It has been a testing 24 hours for the Clipper Race fleet as the 11 yachts made their way through relentless upwind storm conditions yesterday.
Sanya Serenity Coast has retained its lead again today, which it has held since leaving Table Bay on Tuesday, but its advantage over the pack has reduced by 20 nautical miles.
Racing remains tight for the following pack with less than a nautical mile separating second placed Garmin with third placed PSP Logistics although this is something that skipper Matt Mitchell predicts will change today.
He explains: “Today will probably see the first breakout into the Southern Ocean from the fleet and the drag race will begin, big surfing and fast speed will be the order of the day.
“Despite the strong headwinds and difficult living conditions, the team remain in good spirits. However, the general consensus is that we much prefer downwind sailing.”
The tough conditions have been felt throughout the fleet with gusts of up to 74 knots reported by skipper Dale Smyth on board fourth placed Dare to Lead but as the wind has eased and backed overnight, life on board is beginning to get more settled for the teams.
In fifth place and just four nautical miles behind, Visit Seattle is re-adjusting to life at less of an angle and skipper Nikki Henderson reflects on the experience. She says: “I love moments like this, actually, when you feel like you really got through something as a team and come out stronger.
“Now we just need a few more days sleep before we can laugh about it.”
Sixth placed Liverpool 2018 and seventh placed Qingdao make up the rest of the chasing pack. For Qingdao skipper, Chris Kobusch, the Southern Ocean has been full of surprises. Speaking from on board, he says: “The boat and crew took it well and steered us through a difficult night.
“By sunrise the front had passed and the wind backed to a more northerly one with lighter winds. So light, in fact, that we struggled to move at all in the early morning hours. Our Southern Ocean experience has been a strange one so far…”
Chasing this pack is eighth placed Unicef and ninth placed GREAT Britain. In tenth place, Nasdaq Skipper Rob Graham has reported a fantastic mood amongst crew. He says: “We're now sailing happily eastwards under full sail; favourable winds and the sun is shining from a blue sky.
“Amazing what a difference all of that makes to the atmosphere on board – the crew has more smiles and energy, and the daily duties don't seem like such a chore.”
In 11th place, HotelPlanner.com is diverting to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in order to drop off round the world crew member, Greg Adams, who has potentially fractured his arm and sustained a minor cut on his head following a fall below deck.
Although this medevac is necessary, it is not an emergency. Skipper Conall Morrison has reported this morning that the sailing is going well as they progress towards Port Elizabeth and Clipper Race Weather Guru, Simon Rowell, has reported good conditions for the team.
The necessary diversion has, however, provided an opportunity for six Greenings crew members, who still wish to continue their Leg 3 passage to Fremantle, to join Conall and the HotelPlanner.com team after CV24 ran aground shortly after race start.
Looking ahead, once the current front has passed, the wind will continue to back and is likely to swing around from the South over the next day or so. The next interesting tactical moves to keep an eye on will be how the teams set up for the next low-pressure system which is due to sit on the rhumbline. Watch this space.
The last 24 hours has brought about a dramatic change for the Clipper Race fleet as it experiences the true conditions of the Southern Ocean for the first time on Race 3: The Dell Latitude Rugged Race.