As close racing continues in the Southern Ocean, the leaderboard positions in the Clipper Round the World Race continue to change, with Qingdao retaking the lead on day seven of the ClipperTelemed+ Tasman Test.
With less than 20 nautical miles separating the top three teams, the next 24 hours are set to be just as thrilling as the fleet converges on the race mark at the south of Tasmania before heading north to Sydney.
This follows an excitingly close Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint conclusion yesterday, which saw Sanya Serenity Coast, Visit Seattle and Qingdao claim the bonus points with less than four minutes between their elapsed times.
On Day 7, Qingdao is in front, but the team is highly aware of how close the racing is. Skipper, Chris Kobusch reported: “Since the team sailed into first everyone is keen to stay there and every time I come on deck, or someone comes to the nav station, the first question is: where is Sanya Serenity Coast? How far are they away?
“It is really exciting racing with all the boats so close together. It is still a long way to go and the slightest mistake can cost you a position or more.”
Currently in second place, Sanya Serenity Coast, skippered by Australian Wendy Tuck, has been enjoying the fast and furious downwind sailing conditions.
Tuck said: “We came down south and its windy and fun. This breeze will start easing over the next 24 hours so we are making the most of the surfing. Everyone is getting a go on the wheel of fortune and lots of new top speeds are happening.”
Visit Seattle, currently in third having opted for the most southerly route of the podium teams, is already looking ahead to Sydney. But with the race mark to the south of Tasmania signalling that time in the Southern Ocean is nearly over, skipper Nikki Henderson reflects: “So, the exciting news is that we ARE nearly at the south of Tasmania.
“Around a day or so and we will be turning left and turning north. It's so crazy to think that this is the last Southern Ocean sailing we will be doing. Even stranger to think we will be heading north.”
On board fourth placed Garmin, skipper Gaetan Thomas is also thinking about the tactics of rounding the southerly mark and the remaining decisions to be made as they route heads north to Sydney saying: “Zigzagging towards Tasmania for our next waypoint called ‘Mitchell’ were things tactically will be very interesting, lots of currents, an option for scoring gate and some light winds to avoid.”
Positions are tight and continue to vary with Unicef slipping to fifth place with GREAT Britain, which moved into sixth, closely crossing its path. Unicef skipper Bob Beggs said: “The race tempo is exciting with all the yachts cross-tacking each other, one such meeting was with GREAT Britain a couple of hours ago it was good to talk with skipper Andy although he wasn't keen to share his tactics with me as he headed south trying to reach waypoint Michell south of Tasmania before me.”
Dare To Lead has enjoyed another fast night towards Tasmania moving up to seventh position and managing to keep PSP Logistics, currently ninth, and Liverpool 2018, tenth, at bay. Skipper Dale Smyth said: “Another good fast night towards Tasmania, still trying to decide which gybe is best.
“We hoisted our spinnaker this morning as we are having a little tussle with Liverpool 2018 and had a couple of fast hours. We eventually ran out of space with our ice limit of 45 degrees south and had to gybe north once more.”
PSP Logistics has also been enjoying the fast spinnaker sailing conditions benefiting from a wind shift which, for skipper Matt Mitchell, came as a relief as it meant that PSP Logistics could now point exactly where he wants to go: “We continue to chip away the miles to the guys ahead and we are starting to make good gains…finally!
“With just over 24 hours to the corner it really feels like the fleet has bunched up again meaning it's still wide open for the section up to Sydney.”
After a tough night with strong gusting winds, HotelPlanner.com choose a more northerly route to avoid some of the strongest winds but in turn sacrificed some leaderboard positions slipping from sixth to eighth place. However, skipper Conall Morrison is hopeful that the team today will have good conditions and nice speeds back under spinnaker.
For Nasdaq, currently in eleventh place, thoughts have also turned to Tasmania after reaching the milestone of around 1000 nautical miles to go until Sydney.
Simon Rowell, Clipper Race Meteorologist and weather guru, reports that as fleet converges to Tasmania, the conditions are looking good to get around quickly. He added that it is looking very tactical from there on in with what looks to be a very close upwind finish in Sydney.