Spirit of Australia still second as Clipper boats near Rio

As Qingdao emerges from Stealth Mode today it appears that the team's tactic to stay offshore over the past 24 hours has paid off. With a lead on their closest competitor, Hull & Humber, of 68 nautical miles at the midday schedule, Qingdao's skipper Chris Stanmore-Major believes he knows why they have gained the upper hand.

“Having closed in on the Brazilian coast to a range of 50 nautical miles there was a decision to be made to either go yet closer or stand off and try to pick up better winds and some south going current,” explains Chris. “We chose the latter to stay out in the breeze and find the current, we calculated that the savings going inside were minimal and the risks high.

“Upon receiving the evening positions of the other boats we were amazed to see that Hull & Humber decided to take that inside course. The weather files we received from Clipper indicate that there is no wind in there and no chance of wind over the next 24 hours.”

Hull & Humber's skipper, Piers Dudin, is disappointed that the more direct coastal route is failing to deliver the strong currents he believed he would find there. “We're picking up about 1 knot of current at the moment,” he says. “This will easily cover our minor detour inshore but to be honest we were hoping for a bit more of a kick. There is possibly more current here but the number of fishing buoys and boats has also increased so we are working hard to navigate around them as we make our way towards Rio.”

With Qingdao emerging victorious today, Cape Breton Island will also be hoping that their Stealth Mode, which they entered into at midnight (GMT) last night, will also pay dividends. As the battle between the Canadian entry and Jamaica Lightning Bolt continues to hot up, the two team's supporters will be left on tenterhooks for 24 hours as they wait to see what the outcome will be.

“For several hours yesterday morning we were sailing neck and neck on a parallel course with Cape Breton Island,” says Jamaica Lightning Bolt's skipper, Pete Stirling. “Whilst we were debating our tactics, fate played a hand and our decision was made for us. The clip securing the guy to the sheet at the end of the port spinnaker pole broke. Rather than dropping the spinnaker and losing valuable ground to Cape Breton Island we flew the spinnaker free whilst we set up the starboard spinnaker pole and gybed. Having sorted everything out we decided to stay on that tack for the day before gybing back just before dark last night.”

Having lost miles to Spirit of Australia over the past few days, both Cape Breton Island and Jamaica Lightning Bolt have closed in once more as the Australian entry begins to slow down.

“Slow but steady progress on Spirit of Australia,” says skipper Brendan Hall. “The challenging conditions from here until the finish will be sure to create a fantastically close race and a brilliant spectacle. I just hope we get to watch it unfold in our rear-view mirror,” he adds.

Team Finland is also feeling the effects of the lighter winds further south. For the first time since clearing the Canary Islands and establishing a comfortable lead, the Finnish Team has reason to be concerned that a Race 2 victory may not necessarily be a forgone conclusion. However, the team remains optimistic and crew member Mark Cole hopes that they have done enough to be first across the line, now less than 300 nautical miles away.

“So another frustrating day where we see our lead being eaten away again,” says Mark. “We appear to be stuck in some kind of uncharted current and the winds have disappeared on us. The GRIB file shows a continuation of winds of 10 knots or less for the next 18 hours or so as we approach the finish line.

“Hopefully we have done enough and can still do enough to keep our noses ahead of the chasing pack and that they are having as much fun with these fluky light winds as we are.”

The Clipper Race team has now arrived in Rio and the Clipper Race Office will be set up at the Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro from midday (local time) on Sunday 18 October. For friends and family who wish to drop by and catch up on the latest news and estimated arrival times of the boats a member of the race team can be found on the veranda area in front of the yacht club's restaurant until 6pm each day.

Race Director, Joff Bailey, says, “With the lighter winds the lead boats are experiencing, I am estimating that the first teams will arrive on Monday. This estimate can obviously change very quickly especially considering the fickle winds found off the coast of Rio. We will update the latest news with more detail once we can more accurately predict the arrival times, so please keep logging on to the website.”

Positions at 1200GMT, Saturday 17 October

Boat DTF* DTL*
Team Finland 284nm 0nm
Australia 370nm 86nm
Jamaica Lightning Bolt 388nm 104nm
Cork 442nm 158nm
Qingdao 774nm 490nm
Hull & Humber 842nm 558nm
Uniquely Singapore 1176nm 892nm
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 1207nm 923nm
California 1369nm 1085nm

M.O.S.S Australia
Jeanneau Sun Odyssey
West Systems 2
Pantaenius Sailing
Windcraft
Jeanneau ?Yachts
West System Afloat