Spirit of Australia clinging to lead in Clipper race to Geraldton

Sprit of Australia is just about holding on to the lead following the
team's recent victory at the Leg 3 scoring gate. However, things have
started to slow down for the Australian entry as the crew push hard and
attempt to become the first team in Clipper 09-10 to win into their home

“We've had a very variable last 24 hours on Spirit of Australia,” says
skipper Brendan Hall. “Yesterday we were blasting along with our Yankee
2 poled out, with speeds above 10 knots. Now we are basically becalmed,
with speeds under 1 knot. The problem for us at the moment is the sea
state. There is still a reasonable swell running, left over from the
strong wind yesterday, which is tossing the boat around and shaking the
sails back and forth so they don't take their proper shape to pull us
along. Frustrating, sure, but we know it won't last long. I just hope
the other boats are getting a taste of it as well.”

Brendan need not worry; light and variable winds appear to be the order
of the day across the fleet and have kept the tacticians guessing as the
crews concentrate on getting every last bit of power from the sails.

“Variable winds Southern Ocean style,” reports Edinburgh Inspiring
Capital's skipper Matt Pike. “Still a great sail in the moon light,
bowling along towards Geraldton, minding the odd gust, and a fairly
steady night.

“All ready to set the spinnaker at dawn as the wind comes round. Not a
chance! The wind dies and goes forward of the beam. So we stick with the
Yankee 1 because when conditions change down here they do so rather

Jan Ridd, skipper of Cape Breton Island, discovered this first hand
whilst his team pushed hard yesterday to regain some of the miles they
had lost.

“Yesterday morning we were sailing nicely in a light breeze with the
light weight spinnaker flying and all was well on deck,” says Jan. “So I
popped down below for a couple of minutes only to feel the boat lurch
violently and the crew shouting on deck. I ran up the companionway to
see a very different world to the one I left a couple of minutes earlier
– whitewater everywhere and a gale force breeze. Urgent action was
needed! We did an emergency drop and got the kite down with no damage at
all. We quickly rigged for the heavy weight kite to go up and the surge
of power that went through the boat when it opened up was awesome.”

Having overtaken Cape Breton Island yesterday Jamaica Lightning Bolt is
also suffering in the light conditions.

“After a great days sailing yesterday, when we made big gains on the
rest of the fleet, the wind has died away again,” says skipper Pete
Stirling. “We are now wallowing around trying to keep the boat moving in
roughly the right direction.

“Although we are nearly a hundred miles behind Spirit of Australia, this
race is a long way from being over yet. There are plenty of challenges
ahead with strong downwind conditions as well as calm patches to come.
Tactics will have a big effect on the final outcome with each yacht
deciding on a slightly different route to take best advantage of the
wind conditions. With all ten yachts being identical the deciding factor
will come down to how well each crew sails their boat and the decisions
the tacticians make.”

Team Finland has a mere 11 nautical miles between themselves and the
current race leaders. However, skipper Eero Lehtinen realizes that there
is no room for complacency with more than half the race still to go.

“We know we've had a couple of fast six hour periods and this has been
reflected in the gains we made on Spirit of Australia,” says Eero. “I'm
sure everyone at home is getting excited for us, but we know we still
have over two and a half thousand miles to go and if the whale incident
taught us anything, it is that anything can happen.

Skipper of Qingdao, Chris Stanmore-Major is acutely aware that anything
can happen in the Southern Ocean as his crew get to work on repairing
their heavy weight kite, which fell victim to the tricky conditions.

“Repairs are proceeding nicely,” says Chris. “It is a sail that is
heavily relied upon to function in difficult situations and so the work
done has to be high quality. The sewing team is working in two shifts as
is the deck team and so far the regime has worked well. We have made up
good ground against Jamaica Lightning Bolt and Cape Breton Island and we
are looking forward to passing on or both of them soon.”

Whilst Chris is optimistic, California's skipper Pete Rollason is
frustrated as his boat continues to flounder in light winds. Currently
at the back of the leading pack, Pete realizes that concentration is the
order of the day if his team is to start making gains on the rest of the
fleet. “This is where all the focus and determination is required to
ensure that helming is very light, sail trim is good and we can squeeze
every last ounce of speed from the light airs,” says Pete. “I suppose
the only positive at the moment is that the temperature has risen
somewhat and only about four layers of clothing are needed on deck.”

Further back, both Cork and Hull & Humber are enjoying being back in the

“We've had a great night sail and when the clouds left us from time to
time it left a full moon with a clear night and a fully visible Southern
Cross,” says Cork's skipper, Richie Fearon. “The spinnaker has been up
since yesterday evening and with the wind increasing we should also get
some good surfing waves. The crew is happy to be going fast again and we
are looking forward to more of the same to follow – there are eight
boats still ahead of us to catch.”

Hull & Humber's skipper, Piers Dudin, says, “Another beautiful day's
sailing yesterday, working our way south west. The seasickness has
cleared off, but so too has the wind as we are making our way across a
high pressure ridge to catch the stronger south westerly winds on its
Southside. Still a few days to go until the breeze kicks in again
properly but the position reports keep rolling in and the numbers are
slowly improving.”

Positions at 0900 UTC, Wednesday 3 December

Boat DTF* DTL*
Spirit of Australia 2628nm 0nm
Team Finland 2639nm 11nm
Uniquely Singapore 2668nm 40nm
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 2719nm 91nm
Jamaica Lightning Bolt 2726nm 98nm
Cape Breton Island 2735nm 107nm
Qingdao 2752nm 124nm
California 2850nm 222nm
Cork 3578nm 950nm
Hull & Humber 4519nm 1891nm

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