There are two things the race office team in Cape Town can't wait to do
as they arrive at Royal Cape Yacht Club each morning. We arrive at the
club just as the 0600 sched reports are coming through from the boats,
so laptops are fired up to check the race viewer and the yachts'
positions. And while technology is sparking to life, it's straight down
onto the pontoons to for a status update on the repairs to Cork and Hull
& Humber. And once that's done, the Race Director spends a couple of
minutes to check his own boat is on track in the Virtual Race.
The battle at the front of the real fleet is proving to be edge of the
seat viewing. We can only imagine the amount of focus and mental energy
it takes for the crews to maintain the best boat speed – never mind the
physical effort of racing across the Southern Ocean.
Cape Breton Island and Spirit of Australia have been almost neck and
neck for the last two days – five miles separating them at most in terms
of distance to finish and they're now getting a taste of what the
Southern Ocean is really like. And, according to Jan Ridd, the skipper
of Cape Breton Island, the crew are revelling in the conditions.
“The 'Fickle Forties' are now definitely the Roaring Forties! Yesterday
afternoon we were running comfortably under spinnaker in a Force 4 and,
as the sun set, I made the decision to drop and go with poled out number
2 which, at the time, seemed a conservative choice but I explained to
the crew that a wrap could set us back hours. We carried on with poled
out Yankee 2 and full main as the wind built to a steady Force 5 gusting
Force 6 to 7. So, with another uneasy feeling I called for the first
reef to be put in, which the crew did flawlessly, and soon after I told
them we were going to change down to the Yankee 3, even though the wind
had not built substantially and we were still well within the Yankee 2's
range. Again the crew did a flawless evolution and managed to drop the
Yankee 2 without damaging a hank. We then gybed with just the staysail
flying and one reef in the main and, as we were going through the gybe,
the wind jumped from 20 knots to more than 40 knots which made helming
very difficult as the boat was very unbalanced. I quickly grabbed the
helm and got the crew to go about setting up the boat. There was a lot
to do with the pressure of having to work quickly, knowing I was
struggling to keep the boat on course. First of all we hoisted the
Yankee 3 to help balance the power of the mainsail then we reduced the
main to the second reef, which made the helm manageable. They then had
to flake and pack the number 2 in over 40 knots. Once the sail was
safely down below they had to drop the staysail and pole out the number
3 to balance the power of the mainsail and make the boat easier to
helm. All this they achieved very professionally and quickly which would
have been a credit to any team racing in the Solent and all the more
impressive in the Southern Ocean. It was easily the busiest watch of the
race so far and I cannot praise Rob and his team enough for their work
“At watch change it had calmed down a bit to Force 6 gusting 7 so I
decided to grab some sleep, knowing if the wind built I would not be
sleeping until this system passed! Well, I woke up three hours later and
popped my head up through the hatch to be met by grinning faces and a
four-metre swell rising behind the stern of the boat and the watch
proudly telling me they had seen 48 knots on the instruments! It's
another testament to Cape Breton Island's crew that after their South
Atlantic experience in the last leg they feel comfortable handling the
Big Blue Canoe in these conditions. They are all awesome!
We are now nicely set up, holding a reasonable boat speed, the sun is
shining and it looks like it is going to be a glorious day's sailing.
All the crew are eager to get on the helm as the swells get larger
making the surfs that much longer and faster!
Everyone is in very good spirits onboard and loving the adrenaline rush
and the Southern Ocean is delivering the experience they all expected. I
am fairly relaxed. The way the crew are handling the boat is inspiring
me with confidence, although I am very aware how quickly things could go
wrong and am continuously running 'what if' scenarios through my mind!
It occurs to me that for some of the crew on all the boats who have
never sailed before joining the Clipper Race, and with only four weeks
training, they are sailing across the Southern Ocean in a Force 9, which
is truly awesome. I remember when I was training the first time I
crossed the English Channel it was an enormous achievement! This truly
brings into focus what an amazing challenge they have taken on.”
Team Finland is piling the pressure on Cape Breton Island and Spirit of
Australia, pulling back six miles in three hours to match the Aussie's
distance to finish at the 0900 position report on the Race Viewer. Team
Finland has some technical issues with the crew email system at the
moment. Engineers are working on it now.
Uniquely Singapore and Jamaica Lightning Bolt are having a similar
jousting match to the leaders, fourth and fifth positions switching at
Jim Dobie, skipper of the Singaporean entry says, “The wind finally went
behind us and once again we flying under the kite and then a poled out
headsail doing some good speeds. With the wind angles we have been
heading slightly north through the night and gybed this morning, heading
further south again. As this low moves through the wind will gradually
head us as the system moves east. The next pickle is, where do we want
to end up with the next patch of light breeze behind this low? South,
north or stay on our rhumb line – it's trying to position yourself so
that you're in line for the next set of good winds.
“The scoring gate now looming and it's imperative that we keep good
speed, a good course and a little bit of luck always helps.”
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital's luck is holding – and skipper Matt Pike,
like Jan, has been using his instincts and awareness of the conditions
to keep his team moving.
“The roaring forties were hardly purring as we headed south, the sun
shone and sea birds lazily wheeled around the boat, the lightweight
spinnaker filling in the warm breeze. With little more notice than a gut
feeling it was kite down and poled out Yankee 2 and when it hit a solid
surge of cold heavy air instantly picked up the sea. We had arrived! Two
hours of reefing and headsail changing left us with two reefs in the
main and the Number 3 poled out – not right for the lulls or the 45-knot
gusts. So a long night was had by both watches, the Whoopers and
Screamers, both living up to their names as the seas built to something
we could surf!”
California's crew are marking Thanksgiving Day on board – without the
traditional turkey, which would probably take about two days to roast in
small propane-fired oven on board.
“The temperature has dropped, the skies are grey, fortunately it is only
raining occasionally, the sea is quite rough and confused at the moment
and the wind is blowing at more than 30 knots. Hey, it still beats
commuting to work and sitting behind a desk all day,” says the ever
optimistic skipper, Pete Rollason, finding something to be thankful for
among the harshness of the conditions of the Southern Ocean.
“Everything is running smoothly on board at present and we have been
reeling in the three boats ahead of us slowly over the last three or
four scheds. We are all settling into life in the Southern Ocean and sea
sickness seems a thing of the past. The thoughts of shorts and t-shirts,
barbeques and warm sunshine in Geraldton are never far from the mind and
we are racing hard to make sure we get a good result and a longer
stopover for Christmas and New Year.
“Talking of holidays, Happy Thanksgiving to all our American supporters,
unfortunately no roast turkey for us but we will have something a little
special (well, special for us) later today. Have a great day.”
Back in Pete's home city of Cape Town, work continues apace on the two
boats damaged in Sunday's start line collision. The crew of Cork have
mustered at the Royal Cape Yacht Club and are busy preparing their yacht
for departure later today. There is still work to do on board; the
marine surveyor is carrying out his rigorous checks, the crew are
replenishing some of their fresh food supplies and the rigger is
reattaching the forestay and tuning the rig in preparation for the
The boat builders are putting the final touches to the repairs to the
bow. As soon as all the work is completed and the surveyor is satisfied
the yacht complies with all the safety requirements, they will be off to
join the rest of the fleet on their way to Australia.
Cork will be taking two of the Hull & Humber crew who have family
commitments in Australia. At a briefing with Hull & Humber on Monday,
the Race Director gave the team the option for those who had personal
commitments during the Geraldton stopover to leave earlier with Cork,
who had a couple of available berths.
Hull & Humber's skipper, Piers Dudin, explained, “If you decide you
would like to take up this option no one will think you are leaving the
team behind. We want you to have the sail you deserve and to be able to
spend time with your families as well.”
After much soul searching Charlie Mulliner and Victoria Strecker have
made the very tough decision to become temporary members of Cork's crew
while repairs continue to their boat.
Work has been continuing through the night on Hull & Humber and the boat
is once again closed to the elements. The fibre glass molds taken of
Cork's port aft quarter have been battened in place and already the
layers that make up the hull are being built up from the inside of the
boat. The gel coat and four layers of chopped strand (extremely fine
strands of glass) have been applied. Next comes two layers of matting,
then high density foam core and more chopped strand and matting before a
vacuum is applied to the whole lot to suction it on to the hull and
provide a smooth finish. Coats of paint will finish that part of the
There is still carpentry and plumbing to be done, as well as replacing
the two bunks damaged in the collision. Hull & Humber is still on course
for a Tuesday departure from RCYC.
And so to the final of the morning's tasks, once the most important have
been attended to; Race Director, Joff Bailey, resets his sails and
checks his position on the Virtual Race. This morning it wasn't good.
“I'm never going to hear the end of this – my brother's beating me!” he
Several of the yacht club members have joined the Virtual Race and one
of the surveyors overseeing the repairs has also been hooked by the game
that more than 60,000 people worldwide are now playing.
“I woke up this morning to discover I was at 42 degrees south and had to
do something about it,” he grinned. To be fair to the man, he's had a
lot on his plate this week.
LATE NEWS: Cork has just left Cape Town in pursuit of the fleet who are 700 miles ahead.
POSITIONS AT 0900 UTC, THURSDAY 26 NOVEMBER
1 Cape Breton Island DTF 4070
2 Spirit of Australia DTF 4080 DTL +10
3 Team Finland DTF 4080 DTL +10
4 Uniquely Singapore DTF 4132 DTL +62
5 Jamaica Lightning Bolt DTF 4137 DTL +67
6 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital DTF 4169 DTL +98
7 California DTF 4205 DTL +135
8 Qingdao DTF 4248 DTL +177
9 Cork DTF 4773 DTL +702
10 Hull & Humber DTF 4773 DTL +702