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Clipper Round the World Yacht Race fleet battle against light airs

by Heather Ewing on 24 Apr 2012
Derry Londonderry - The Clipper Race fleet left Jack London Square in Oakland on 14 April to start Race 10, to Panama - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race Abner Kingman/onEdition
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet is on the eleventh day of race ten from Oakland, California to Panama. The gap that separates the ten internationally sponsored yachts is slowly expanding as the fleet battle against the rising temperature and light and fluky airs.

With the current weather conditions dictating the fleet's course, it will be interesting to see if it will be the yachts that have taken the in-shore course or the off-shore course, that will benefit for a better position on the leader board overall.

On board Derry-Londonderry, skipper Mark Light reports, 'It is probably the hottest day so far and with very little wind the temperatures are soaring! We were greeted today to a magical sunrise which gave way to a completely clear sky with absolutely no clouds at all.

'The wind didn't get up past five knots of true breeze all day and we worked very hard to keep our boat moving in any reasonable direction!! The light weight spinnaker was gybed, sheeted in, eased, gybed again and the mainsail eased out, sheeted hard in, barber hauled, prevented, etc. We really tried everything to keep the boat moving.

'Once the wind dies off to this extent, it becomes very fickle and sailing too far off the wind results in all apparent wind decreasing to the point where the spinnaker cannot fill and sits drooping over the side looking very sorry for itself and also risking damage. All we can do is concentrate on sailing as good a course as possible and keeps the boat physically moving in somewhere resembling the right direction.'

As the team’s endeavour to eke out extra miles and make gains on their rivals, Visit Finland skipper Olly Osborne is paying close attention to the game at hand.

'Today has been a real light airs challenge with what little breeze there is coming from just about every pint of the compass. Trying to keep the boat pointing in vaguely the right direction is fairly demanding at times as we are almost constantly having to adjust or change sail plans to keep up with the wind shifts.

'It is however very satisfying when we do get the boat going, and it is a great opportunity to make up an extra mile or two. With the fleet being spread both inshore and offshore at the moment it will also be very interesting to see who prospers over the next couple of days as this careful game of cat and mouse continues,' Olly adds.

On Qingdao, Ian Conchie said his team's progress has been slow in light airs and the Chinese entry is feeling the pressure.

'In the last 24 hours we have had very little wind and had to watch as the rest of the fleet made ground away from us. All we can do is hope for better wind soon to allow us to catch up.

'All the time we have been busy trimming or changing sails trying to maximise our boat speed. It is very hard to gybe a spinnaker when it is just hanging from the mast as it is all too easy to damage the sail whilst rigging the second pole!'

On Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, skipper Flavio Zamboni is also reflecting on the current immobilising conditions at this stage in the race.
'Unfortunately yesterday's forecast has materialised and we went from sailing in very light airs to being completely becalmed.

'Now we can only hope the breeze will fill in before we lose too much ground. It is very frustrating but there's nothing we can do about it at the moment.'

The team on New York has been struggling to keep moving in low visibility and sailing with less than ten knots of true wind in the last 24 hours.

'After a night of drifting at sunrise we were in a fog bank and have been all day, so a radar and AIS watch was set up for the day and we have been lucky not to see any other vessels come close, but they would have had to pass within a few hundred meters of us for us to see them with our eyes,' skipper, Gareth Glover, explains.

'The wind has come and gone in the day with the most getting up to 10 knots for an hour and then nothing for the next few, the forecast over the next few days still looks light and are only relief is that the leaders to our south have had much of the same and have done about the same miles we have over this time. The crew are still working hard even in the little wind we have to get us closer to the rest of the fleet.'

In between trying to profit from any small breeze they have had, Gareth reports that the crew have been finding innovative ways to keep themselves occupied in the calm conditions.

'Richard Gould has been going over spinnaker trim and sail setting sat in the shade on the foredeck. Stephan Larsson has been teaching Celestial Navigation in the saloon and Raghu Gopalakrishnan is teaching splicing to others, it’s been like a floating classroom most of the last few days until the wind comes back.'

Meanwhile, on board Welcome to Yorkshire, patriotism is in the air and skipper Rupert Dean explains how in the last 24 hours the English entry has been sparing a thought for Queen and country on St. Georges Day.

'With the Queen's birthday just past and her Jubilee and London Olympics around the corner, now is the time to feel particularly proud to be British. We are an amazing nation with some of the most spectacular, varied countryside and coastline you will find anywhere. Our Commonwealth spans the whole globe and while it may no longer be one where the 'sun never sets', it continues to lead the world in so many ways.

'As an island race the British people have always been intrigued as to what lies around the corner. It is no surprise, therefore, that British explorers colonised vast swathes of the world, often blazing new trails in terms of human endurance. In a similar way, our inventors have led the way in some of the most ground-breaking scientific and technological developments. Quite fitting, therefore, that the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, the only one of its kind in the world, is British too.

Rupert adds, 'When you think about it, the Clipper Race embraces everything great about being British. A British company working with international sponsors to generate new business relationships around the world. Multi-national crews, brave tolerant people from all cultural backgrounds, all with the common goal of exploring new frontiers, both personally and geographically. Headed by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, regarded as quite a pioneer himself, it all stacks up nicely.

'It brings me great pleasure, therefore, on St George's Day, to be sending this to you from Welcome to Yorkshire. As the English skipper of the English boat, representing the great county of Yorkshire, I am very proud to be writing this today. My crew are proudly flying the flag on the nation's behalf, striving to lead the way into Panama. Wish us well.'

Sailing under the cloak of invisibility is Singapore has played its first Stealth Mode card in this race and will emerge at 1200 UTC today after a period of 24 hours. In Race 10, the teams are able to use two periods of Stealth Mode, or they can combine them to make one period of 48 hours.

While in Stealth Mode, the team's position is not reported to the fleet or on the website for the period of 24 hours, or in some cases during this race 48 hours, however the Race Office still tracks the team positions every hour.

As the fleet lie relatively becalmed, skipper Ben Bowley reports, 'Tedious would be one way to describe the last 12 hours aboard Singapore.

'We did manage to make a little decent progress in the early part of the day but as afternoon turned to night we have well and truly parked. We have dropped the kite to prevent it from damaging itself against the rigging and I have not seen in excess of 2.5 knots of wind in the last four hours. The sea is so glassy that we are bobbing on a mirror image of the night sky; which although beautiful to look at is not conducive to eating up the distance to finish. We have the wind seeker up but will the Windex doing laps at the top of the mast, there is not even enough wind to keep the pitifully small sail filled.

'Throughout the day we have caught glimpses of various yachts in the fleet on the AIS and take a little comfort in seeing that we are all in the same predicament for much of the time. We did have a moment of hilarity after lunch today however. A large red footed boobie landed on the masthead and started attacking our delicate Windex. With little else to do, Willy Iliffe volunteered to ascend rig and shoo away the avian intruder.

'I have the wonderful moment on video where, upon reaching the top of the rig, a Mexican stand-off ensued between said bird and our fearless mast climber. Willy practically had to man-handle the bird from the rig top much to the amusement of those on deck! His reward for a successful mission was a return trip down the forestay at full professional bowman speed. I am now going to retire to my bunk and pray to the wind gods for just six knots of wind to get our ‘Big Red Bus’ moving again!'

On board Geraldton Western Australia, skipper Juan Coetzer echoes the Singaporean entries plight as the team continue to make slow progress towards the Ocean Sprint Start Gate.

'Another day of light fickle winds, the sea was a mirror and the skies clear. Its night time now and we can see the reflection of the stars and kite in the water.

'Today we saw a bird sitting on a turtle getting a free ride, lucky for him. His mate decided to land on our binnacle and check out what Hannah Richards was up too, as she has decided to take on a new task, designing summer clothes for the crew. Lunch had a Mexican twist to it and it was Nachos day today.'

The Race Viewer on the Clipper Race website shows the teams are rapidly approaching the start gate for the Ocean Sprint. The tight racing shows how closely matched these teams are after eight months of their 40,000-mile circumnavigation and it will make this Ocean Sprint an interesting one.

All of the teams have the chance to pick up a bonus point for the shortest elapsed time between the latitude 17.5 degrees north and 16 degrees north - approximately 90 miles.

With less than 20 miles to enter the Ocean Sprint and keen to maintain its current position, Gold Coast Australia has had a busy 24 hours of wildlife spotting in the placid surrounding ocean.
Skipper Richard Hewson, explains, 'An amazing day in and around Gold Coast Australia today with more wildlife than Australia Zoo. Whilst for the majority of the day we sat becalmed in the Pacific Ocean off the Mexican coast, in between puffs of wind we were entertained by Mother Nature who put on a spectacular show.

'Three turtle species were identified today, including one rare leather back turtle and another turtle with a brown boobie hitching on its shell.

'The most spectacular of all shows was put on by two different pods of what we believe to be Pygmy Killer Whales. The first pod swam to the boat and surrounded us, jumping, breaching and playing. They were quite inquisitive of Gold Coast Australia and swam with us for over an hour. As we cheered for an encore, another pod approached that was even bigger than the first and really put on a show for us. I got some fantastic footage of these beautiful creatures and felt honoured to have witnessed such a performance.

Richard concludes, 'The wind carried us east, south east at reasonable speed until the early evening until the wind died out completely. Gold Coast Australia was left to drift in a mill pond until only just recently when we began to experience what appears to be a light land breeze from the cooling land in the east, bringing with it some sea mist. With so little wind in the area over the next few days it doesn’t really matter where the wind comes from or how it is generated, all is appreciated as Gold Coast Australia defends its current position leading the fleet.'

The first teams are expected to reach Panama between 9 and 10 May.

Positions at 0900 UTC, Tuesday 24 April 2012
Boat - DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia - 1571nm
2 De Lage Landen - 1577nm (+6nm DTL**)
3 Welcome to Yorkshire - 1579nm (+7nm)
4 Visit Finland - 1580nm (+8nm)
5 Geraldton Western Australia - 1612nm (+41nm)
6 Derry-Londonderry - 1630nm (+59nm)Position at 0600 UTC on 24 April 2012
7Qingdao - 1633nm (+61nm)
8 New York - 1636nm (+66nm)
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 1651nm (+79nm)
10 Singapore - 1679nm (+108nm) Stealth Mode: position at 1200 UTC 23 April 2012

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

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