Clipper fleet flying at 10 knots plus

It may be Bonfire Night in the UK but it's unlikely we'll see any
fireworks out on the race track today. The fantastic high speed sailing
all of the teams have been enjoying over the last 24 to 48 hours are
likely to drop off during the next day or two.

“It's some of the most exciting sailing I have done, these last 24
hours,” says Brendan Hall, skipper of Spirit of Australia. “The
heavyweight spinnaker is flying strong from the masthead and we are
achieving some amazing speeds, helped by the gathering swell. We surfed
down a wave and did 17.5 knots last night, to whoops of exhilaration
from all the crew on deck. Long may it continue.”

“'Twelve, 13,14,16,18 knots!' went the cheer as Detlef steered us down a
long wave,” reports Jim Dobie, skipper of Uniquely Singapore. “What a
night, starting with six to seven hours of downwind surfing with the
heavyweight in pitch black conditions so, not being able to see the
waves, the guys had to steer by feeling the motion of Uniquely Singapore
through the helm. This is a skill that can't be taught, rather developed
with experience. It's incredible, really, thinking that some of the crew
still only have weeks of sailing under their belts. Then, as the swell
picked up and it became more difficult, the heavyweight came down and
poled out headsail was the order for the early hours.”

Cape Breton Island's skipper, Jan Ridd, has been enjoying the conditions
as well. “In the last 48 hours the wind's been doing a bit of
everything,” he says. “Yesterday we were flying the heavyweight kite. It
was quite hot and, as the day went on, the wind went aft nicely and
increased. After lunch the wind jumped to 30 knots so I took stock, gave
the helm a break, and enjoyed surfing down some nice swells. We
considered dropping it but the boat speed was so good we decided to hold
on to it and the crew of Cape Breton Island successfully sailed the big
blue canoe all afternoon in winds gusting to 38 knots and a very nasty
sea – they were awesome! We had a three-hour run when the wind was at
its strongest of 42nm with an hour run of 16nm.

“Overnight we were running with a poled out Number 2 but after a couple
of hours the wind had dropped so we set about hoisting the medium kite.
But as the kite was being hoisted the wind swung around and was now on
the nose. Luckily the wool on the kite hadn't broken so we were able to
pack it back into the bag. We quickly hoisted the staysail and trimmed
sails and set about clearing up! The crew were awesome, very competent
and put in a lot of hard work in a short time. Now we're heeled over
again on a fine reach with a Force 5 and doing good boat speed.”

The teams have been able to ride the crest of the South Atlantic low
pressure system that swept below their position but, as that low passes
through, it will be payback time.

Race Director Joff Bailey has been studying the weather files that are
sent to the boats and explains, “A high pressure ridge has dropped down
behind the low pressure system as it moves off to the east and it looks
like a small high pressure cell will develop below the fleet during the
next 24 hours. This will give the majority of the fleet some medium
strength headwinds over the next day or so, but it will also be a cruel
blow to the teams at the back as it looks like they will get the worst
of the headwinds and for longer, which means the leading teams will
further extend their lead.”

Out in front, pressed hard by Cork, Ireland and Uniquely Singapore, Hull
& Humber continues to hold her lead over the fleet and “it's been a
blitzing 24-hour run” for the English team, according to skipper, Piers
Dudin.

“We had a kite hoist at 8am, loads of fast running all day, 12 knots
averages over six-hour periods. During the night we expected a wind
shift behind us, a moderate front and no moon for the first two hours,
so we prudently dropped the kite to head on under poled out Number 2,”
he says.

“There's been some excellent helming in tricky conditions, especially
from Bex M, effortlessly, driving Hull & Humber down the waves charging
us eastwards. There's a bit of a break on the cards now for 24 hours and
it will be trim, trim, trim as we reach across the South Atlantic.”

For the time being the winds are keeping the teams on their toes and
Team Finland is not alone in having to perform evolution after evolution
as the conditions dictate.

“I shouldn't complain,” says the Cape Town-based Finnish skipper, Eero
Lehtinen. “We have had plenty of wind and daily runs have been very
good. But some sort of consistency in the direction of the wind and sea
state would be appreciated. Again, we had gusts over 30 knots, waves
rolling from multiple directions and suddenly boat out of control. So
down comes the spinnaker, our smart tripping line saves us from too much
drama once again and the sail is in one piece when it gets repacked.
Now, it's time for the Yankee 2 to be poled out, so the sail must be
hoisted but, before that can be done, the spinnaker anti-wrap net must
come down. Then the pole comes down to be set for this different
purpose, then up again and raised higher at the mast before gybing the
Yankee over to the pole end. The staysail also goes up to give extra
balance and horse power. Quite a session in the dark and damp night,
only to realise that now the wind direction has changed and it's time to
gybe! Gybe the main, gybe the Yankee, hoist the staysail and find out
that wind has dropped and actually the spinnaker could be hoisted again!

“I suppose we didn't give enough of the Benromach 10 Year Old to King
Neptune… Before we got the spinnaker up the wind shifted another 45
degrees and we're now reaching east with white sails!”

As the low pressure moves eastwards the winds will die for the tail
enders first and they will have to watch as the leaders pull away from
them. But the skippers and tacticians only have to look about 72 hours
to the west and they will see stronger westerly winds approaching, which
the tail enders will pick up first, and which will once again see all of
the teams continue their relentless march towards Cape Town.

“It's been a very wet night with that lovely fine drizzle all night, the
kind that absolutely soaks you and never lets up, but we are still
having fun, regardless,” reports California's skipper, Pete Rollason.
“We've got good wind and good boat speed. We have just gybed as the wind
is backing and, looking at the weather, we have some heavy beating to
come over the next 48 hours. The crew are confident that they can make
some good gains during the upwind sailing as they are really focused on
sail trim and helming.”

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital's skipper, Matt Pike, says, “It looks like
we're just too late for the latest weather window and will spend the
next two days beating. We've had some great sailing with the big kite,
the crew gybing it across in one swift motion. No longer does each step
need to be ordered, in fact there is little sound other than calls of
'made' as the new pole is in position and the ever present noise of
water running past the hull at 11 knots. All was good until 2300 when
the cry went up that the halyard had gone and at once Edinburgh
Inspiring Capital's crew showed how much they have learned since the
start of the race.

“It's dark, the wind is a constant 25 to 30 knots and we're now dragging
our largest kite in the water. From the halyard snapping to having it
retrieved and down below, the new heavyweight brought up on deck, hanked
on, raised, set and trimmed so the boat was speed was back over ten
knots was just under nine and half minutes! The sewing machine is
already at work on the three small rips. What a team!”

>From the outset of their compulsory pre-race Clipper Training the crews
learn the value of teamwork – from performing racing headsail changes to
problem solving following an incident such as happened on board the
Scottish boat last night. Safety procedures are also drummed in, drill
after drill after drill, to ensure the crews are equipped to deal with
every eventuality on board.

The Clipper Race skippers are at the top of their game, some of the best
professionals in the industry, and the training does not stop once the
race starts. Qingdao's skipper, Chris Stanmore-Major likes to keep
testing his crew and last night gave them an unannounced man overboard
drill – in part to remind them of the dangers of ocean racing and also
as a highly effective team bonding exercise.

He says, “The crews of the Clipper Race come from all walks of life,
have huge life experience to draw on and the sense and focus to become
expert in all aspects of driving their boats as hard as possible but
it's interesting to see who they are when the chips are down. As an
individual you never know who you are unless you challenge yourself –
that is, indeed, why many of the crew are here.”

Last night the crew initially thought the exercise was for real and it
served as a valuable reminder of the importance of teamwork, the need to
think clearly in a crisis and the trust each crew member places in his
colleagues. As Chris concludes, “This morning on Qingdao something has
changed; as the dawn breaks the gloves are off. Everyone knows for sure
who they are entrusting their safety to.”

POSITIONS AT 0900 UTC, THURSDAY 5 NOVEMBER

1 Hull & Humber DTF 1746
2 Cork DTF 1755 DTL +9
3 Uniquely Singapore DTF 1759 DTL +12
4 Team Finland DTF 1811 DTL +64
5 Jamaica Lightning Bolt DTF 1829 DTL +83
6 Qingdao DTF 1858 DTL +111
7 Spirit of Australia DTF 1866 DTL +120
8 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital DTF 1928 DTL +182
9 California DTF 1949 DTL +203
10 Cape Breton Island DTF 2012 DTL +265

(DTF = Distance to Finish, DTL = Distance to Leader

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