Clipper boats locked together with a finish expected tomorrow

Finally we have seen 10 knots of boat speed and we are MOVING! he
exclaims. “The light patch was a lot longer and stickier than I ever
thought it would be. Hindsight now tells me that regardless of the
additional miles any other route to the finish would probably have been
the answer.”

Life isn't proving easy at the front for the skipper of the Finnish team
and the pressure of being constantly chased by the rest of the fleet is
starting to take its toll on crew morale.

“The tiredness and certain level of frustration from the recent slow
motion is increasing the friction on board. I need to find ways to make
the crew pull together and to tolerate each other for a couple more
days,” says Eero.

Spirit of Australia's crew aren't faring much better, as the desire to
overtake the Finnish entry keeps them all on tenterhooks.

The battle with Team Finland continues to keep everyone onboard Sprit of
Australia on edge, Skipper, Brendan Hall, says. “Overnight our courses
diverged, so we are now out of sight of each other. We know from past
experience that Team Finland is fast in these conditions and that they
are out there pushing just as hard as we are. I expect, looking at the
building breeze that our courses will converge later today and hopefully
we will be abreast or ahead of them.

Despite failing to make any headway on the two boats ahead and also
being chased down by two teams behind, everything is going well on Cape
Breton Island according to the boat's skipper, Jan Ridd. “Last night we
saw two ghostly glows on the horizon so we quickly checked the plotted
positions of the fleet to discover they were Edinburgh Inspiring Capital
and Jamaica Lightning Bolt chasing us down. They both appeared to have
much better boat speed than us which caused us a lot of concern.
Fortunately our wind speed began to increase and with the new breeze we
picked up speed and saw both boats disappear over the horizon where they
belong.”

With all the boats so close the race is still wide open and one tactical
mistake will be all it takes for a boat to slip from the front to the
back of the fleet. Cape Breton Island's close encounter with two other
boats was a timely reminder that the crew cannot afford a moment's lapse
in concentration if they are to achieve their first podium of Clipper
09-10.

Pete Stirling, skipper of Jamaica Lightning Bolt, is pushing his team
hard as they try to achieve their second podium of the race.

“With less than 500 miles to go to the finish line the excitement is
really beginning to build,” he says. “We have done very well against the
other yachts in the light winds and at the midnight position update we
were in fourth place. The crew are united as one and nothing less than a
podium will do!”

Cape Breton Island is not the only team fighting for their first podium
position. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital's skipper, Matt Pike, believes his
crew has what it takes to win their first pennant of the race.

“We need to gain miles on the two boats ahead, Jamaica Lightning Bolt to
starboard and Cape Breton Island off the bow to port,” says Matt. “Once
the southerly wind kicks in it will be a sprint to the finish and we
have the confidence and skills to be up with the leaders.”

Meanwhile, skipper of Uniquely Singapore, Jim Dobie, reports that his
crew are finding their drop from third to sixth place hard to deal with.

“I must admit there were a few glum faces hanging about for a while,” he
says. “There are two things you can do in this situation, one is sulk
and just give up, or, as the saying goes when you fall off your bicycle,
get straight back on it. Hull & Humber has their mission and we now have
ours: Get Singapore back up the position board.”

Not to be written out of the race and only 55 nautical miles behind the
race leaders at the 0600GMT position report, Qingdao's skipper, Chris
Stanmore-Major, ponders what his team needs to do to move up the fleet.

“After a jubilant early evening of steady winds we suddenly fell into
another wind hole that had us pinned unable to move for four hours,”
says the Chinese team's skipper. “This has proved disastrous as it was
this exact moment when those to the south found some steady breeze and
quickly opened up a twenty mile lead.

“What to do now? The answer is clear. We stoop and build ourselves up
once more. We can eat miles between ourselves and those in front very
quickly and we have proven that time and time again in this race.”

Irish entry Cork is also benefiting from a freshening breeze and skipper
Richie Fearon's thoughts are turning towards his team's arrival in
Geraldton. “The high pressure system has stayed north of us and we have
managed to get under and to the east of it with minor disturbance,” says
Richie Fearon. “Our wind should start to pick up from the South East
over the next 24 hours, so we should get some good speeds to finish off
our Southern Ocean leg. With just over 1,000 nautical miles to go, we
estimate being in Geraldton for Friday evening or Saturday morning.”

Conversely, Hull & Humber's skipper, Piers Dudin, is finding arrival
predictions virtually impossible as a recent patch of light winds has
put his team further behind schedule.

“Op:GKHFX (Operation: Get-Katy-home-for-Xmas, the mission to try and
ensure that crew member Katy Bell arrives in time for her flight back to
the UK for Christmas) is 97 miles behind schedule but if we are able to
make up 12 miles each day, requiring an average boat speed of 10.5
knots, we should be back on par in eight days time.”

“It's looking like an exciting finish shaping up ahead of us and it is a
shame not to be part of it. Never-the-less we wish the teams best of
luck as luck is what it will probably come down to!”

Following the recent patch of light winds the first boats are not
expected to arrive at the Batavia Coast Marina in Geraldton before 1800
local time on Wednesday 16 December.

Joff Bailey, Clipper Race Director, says, “Looking at the latest
forecast and the recent progress of the fleet we are currently expecting
the first boats to arrive late Wednesday evening or early Thursday
morning.”

Positions at 0600 UTC, Monday 14 December

Boat DTF* DTL*
Team Finland 472nm 0nm
Spirit of Australia 476nm 4nm
Cape Breton Island 494nm 22nm
Jamaica Lightning Bolt 498nm 26nm
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 505nm 31nm
Uniquely Singapore 514nm 42nm
Qingdao 524nm 52nm
California 550nm 78nm
Cork 1114nm 642nm
Hull & Humber 2099nm 1627nm

Pantaenius Sailing
M.O.S.S Australia
Jeanneau ?Yachts
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