Leading Clipper yachts in good breezes on the South American coast

Due to their position off the eastern coast of Brazil, current race
leaders Team Finland, along with Spirit of Australia, Cape Breton Island
and Jamaica Lightning Bolt, have been benefiting from some strong and
steady night breezes. Each team is now consistently reporting 12-hourly
runs in excess of 100 nautical miles and Finnish skipper, Eero Lehtinen,
refers to the night time conditions as the “midnight express”.

“As the sun went down last night our speed went up, and it has remained
around 10 knots most of the night,” says Eero. “For the best hours it
was like driving a bus on the highway, a steady 11 knots through the
more or less flat water.”

However, it hasn't been a trouble free night for Team Finland's skipper
and crew. A snap shackle that was being used to attach one of the lines
controlling the spinnaker failed, causing the end of the spinnaker to
fly free and flog behind the mainsail. “No drama really,” says Eero.
“But required lots of sweat and action before everything was put right
again. A controlled drop with not many words spoken, a sign of true
Finnish team work, all done in silence! It's been an amazing performance
and this team is rocking – we are no longer talking about an amateur
event.”

The fleet is still split in two with more than 350 nautical miles
separating Cork at the back of the leading pack and Qingdao at the head
of the chasing one. Both the Chinese and English entries, Qingdao and
Hull & Humber, have recently escaped the Doldrums and it looks as though
a two-way tussle is on the cards as the teams cross into the Southern
Hemisphere and head to the north east corner of Brazil.

“The Equator beckons this morning,” says Qingdao's skipper, Chris
Stanmore-Major. “Traditionally, there is meant to be all kinds of
shenanigans involving the court of Neptune and the protestations of the
youngest member of the crew that they deserve the right to cross and
thereby change from being a Pollywog to a Shellback. The penance for
this rite of passage was normally something awful like being hung over
the side by your heels head trailing in the water whilst the crew threw
days of accumulated kitchen scraps at you. Fun? I had enormous fun doing
exactly this to a crewmate who was only a few months younger than me at
my first line crossing but this time I think things will be little more
subdued. Is Qingdao's crew bereft of a sense of humour? Definitely not.
Do we have time to stop and partially drown someone whilst adding chum
to already shark inhabited waters? Unfortunately not. In the past twelve
hours we have escaped the Doldrums leaving Uniquely Singapore, Edinburgh
Inspiring Capital and California to their fate. Exiting with us, though,
is Hull and Humber who are now very much on our heels. Things are close
as ocean racing goes and minutes cost miles.

“The leading pack has now gone sub-1,000 nautical miles until their
arrival in Brazil but I see with interest a very light patch of breeze
on the corner at Cabo Frio that may yet slow them down and allow us to
catch up. Such is the way with long offshore yacht races – the results
are not in until the boats are in; and the boats are not in until the
fat lady has been ushered off the stage, into a taxi and sent home!”

Hull & Humber's skipper, Piers Dudin, is looking forward to their
forthcoming battle with Qingdao. “It's looking like a classic finish
shaping up amongst the top five and we're going to have our own tussle
with Qingdao by the looks of things,” he says. “Tactically there are
some big choices we're both going to have to make once we hit the
Brazilian coastline. Offshore there is better wind and a more straight
forward power reach south; closer inshore the wind is less but the angle
is better for kiting. There is also a section where the Brazilian
coastal current close inshore could kick in and pay out 50 miles in a
day.”

It's a different story at the back of the fleet for California as the
American team encounters the squally conditions that indicate the
beginning of the Doldrums.

“It has been a very interesting night as we have encountered several
squalls,” says skipper Pete Rollason. “I think the crew now understand
why I decided to drop the spinnaker before dark in favour of a poled out
headsail. The conditions varied from no wind with torrential rain, high
winds with little rain or even loads of rain and loads of wind. At one
point we managed a full 360 turn without tacking by just following the
wind angle! Anyway, it has been a great experience for the crew and the
discussions we had previously about the squalls certainly paid off. It
will be nice to maybe have one or two during daylight hours so that they
can see what they have been battling all night. Yesterday was a great
day with a nice fast spinnaker run, averaging probably 8-9 knots and it
is pleasing to see that we are continuing to pull miles back on Uniquely
Singapore and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital. Long may it continue.”

Positions at 0600GMT, Wednesday 14 October

Boat DTF* DTL*
Team Finland 929nm 0nm
Spirit of Australia 1070nm 140nm
Cape Breton Island 1075nm 146nm
Jamaica Lightning Bolt 1087nm 158nm
Cork 1212nm 283nm
Qingdao 1571nm 642nm
Hull & Humber 1611nm 682nm
Uniquely Singapore 1847nm 818nm
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 1851nm 921nm
California 2057nm 1128nm

(*DTF = Distance To Finish, *DTL = Distance To Leader

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