Australia in front in Clipper Race as Hull & Humber is stuck in port

0600 sitrep from Piers Dudin, skipper of Hull & Humber: “Distance To
Finish? SOG: 0 RUN: 0 position: RCYC

“So, not quite the blog I was hoping to write on this leg. We should be out there bashing round the Cape of Good Hope with the others but instead we're waking up in the calm waters of the Royal Cape Yacht Club.

“Our approach to the start line was looking good. We were next to Uniquely Singapore at the 'pin end', the opposite end of the line from the Committee Boat and on starboard tack. California pulled off a great start, Cork were a little behind them, and so had to duck around behind us as we approached the line in diagonally opposite directions. As they ducked us they were hit by a gust which prevented them turning away and they ended up colliding with us, spinning us round on the spot and causing up a rather large crack just to the side of the helm station.

“After assessing that everyone was ok, the first priority became getting Hull & Humber back to calm water and minimising any water intake as the crack went down to six inches above the water line. We jumped into action to set up the emergency pumps we have on board, although didn't need them as we were already on the correct tack to make it back to the wind shadow of Table Mountain from where we could motor back to port in flat seas.

“So what happens now? Well the surveyor came round to inspect our new opening, and recommended who could do the fix and the size of job. We'll apply for redress once we get to Oz, which will hopefully mean we'll get a few points for completing the leg as it wasn't our fault we have been prevented from racing.

“It's a massive disappointment for us as a team, especially for the leggers who have been looking forward to their race. As for who is able to hold on for the delay or not will pan out over the next few days as we get a better picture of how long the fix will take.

“There's absolutely no hard feeling towards Cork, they did their best to avoid us but the wind gods had other ideas.

“Now we'll be working to continue to keep Hull & Humber in good shape, there's always other jobs to crack (gettit) on with. We'll fix her up and get out there soon enough.”

At Royal Cape Yacht Club, surveyors have been assessing the damage this morning and the work will start on Cork this afternoon. The damage will be relatively simple to repair and the surveyors are satisfied there are no structural problems with the boat.

The two options for tackling the work on Hull & Humber are still being assessed. One is to cut a large hole in the side of the hull to remove all the damage, take a mold from Cork so that a piece can be constructed off-site and then brought to the marina, inserted into the hole and fixed into place.

The other is to attach a piece of laminate across the outside of the hole then build up the layers of glass fibre and foam composite from the inside and once it is set, removing the laminate.

The first process is slightly quicker than the second but the surveyor must be satisfied that he is happy with whichever option is taken before the work is carried out.

Race Director Joff Bailey plans to brief the crews of Cork and Hull & Humber this afternoon when he has the final timeframes and a further update will be issued from the Race Office in Cape Town.

Meanwhile, out on the water, there are eight teams racing and Team Finland took an early lead as the teams raced out of Table Bay. For Team Finland's skipper, Cape Town resident Eero Lehtinen, it was a difficult farewell.

He says, “The wonderful stop in Cape Town is over. It was not difficult to leave, it was impossible. I have not slept one moment yet, partly because of the wash and spin dry program that we have been thrown in and mostly because I cannot get the sad and tearful faces of my children off my mind.

''The start was a great example of the special wind conditions Table Bay can offer. Straight line across the middle – three to five knots on one side of the line and 25-30 on the other. Understandably, the Race Committee laid the start line on the windy side to make it more spectacular. The rather short and very port biased line combined with some brave strategies by some of the skippers made it a bit too
spectacular. It was painful to watch the violent collision between Cork and Hull & Humber. We are pleased to hear from the Race Office that no injuries occurred. Material damage looks “proper” but boats can always be mended… We're really sorry for both of the crews and skippers; please turn it around and get your boats back to the sea as soon as possible!

“It looks like we will be bouncing in these confused seas and gusting 35 knot headwinds for a bit longer, then – by tomorrow – we should see less wind from more open angles… perhaps then we can get the boat back to normal routines. Seasickness and general tiredness have once again made the boat very quiet and slightly chaotic down below. Everybody's looking for their sea legs and baptism of fire has been rather rough, even worse than out of Rio!

“Team Finland keeps fighting on, we have had all sails up except the two big spinnakers. This morning we had a real battle on foredeck getting the Yankee 3 down in 35 knots of wind, it just didn't want to come down! But eventually it was Emil and foredeck team 1 – Yankee 3 – nil. So, at the moment we bounce on with two reefs and staysail only, still making seven and a half knots over ground most of the time. Can't wait to start surfing down these waves and eating up miles towards Geraldton.”

Eero's experience sailing in the waters around Cape Town paid dividends getting out of Table Bay – a fact acknowledged by his counterpart on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital.

Matt Pike says “Local knowledge is the key in a bay that has such distinct wind patterns. We had ten knots for the parade of sail, and just a mile away there was a steady 25 knots! It was a pattern that
continued down the coast. That meant for a long night of 'reef in reef out, Number 2 up, then windseeker, then by the early hours we had a steady 30knots!”

The varying wind strength is a source of wonder for the crew of Qingdao as well. Skipper Chris Stanmore Major didn't have much time to write this morning as he was busy monitoring numerous sail changes.
“Unbelievable start,” he says. “The way the wind switched on and off was incredible. We have been in 30-40 knots since midnight. The midnight scheds were funny as we were technically behind Hull & Humber and Cork who hadn't yet left! Out on the water the feeling was much the same; the crew are in good spirits but fattened and slowed by a week in Cape Town!”

While spectators of the race rely on the race viewer on the website to see where the boats are, one of the Clipper team got a bird's eye view as the fleet headed into their first night at sea.

Four hours after the start Marketing Director Ian Dickens was up in a helicopter with a high tech camera on board to film sequences for the television series of the race and reported that the conditions across
the fleet were incredibly varied.

“We thought that four hours would be enough to see all the fleet in to a decent breeze but as we rounded Green Point at 1,000 feet, you could see four yachts who were really struggling in light airs. As we hovered overhead Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, Jamaica Lightning Bolt, Qingdao and Uniquely Singapore, it was clear that they were doing all they could to make any headway at all in the placid seas. Qingdao was in the middle of a head sail change when we arrived on station and a wind seeker was hoisted to try to harness any sniff of a breeze. Jamaica Lightning Bolt was making hardly any headway at all and at one point, appeared to do a 360 degree lazy turn as the sun set lower in to the sea.

“But as we headed south, you could see a clear wind line that marked the border between no breeze and heavy winds. The line appeared to coincide with the tall spur of Lions Head and it was clear that here, the wind shadow of Table Mountain was no more. Both Cape Breton Island and California were charging along nicely in heavy seas and the low rays of the sunset hit the spray off the bow and turned it in to a fizzing
orange ball.

“A couple of miles further south, Spirit of Australia was also charging along well but the high mountain ranges of the Twelve Apostles and Chapmans Peaks were bringing local anomalies into play with a massive wind shift. While the two boats behind her were heading almost due south, the Australian boat was on an easterly tack heading towards the shoreline as the winds curled off the mountains.

“It took the eagle eye of the pilot, Gert Uys, to spot the sail of Team Finland, far ahead on the horizon. In clear seas and with a strong breeze, she too was charging south with a reefed main and a heavy heel
on the boat as she beat to windward. All looked calm on deck as our twin engine Squirrel helicopter sat at around 50 feet above sea level and a mere 20 feet to port of Team Finland's rigging.

“It was extraordinary to witness the differences that ten miles of ocean can bring – at the back nothing and at the front, almost too much wind. Those that got to the wind line first were clearly making massive gains
and while this race is a long one, were the early tactics of Team Finland, Spirit of Australia, California and Cape Breton Island enough to give them a head start that they will keep right the way across the
Southern Ocean? Whatever, the footage we got will be a spectacular addition to the six part TV series that will be screened once the race is over.”

And it seems California's luck has not yet returned. Skipper Pete Rollason reported “A very tough first night at sea for the crew. After a great start in Table Bay we got stuck in a wind hole around Camp's Bay
and watched Team Finland and Spirit of Australia sail right past us. We soon picked up the wind and headed south along the coast with the wind now blowing 35 knots. As we reefed down each of our reefing lines snapped. Amazing how they can all go so quickly. This meant that we had to sail with the main down for some time in order to replace the lines with spares. It has also been a very wet first night on deck and a big wake up call after a fantastic week in Cape Town. We will continue to race hard all the way to Geraldton.”

Further details on the time frame for the repairs to Hull & Humber and Cork, and plans for the crews will be released as soon as possible.

POSITIONS AT 1200 UTC, MONDAY 23 NOVEMBER

1 Spirit of Australia DTF 4663
2 Cape Breton Island DTF 4665 DTL +3
3 Team Finland DTF 4669 DTL +6
4 Jamaica Lightning Bolt DTF 4699 DTL +36
5 Uniquely Singapore DTF 4700 DTL +37
6 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital DTF 4701 DTL +38
7 California DTF 4718 DTL +55
8 Qingdao DTF 4745 DTL +82
9 Cork DTF 4773 DTL +110
10 Hull & Humber DTF 4773 DTL +110

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