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Clipper Round the World Race - Geraldton Western Australia takes lead

by Heather Ewing on 4 Jan 2012
Geraldton Western Australia - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race onEdition
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are currently on day eleven of race seven, from the Gold Coast to Singapore.

The 4,600 mile race is quickly becoming a tough fought battle between two arch rivals, Geraldton Western Australia and Gold Coast Australia.

Currently leading race seven by just eight miles, Geraldton Western Australia has made good progress in their bid to increase the lead they currently hold over their Australian counterparts.

'Today's happy hour was spent in a state of delirium,' reports Geraldton Western Australia’s skipper, Juan Coetzer.

'Drifting along at six knots, just about to start our daily talks, a rather large rain squall came and pounced on us. Some of the crew ran down below, grabbed the shower gel and made the most of the rain,' continues Juan.

'At the same time we sped off at nine or ten knots, leaving Gold Coast Australia in our wake!'

On board Gold Coast Australia, skipper Richard Hewson is relishing the tactical encounter their tussle with Geraldton Western Australia has created.

'As we sail our way into the Pacific Ocean we continue our cat and mouse battle with Geraldton Western Australia. Until recently they have been sticking to us like glue, occasionally they would gain on us slightly, and then we would lose them slightly,' explains Richard.

'Just after midday the storms started to build. As the storms approached the wind backed up to 90 degrees, and Geraldton Western Australia appeared to be in their own wind with the squall coming towards them while we maintained our course to the north in the usual light trades. Two hours later as the squalls began to approach us Geraldton Western Australia were two nautical miles to the east of us sailing at ten knots and making significant gains on our position.'

With the leading boats expected to cross the Equator into the Northern Hemisphere within the next 36 hours, preparations are well underway for King Neptune’s arrival on board.

'As we near the Equator there are certain crew members on board who have not yet entered into King Neptune's realm.

'As custom initiate the periwinkles into shell backs, other members will be crossing the Equator from south to north for the first time so they too will no doubt be ordered to pay penance to King Neptune.'

Meanwhile current occupiers of third place, Qingdao, enjoyed good fortune after they left the Nissan Island to port, the only team of the ten-strong fleet to do so.

'We decided on a change of tactics yesterday and rather than tack to beat towards the mark near New Ireland we held our port tack and left the Solomon Sea,' says skipper, Ian Conchie.

'The plan being that the wind out to the east was forecast to be better than to the west. So far the plan appears to be working in that we have had some wind all night and this morning we started getting a lift to allow us to start pointing west of north.'

Currently just behind Gold Coast Australia, the Chinese entry now continues its course north in search of the north east trade winds.

'Time will tell if the extra distance we have sailed puts us in a better tactical position. I think everyone in the fleet is praying for the north east trade winds to kick in to allow us to hoist the spinnakers and head west with some speed!'

The 40,000-mile race sees the crew pit themselves against the world’s toughest sailing conditions and after experiencing the freezing environment of the Southern Ocean, the fleet now encounter the hottest temperatures of the race so far.

'Today the heat is really quite unbearable,' reveals Ben Bowley Singapore’s skipper.

'This has the effect of compounding the frustration of being almost becalmed for the majority of the day. We hoisted the lightweight kite (Josie) today at around 0800 and spent the first few hours of the day skirting round the edge of squalls.

'By lunchtime however the heat seemed to have sucked all the wind out of the air and for the last few hours we have barely been able to keep her filled. Enormous gybe angles and slightly rolling seas serve to compound the difficulties of trying to get north. I have a terrible feeling that we may have missed the boat (pun intended) for a dive northwards toward the elusive north east trade winds,' continues Ben, after experiencing another frustrating day of light winds.

'Our intention was to take a similar track to that of Gold Coast Australia and Geraldton Western Australia between the islands and head due north and pick up some proper wind before bearing away to the west.

'Unfortunately I fear that the wind on the left-hand side of the track died away sooner than on the right and we are now drifting back and forth between Feni and Green Islands; literally caught between a rock and a hard place. This has allowed the three boats to the north of us a chance to extend their lead as they ride the last hint of pressure northwards to the Equator.'

Meanwhile on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, skipper Gordon Reid shared his counterpart’s weather frustrations.

'The weather has been very challenging as we attempt to ride the lifts under the squalls which have now become less frequent and less intense, from Yankee number 1 to windseeker we are constantly changing sails just to keep her moving and, with less wind, it is baking hot. The deck is too hot to walk on without shoes and the metalwork too hot to touch at times. Luckily we are surrounded by clear blue sea so buckets a plenty to cool us down.

'There was no real wind to speak of and we are drifting in a little bit of current at 1.5 knots. As the wind has switched off in this part of the Solomon Sea I was really hoping we might make it into the north east trades but no such luck!' continues the Scotsman.

'Sometimes it's tough out here, even when you are certain you are doing the right thing, it can all change in an instant. Just because you are certain doesn't make you right! So now it's time to review and revise tactics. Every day is different in the dynamic game but we are out here, faces covered in sweat, making every minute count, digging deep and giving it all we have to give.'

Also contending with the heat is Welcome to Yorkshire, skippered by Rupert Dean.

'Hot, hot, hot! Hotter than a very hot thing, that's what life's like on board Welcome to Yorkshire at present.

'The high temperatures had much to do with a general lack of wind for, from 0400 to 0730 hours this morning, we sat completely becalmed west of Bougainville Island. Indeed, it was so calm we took down our headsails entirely, to prevent them from damaging themselves through bouncing with the swell against the rig,' reports Rupert, with his team currently in eighth position.

'Thankfully at 0730 the wind started to fill in and we were able to get our 'Pink Lady' moving again. We hope now to make up the miles lost on our competitors over the next few days. There are many more miles to run on this race. Onwards and go Welcome to Yorkshire!'

Currently on a course which will seem them keep Ambitle Island to starboard, Derry-Londonderry’s report is filled with positives.

'After making very good and direct progress through the night which lifted us up into a fine third position we find ourselves (ironically) sat just of the island of New Ireland,' says skipper, Mark Light.

'An absolutely sweltering day today as we sat becalmed under the baking sunshine with our lightweight spinnaker drooping then lifting and filling in the lightest of breaths of air then collapsing again.'

The Northern Ireland entry is now fourth at the 0900 update, just four miles behind Qingdao.

'The crew is fully kitted in board shorts, t-shirts, sun hats, sunglasses and copious amounts of sun cream. Orange and lemon squash is passed up to the deck every half an hour in an effort to make sure that people are drinking enough throughout the day,'

On a similar course to Derry-Londonderry is the Dutch entry, De Lage Landen.

'Thirty-seven degrees, high humidity and no wind, not really the ideal conditions for ocean racing!' reports skipper, Stuart Jackson.

'We seem to have been held up for a while by the big trough that can dominate this area so we are desperately waiting for some wind to fill in so we can make some progress north to get to the north east trade winds.

'However for now we have been pouring buckets of sea water over ourselves frequently in a vain attempt to keep cool. With the total absence of wind this afternoon the last few hours have been spent playing in the water which has cheered everyone up.'

Over on board New York, skipper Gareth Glover, will be cursing the wind gods this morning after a tactical gamble didn’t go to plan.

'We are currently sailing towards Feni Islands playing catch up. Overnight we had very little wind and many less miles on the leaders whilst other yachts had good wind and made many miles into the South Pacific. Our tactic to hug the coast and pick up any new wind didn't go that well and now sees us head toward the back of the race fleet.

'Looking at the weather info we had all was saying that there would be wind there and not out in the middle, but after getting the early morning report it looks like those yachts made good speed and miles on us. With the forecast of winds being low for the next few days and the wind being all over the place, it is making it hard to plan a route north and hard to make up the miles lost,' explains Gareth.

'However there is still a long race to Singapore and lots can and will happen.'

Positions at 1200 UTC, Tuesday 3 January
Boat - DTF*
1 Geraldton Western Australia - 3132nm
2 Gold Coast Australia - 3141nm (+8nm DTL**)
3 Qingdao - 3144nm (+12nm)
4 Derry-Londonderry - 3156nm (+24nm)
5 De Lage Landen - 3161nm (+29nm)
6 Visit Finland - 3166nm (+34nm)
7 New York - 3168nm (+36nm)
8 Welcome to Yorkshire - 3178nm (+46nm)
9 Singapore - 3183nm (+51nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 3219nm (+87nm)

DTF* = Distance to Finish, DTL** = Distance to Leader. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found here." target="_blank">Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website

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