Decision time for Clipper skippers as the Canary Islands approach

The fleet has been blessed by brilliant sailing conditions since
leaving the Bay of Biscay, says skipper of Jamaica Lightning Bolt, Pete
Stirling. “In fact the conditions are typical of what you would expect
to find in the Trade Winds – the same consistent wind speed and
direction from behind providing fast downwind sailing.”

This morning these fantastic downwind conditions are starting to fade,
however, as the wind decreases in strength and the teams report shorter
runs over the last 24-hours.

Yesterday a battle took place at the front of the fleet between Spirit
of Australia, Qingdao and Hull & Humber, with pole position appearing to
swap at every 6-hourly schedule. Despite holding on to the lead for a
short while yesterday afternoon, Qingdao has since lost out to Hull &
Humber, with skipper Piers Dudin and his crew managing to put some
distance between themselves and the Chinese entry.

Chris Stanmore Major, skipper of Qingdao, is quite philosophical about
the recent swapping of positions, saying, “Its a strange thing to push
yourself in such a competition – it is a choice you make with a team of
likeminded individuals, your team, which cause a series of events to
unfold that, once entered into, cannot be escaped from and the only
course of action is total commitment. Whether we are at the front, or at
the back, one thing that characterises Qingdao's crew today and everyday
is commitment. Hard work? We eat it up! Long hours? Bring it on! Sleep?
We'll sleep when we're dead thanks!”

The forecast wind direction and strength is looking very stable over
the next 48-hours and many of the teams are taking advantage of this
stability to undertake routine checks and essential maintenance. “It is
in these conditions that the crew has to be particularly conscious of
chafe as sails and ropes can stay in the same place for hours or even
days on end,” explains Jamaica Lightning Bolt's Pete Stirling. “Several
crew kept themselves busy yesterday as the anti-chafe police. This
involved checking every conceivable area of the boat for chafe and
finding a solution for it when required.”

Cape Breton Island has made some ground over the past 24-hours, slowly
moving up the fleet and currently lying in fifth place. Skipper Jan Ridd
says, “We are pleased with our gains on Uniquely Singapore, Cork and
Team Finland but a bit disheartened that we are not making any inroads
on the lead pack as yet. They have established a comfortable lead and
must be feeling pretty confident, but there is a long way to go!”

Noticing the Canadian entry's recent turn of speed and currently lying
in eighth place is Pete Rollason's team on board California. “The last
12-hours have been a little mixed, says Pete. “Using our own on board
calculations we appear to have gained a few miles on the front six
boats. However, Cape Breton Island seems to have been on a charge and we
have also lost a couple of miles to the two boats behind us. Overall we
are not in a bad position and we are looking forward to seeing the
latest weather files. It will be interesting to see if the anticipated
change in conditions around Madeira will materialize at about the time
the fleet is passing the island. This will lead to some strategic
decisions being made as to the routing south west thereafter as we
approach the scoring gate.”

Team Finland and Uniquely Singapore appear to have taken a bit of a
gamble by going east and west respectively overnight. With both heading
in opposite directions, only time will tell which team has made the
better decision or whether the best option would have been to go down
the middle as the leading group has done.

“At the moment we have gone quite far out to the west,” explains
Uniquely Singapore's skipper, Jim Dobie. “By doing so we are hoping to
have more breeze than the guys inland, although I'm not sure how long we
want to head out this way because at some point we will need to go
further south.”

With the first of the scoring gates of Clipper 09-10 just 500 nautical
miles ahead of the lead group, all the teams will be studying the
weather files carefully as they vie to take the first three points of
the race from La Rochelle to Rio de Janiero.

Clipper Race Director, Joff Bailey, says, “It will be interesting to see
if any of the teams consider using their stealth mode to gain a tactical
advantage over the next 48-hours. By doing so they will essentially hide
their position from the rest of the fleet for a period of 24-hours.
Judging when to do this is critical as they can only go into stealth
mode once during this leg of the race. Over previous years this first
Atlantic leg has been won and lost at the Canary Islands so I'm curious
to see what will happen this year.”

Spirit of Australia's skipper, Brendan Hall, says, “The first move in
this very long chess game is about to be played as we approach Madeira
and the Canary Islands. Will we go east, west or through the middle? All
our hard work over the last five days could be lost if we get the
decision wrong, so I'm feeling the pressure.”

Positions at 0600 GMT, Sunday 27 September

Boat Latitude Longitude
Hull & Humber 34.25.2N 14.45.38W 3842nm

Spirit of Australia 34.33.13N 14.48.54W 3848nm

Qingdao 34.44.43N 14.37.49W 3862nm

Team Finland 35.17.35N 13.50.59W 3909nm

Cape Breton Island 36.8.54N 14.40.39W 3937nm

Uniquely Singapore 36.28.30N 15.17.23W 3941nm

Cork 36.3.45N 14.12.22W 3942nm
California 36.49.23N 13.53.18W 3990nm
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 36.48.27N 13.41.55W 3993nm

Jamaica Lightning Bolt 37.13.57N 12.41.53W 4038nm

(*DTF = Distance to Finish)

Full details of positions, updated every three hours can be found at

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