The last 24 hours has seen the competition heat up even further in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Several of the ten yacht entries are now in sight of each other and as anticipated, the Race Committee has shortened the race course.
Race Director Joff Bailey explains, “The Clipper Race Committee, chaired by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, has shortened the course for Race 10 by selecting one of the pre-existing gates within the Course Instructions as the new finish line. This line is perpendicular to the route and is long enough so that it does not adversely affect any team tactics, it is currently (at 0900GMT) 220nm ahead of Gold Coast Australia.
“The Race Committee has taken this decision after it was advised of maintenance work that is being undertaken on the Panama Canal locks over the coming weeks, the lighter than expected wind strengths on this section of the race and the need to maintain the overall race schedule.”
Over half of the fleet is now in Stealth Mode, meaning they are only visible to the Race Office, while they can work out tactics. Qingdao, New York and Visit Finland have been added to the “invisible” list since yesterday.
Winds are still very fluky, but the fleet closest to coast can expect some bad weather this afternoon. Renowned fleet meteorologist Simon Rowell says, “As you get further east you should get some pretty energetic convective activity in the afternoons along the coast. This will include thunder, lightning and if you're really lucky hail too.”
In the 0600 report to the Race Office, skipper Gareth Glover from the New York entry explains how packed the fleet is.
“Well the last few days we have had a few other Clipper Race yachts around us – Qingdao, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and now Singapore who have flown in from behind us and are around 8 miles to our north. We have had a good boat speed over the last 24 hours with the wind we have been having making around 3 to 7 knots at times which is more than a few days ago were we had lower boat speed.
“Our tactics have been revised for the next part of this race and head towards the new gates the Clipper Race Committee has added as we were working on distance to finish in which we were mid fleet and now find ourselves further back than other yachts.
“The crew were so happy that we had won the Ocean Sprint as they have been working hard in the heat of the day and getting the bonus point makes it feel that it was all worth it. We just need to keep the wind now over the next 48 hour so we can get back a few lost places.”
Being surrounded by other Clipper Race yachts has made Edinburgh Inspiring Capital even more competitive. Skipper Flavio Zamboni says, “The last 24 hours saw us making good progress. Having New York in sight first and then Qingdao made us try really hard to get as much speed as possible out of the breeze we've had.
“With Qingdao in particular we were in sight of each other for many hours, the two boats doing very similar speeds. We now seem to have opted for different tactics, us going for the shortest distance to the gates and them looking for better breeze inshore, and we will know soon which one pays off.”
The Chinese entry went into Stealth Mode at 0600UTC this morning. Qingdao’s skipper Ian Conchie says, “Today has been an interesting day in terms of tactics. With the Race Committee activating the revised sailing instructions we have the choice to focus on the gates or to focus on overall distance to finish.
“We decided to focus on distance to finish; this meant in the short term that Edinburgh Inspiring Capital gained a place as we positioned the boat to try and get the best wind for the next few days only time will tell which was the right call.”
Happy with the Race Committee’s decision is English entry Welcome to Yorkshire. In his morning report, skipper Rupert Dean writes, “It was with great relief today that we received notice of the additional mandatory gates and shortened course instructions from the Race Committee. Whilst all on Welcome to Yorkshire have enjoyed Race 10, we've been enduring light winds and searing temperatures for some time and this update enables us to refocus for a tangible finish.
“You may have guessed through our offshore position, sailing the shortest distance to scoring gates has long been our priority, over distance to finish at Panama. Once we got offshore over a week ago, opportunities to sail back in to take advantage of sea breezes close inshore have been extremely limited, without losing serious miles to the opposition. That Gold Coast Australia managed this whilst retaining their lead, is a huge testament to them.”
Adding to boat positioning, Rupert continues, “Now, with the new gates announced, sailing the shortest line at an angle of 130°T (perpendicular to the gate at 220°T), is ever more crucial. It's not so simple than that however. If you can increase the apparent wind, through sailing 10, 20 or even 30 degrees off 130°T, boat speed goes up accordingly, often more than compensating for extra distance to sail. It's basic trigonometry which will see all the teams crunching the numbers to work out.”
Singapore skipper Ben Bowley today debates the same dilemma, “We are likely to sail more miles to the new finish line by taking the inshore route but if I were to liken it to driving, I would rather do more miles cross country but remain moving than crawl through traffic by taking the direct route. It is a little bit of a gamble as if the boats to the south get enough wind to keep moving we may miss out. However, with little to lose we are willing to throw a bit of caution to the wind.”
On board Singapore they have had a good 24 hours. Ben continues, “We've had an excellent day today for a change! At sunrise this morning we gybed over and an hour later had faint speck of a spinnaker on the horizon. The blob of white slowly grew throughout the course of the day and we later established that we had made some excellent miles on New York during the night.
“Seeing another yacht on the horizon spurned the crew on during a day of changeable conditions to ensure that we narrowed the gap as best we could over the course of 12 hours. We have elected to remain a little nearer the coast over the coming 24 hours as we hope that this shall keep us in a band of stronger breeze.”
Back in the lead is still Gold Coast Australia. Skipper Richard Hewson says, “The sunrise for Gold Coast Australia brought a beautiful sight as the large equatorial sun beamed through the volcanic ash suspended in the air displaying indescribable brilliance of colours. As many as six turtles swam around the boat as we coasted along in light unpredictable winds.
“As the winds died off completely after sunrise I feared that we had sailed too far into the bay, and in doing so had sailed into the lee of the mountains while searching for wind that was predicted for that location. Gradually the wind began to pick up again, and to our relief by the morning schedule it was revealed that we were not the only yacht to have parked up through the morning, though Visit Finland had made some good mileage on us, De Lage Landen was still in the same relative position as they were 12 hours before.”
Richard continues, “The announcement by the Race Committee that the sailing Instructions had been changed to move the finish line forward to Remedious Gate is no doubt a relief to the becalmed fleet.
“Throughout the day the wind picked up and by mid-afternoon we had enough wind to make six knots towards the next gate, and at sunset we saw a maximum of 11 knots of wind before the wind gradually began to decrease again. At 14:06:01UTC yesterday we crossed the compulsory Santa Cruz gate. I believe we crossed this gate in first place however we will have to wait for the next schedule to confirm this. The crew have worked very hard maximise boat speed in light airs and should be very proud of their achievement.”
Meanwhile an action-filled 0600 report has been received from the other Australian entry. Skipper Juan Coetzer says, “There are currently high levels of focus and concentration on board Geraldton Western Australia. What can we do to make the boat go faster? Weight on the high side counter-act the rocking of caused by the un-wanted swell. Nope, it didn't work. Okay! How about a gybe then? Hmm… the angle now is not doing us any favours. With the race being shorted, it’s all to play for still, and we are pulling out all the stops, just to keep the boat moving.”
Meanwhile the Derry-Londonderry skipper Mark Light reports the delight of the Northern Irish entry’s speeds achieved. He says, “We have had a great last 24 hours making some really good progress. After having good wind last night we were fully expecting the breeze to reduce dramatically as the beautiful orange morning sun rose in the east (just like any other day). But today was different – the wind didn't only stay with us, but also increased a little.
“We embraced this unusual happening with open arms and continued to make good speeds towards our destination. The instruments actually registered 10.2 knots Speed Over Ground (SOG), figures not seen since race day 1. Due to a lovely constant flow of air over the deck, the day didn't feel too hot.
“Late afternoon, news came through from the Race Committee that the race was to be shortened and we now have a maximum of 360 miles left to race. This news helped us to solidify our tactics and put our battle plan into action. So a quick gybe, followed by a peel up to the medium spinnaker and we were off on a new course. Let’s hope the wind Gods are kind and we can hold these conditions all the way to the finish line.”
The first teams are expected to reach Panama between 9 and 10 May, where they will await their slot to pass through the canal before commencing Race 11 to New York.
Positions at 0900 UTC, Sunday 29 April 2012
1. Gold Coast Australia 906nm
2. De Lage Landen 950nm (44nm)
3. Visit Finland 1008nm (102nm) Stealth Mode
4. Derry-Londonderry 1035nm (129nm)
5. Qingdao 1071nm (165nm) Stealth Mode
6. Welcome to Yorkshire 1073nm (167nm)
7. New York 1073nm (168nm) Stealth Mode
8. Singapore 1078nm (173nm) Stealth Mode
9. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 1199nm (293nm) Stealth Mode
10. Geraldton Western Australia 1249nm (343nm) Stealth Mode
- Clipper Race Media
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