210, Chinese mobile +8615038994028 or email lnicholas(at)clipper-ventures.com to make arrangements to collect. www.clipperroundtheworld.com