A dramatic last 24 hours in Race 2 of Clipper 09-10 has seen three boats play their Stealth card – two of the yachts are still under cover while Team Finland re-emerged from Stealth Mode at midnight.
Skipper Eero Lehtinen says, “The changes were less dramatic than I expected so far. Let's see when Jamaica Lightning Bolt and Spirit of Australia come out of their stealth modes… We are happy to be a bit further east, thinking of the long haul on port tack to Brazil. A couple of degrees wider wind angle should give us an extra boost, a couple of miles a day. Being ahead to start with would naturally be a bonus and so far it's still looking good.”
The wily skipper of Jamaica Lightning Bolt, Peter Stirling, is keeping everyone guessing with no more than the required position report to the race office to satisfy safety requirements this morning. (Teams in Stealth Mode still report to the race office twice a day, although their positions are not published to the rest of the fleet or the race viewer during their 24 hours undercover.)
No hint either, from Spirit of Australia's Brendan Hall, who commented only that, “This is the last big tactical decision before we hit the south east trades and the upwind drag race to Rio begins.”
Two of the teams have been making steady gains on their rivals; Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is slowly closing in on Hull & Humber and at the 0900 UTC sched this morning Cape Breton Island finally moved ahead of Cork, Ireland, who they have been focused on chasing down.
Skipper Jan Ridd says, “We're managing good boat speed in the right direction – we're just hoping it lasts! Everyone on board is upbeat and we are looking forward to seeing how the positions stand after Jamaica Lightning Bolt and Spirit of Australia come out of Stealth Mode.”
Cork, meanwhile, is sailing a slightly different course, as skipper, Richie Fearon, explains. “We are heading on a course bringing us just east of south which should bring us around the back of a developing storm and straight into the south easterly trades. It's quite ironic that our Doldrums could be 30 knot headwinds!
“Last night was quite a sad occasion as, for the first time in this leg, we had our Yankee up which, of course, means the spinnaker is down. We had a good run down and, bar our notorious spinnaker wrap, we have no spinnaker damage to report. Spinnaker handling is something we worked on a lot in training and it has paid off. The crew are very confident with controlling the spinnaker, helming, especially in stronger breeze, and our spinnaker changes are down to under nine minutes from dropping one to getting the other one up – including getting someone out the end of the pole and back down! The boat is sailing strong as we head towards the Equator and our next milestone of under 2000nm to Rio.”
Cork is not the only one mourning the end of spinnaker sailing for a while. Team Finland's Eero Lehtinen said this morning, “We just dropped our spinnaker. I can't even remember it being down, I think we had the windseeker up for a short while just after the Canaries in the very light conditions but otherwise it has been up all the way since before Cape Finisterre. And when I say “it”, I really mean the one and same sail… we have only used the heavy weight spinnaker and love it to pieces!”
Sail plans are going to be the topic of conversation on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital for the next few days as they cross the Doldrums. Matt Pike, skipper of the team representing Scotland's capital says, “We've had good trade wind sailing but, like most good things, it must come to an end! We're near a band of light and fickle winds approx 500 miles wide and the question is where to cross? The route has been picked and to optimise the light cyclonic breeze over the next 48 hours we're going to need eleven different sail configurations.”
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital's closest rival now is Hull & Humber, whose skipper, Piers Dudin, says, “Despite our standing in the rankings I'm happy with our position on the chart and confident we'll haul in the miles over the other guys in the next few days…
We're heading straight for the Doldrums belt which, from our forecasts is still another 200nm south. Some forecasts show a heat low developing and moving westwards across our path but some don't so we'll see when we get there. We hope to be able to drive straight into the low to use the winds to help drive us across the usually windless zone.”
Hull & Humber's heavy kite is back in business after a three-day repair. Piers says, “It involved multiple stages and many critical moments. We left the change till as late as possible in order to maximize the advantage of the medium kite but the sail repair team wasn't going off watch until they'd seen their handy work in action!”
Uniquely Singapore is still working on unraveling as spinnaker wrap around their inner forestay that has been refusing to unwind for two days.
“Why not cut it down? You might say,” said skipper Jim Dobie last night. “Well, at the moment it seems to be fine without any damage and it would be tragic to loose or affect the performance of this kite with this being only the second race. Sometimes a bit of patience, a bit of skill and a bit of luck gets you out of these pickles, so tomorrow if all else fails we will drop the inner forestay on to the deck and unravel the kite once it's down on the deck. The most important outcome is we do as little damage as possible.
You can read the full story of Uniquely Singapore's efforts to rescue their spinnaker while remaining competitive in the race online at www.clipperroundtheworld.com.
Jim says, “At sea there is never too big a problem. You have no choice but to get on and deal with it; you are and have to be self sufficient, ingenious and, of course, never give up. I would think Keppel Corporation, our sponsors, would be pleased to know we certainly have a 'Can Do!' spirit on board.”
POSITIONS AT 0900UTC, THURSDAY 8 OCTOBER
1 Team Finland DTF 2153
2 Cape Breton Island DTF 2226
3 Cork DTF 2234
4 Qingdao DTF 2280
5 Hull & Humber DTF 2289
6 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital DTF 2289
7 Spirit of Australia DTF 2340 (position at 1800UTC, 7 October – now in Stealth Mode)
8 Jamaica Lightning Bolt DTF 2391 (position at 1200UTC, 7 October – now in Stealth Mode)
9 Uniquely Singapore DTF 2412
10 California DTF 2907
(DTF = Distance to Finish)
Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com.