Cork almost ready to leave Cape Town for Clipper leg

Cork may be ready to leave Cape Town as early as tomorrow if progress on repairs to the boat continues as it has been. At the bow of the yacht, where it struck Hull & Humber, they are now applying layers of epoxy resin, the curing process for which is being helped along by the boat builders wielding industrial versions of hairdryers.

Once the epoxy is dry, they will apply a faring compound, after which the patched areas will be painted to blend in as closely as possible with the green of Cork's livery. More detailed work on the hull branding will be carried out in Australia.

Cork's departure is subject to final sign off by the MECAL surveyor who must inspect and approve the work before the yacht is allowed to set sail. MECAL is the UK certifying authority, authorised by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to survey and certificate commercial sailing vessels such as those in the Clipper fleet.

Aside to the work on the boat, the crew will need to head to the supermarket again to replenish their stocks of fresh food before heading out into the South Atlantic and, from there, into the Southern Ocean. Immigration formalities must also be completed before they can leave.

Cork has had a vital part to play in the repairs to Hull & Humber. Overnight a fibre glass cast has been taken of the corresponding part of Cork's hull. Today it will be removed and bolted to Hull & Humber to allow the boat builders to start layering the fibre glass and foam composite, building up the new section of the hull from the inside of the boat.

They won't remove the cast from Cork until the team working on Hull & Humber is ready to put it into place straight away. The hole has been taken back to solid material and now they are making the final preparations to apply the form to the boat. Hull & Humber is still expected to leave on Tuesday, again subject to the sign off by the MECAL surveyor who is on the pontoon to monitor each stage of the fix.

We chatted to skipper, Piers Dudin, this morning, he says his crew is in great spirits. “Looking at the scheds this morning we still have the chance to get out there and take some of the miles out of the other yachts. They're not that far ahead and it's a long crossing,” he says. “The crew are making the most of their time here. A few of them are going off on safari tonight and on Friday a load of us are going to the cricket to watch the One Day International between South Africa and England. And we're going to get a bit of sailing in tonight – it's the Wednesday night twilight racing at Royal Cape Yacht Club.”

Out on the ocean race track there's an exciting battle underway at the head of the fleet. Cape Breton Island has been slowly but surely chipping away at Spirit of Australia's lead. At the 0300 position report they were three miles behind, level pegging at the 0600 sched and at the 0900 update on the race viewer on they were a mile a head of the Aussies. But the ducking and diving, bobbing and weaving of the Boxing Kangaroo has put them a mile ahead again at lunch time. This round is level on points so far!

Jan Ridd, Cape Breton Island's skipper reports, “We have had a good 24 hours sailing. We are now in the Roaring Forties and very civilised it is, too! The wind has eased and moved to the north east and we are now fine reaching in a nice Force 4. The wind is shifting and gusting a lot and this has made sail selection awkward. How many times we have brought a sail on deck and started to change, only to put it back in the bag as the wind builds again? The same has been true of putting in and taking out reefs; many a time all it takes is getting the lines ready to make the wind build again. We are at present thinking about changing up to the Yankee 1 but, for some reason, I have an uneasy feeling about doing so. I remember sailing with Hannah Jenner (skipper of Glasgow: Scotland with style in Clipper 07-08) on a training course and her explaining, after a strange call to drop all headsails, that she had a 'gut feeling' and she always goes with it. She was proved right as we were hit by a violent small system 20 minutes later with winds over 65 knots which had not been forecast.

“There is thick fog around us at the moment so we have decided to wait until the 0600 schedule and make a decision then, the wind is steady at 15 to 16 knots apparent but gusting up to 20 knots so we are on the upper edge of the Yankee 1 recommended wind.

“Before the fog set in we saw Spirit of Australia sailing close hauled coming up across our bow then hoisting their heavyweight spinnaker, I think without a pole – just tacked to the deck, and bearing away to reach back down across our bow; a tactic they used to their advantage on the way to Rio.”

The Brisbane based skipper, Brendan Hall, confirms, “It's been a night of hard and heavy sail changes on Spirit of Australia. We're keeping as good speed as we can as the rest of the fleet compresses behind us. We saw Cape Breton Island briefly astern of us but have now pulled away from them again. This race to the scoring gate is going to be down to the wire and, with a light patch coming up in 36 hours' time, the gate could be anybody's. On a positive note, the seasickness on board has largely passed and the mood is great. We really want to win this one!”

If Spirit of Australia can win Race 4 they would be just the third team to have claimed victory on the race to their home port in the history of the Clipper Race. Victoria was the first to do it in Clipper 05-06 and New York succeeded in Clipper 07-08. Can Spirit of Australia be the first to break the home port curse in this edition of the race? There's another 4,200 miles of hard ocean racing to go before we'll know the answer to that question.

Team Finland took a course slightly closer to the coast than the rest of the fleet but it's one that has worked well for them and they are sitting in third place. Skipper Eero Lehtinen said, “The wind let us down unexpectedly this morning, we had only 8 knots of wind for quite some time and we were trying to make progress with heavy spinnaker as we did not dare to hoist anything bigger or lighter in the really confused seas. Anyway, we got headed again after a couple of hours and had most of the pressure back, so back to white sails and sailing on course. Wait and see what happens next.”

“Southern Ocean – what Southern Ocean?” asks Jamaica Lightning Bolt's skipper, Peter Stirling. “Here we are, one mile north of 40 degrees south where the Roaring Forties start and we are becalmed. We had the medium weight spinnaker up for a while but had to drop it as we couldn't keep it filled. Even though there is no wind there is quite a large swell running so we are now switching to a poled out Yankee 2 so we can try and keep the boat moving. We have not become complacent though as we know we are simply in the lull between two low pressure systems and that by tonight we will have a lot more wind.”

Jamaica Lightning Bolt is neck and neck with Uniquely Singapore in terms of distance to finish and in a group of three with Edinburgh Inspiring Capital.

The Scottish team is having an interesting ride, according to skipper, Matt Pike. “Another first for the crew of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, close on the wind, one reef and the Yankee 2, surfing down waves!” he reports. “How? Then it all changed overnight as the wind comes behind the beam and we start powering along at 14 knots SOG (speed over ground), only now the sea is running against us. What a noise! The whole boat shakes as we smash through another flat fronted wall of water. Every new sound convinces you something new has broken. Actually, the rudder stock seal has gone, but the bilge pump is keeping that at bay. As dawn breaks the vang snaps so a rope replacement is quickly fashioned to replace it. Now back on with the race – all we need is some wind! It's currently showing 2 knots from the north… or south… There is nothing, just the swell left from the overnight breeze and that has sent those recovering from seasickness scurrying back to their bunks.”

California has had a great 24 hours with boat speeds between eight and 12 knots. “We are eating up the miles and finally making some east into our course,” reports skipper, Pete Rollason. “We also have some nice favourable current with us which is always welcome. The weather this morning is grey and wet although, surprisingly, not too cold. The crew all seem to have regained their sea legs and we are back to a full compliment on both watches. Oh, how we miss the warm sunshine of Cape Town and are already looking forward to the same in Geraldton. As always spirits are good on board and we are all enjoying the passage so far, however, there is a long way to go and we will be squeezing every last bit of boat speed we can in order to improve our position in the fleet.”

California is first on the list of boats Qingdao's crew are aiming to pick off one by one to climb up the leader board – but the American entry isn't making it easy for the Chinese team.

Chris Stanmore-Major, skipper of Qingdao, says “It's been a trying day. We had California very much in our sights and had moved ourselves into a position to work our way past them in the night and begin our move up the leader board but it was not to be. Just as we moved to the same latitude as our target and began to move eastwards to hunt them down we ran into a wind hole which seemed to be exactly 68 feet in diameter. This ensnared us for the next 12 hours and when we emerged just before the scheduled reports at midnight we found our prey fifty miles ahead and the dragon wagon once more alone on the gentle swell.

“Are we bothered by this set back? Not one jot. There is plenty of time left to move from back to front to back again in this fleet and in a leg that sees the boats facing one common enemy – the infamous conditions to be found in the Roaring Forties – we know that it may well be fate alone and not straining our efforts that eventually move us forward ahead of other boats.

“Aboard Qingdao spirits are high and the outlook, as always, sunny. Here we share a great respect for the conditions ahead and what the Southern Ocean can throw at us but we are not cowed or glum by that knowledge – we have a well proven, unshakeable belief in our abilities to overcome problems and an excellent morale which we know will bear us through the bad times. For now all eyes are forward, all minds concentrating on the miles we need to chew up to get back into this race and hearts steeled against the prospect of doing this chasing amid the biggest seas on the planet.”

One of the big questions everyone is asking is what exactly happened in Sunday's start line collision.
Race Director, Joff Bailey, has spoken with both skippers and explains the chain of events.

“Under cloudless African skies, Table Bay delivered its trademark strong south easterly winds mixed up with areas of total calm caused by the wind shadows from the nearby Table Mountain. These winds caused some high speed sailing and, for some teams, periods of total lack of wind,” he says.

“With eight of the boats lining up on starboard tack to cross the start line California managed to squeeze across ahead of everybody and successfully executed a port end flyer. Cork also tried this tactic but, with eight boats steaming down the line on starboard, decided to duck below Uniquely Singapore and Hull & Humber and go behind both boats. Unfortunately, during this manoeuvre they were hit by a very strong gust of wind which caused them to twist up towards the wind and, with very little time to react, Cork hit the port quarter of Hull & Humber in a classic T-bone incident.

“The collision was a very straight forward port/starboard incident and the Cork skipper and crew have accepted that they were in the wrong as they were clearly on port tack and did not have right of way. Using the international Racing Rules of Sailing the Race Committee will consider if any further penalty, in addition to the delay, needs to be applied to Cork. As Hull & Humber was the innocent party the skipper can apply for redress, however, this cannot realistically be done until we have a better idea of the time delay in re-starting.”


1 Spirit of Australia DTF 4259
2 Cape Breton Island DTF 4260 DTL +1
3 Team Finland DTF 4287 DTL +28
4 Jamaica Lightning Bolt DTF 4321 DTL +62
5 Uniquely Singapore DTF 4326 DTL +66
6 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital DTF 4336 DTL +76
7 California DTF 4381 DTL +122
8 Qingdao DTF 4451 DTL +192
9 Cork DTF 4773 DTL +514
10 Hull & Humber DTF 4773 DTL +514

JPK August 2023
Cyclops Marine