Team Finland sneaks ahead of Spirit of Australia in Clipper

Team Finland has two reasons to celebrate today. Not only is it the 92nd
anniversary of Finland's Declaration of Independence from Russia, but
the team has also managed to take the lead from Spirit of Australia.

“Team Finland is now in tip top shape after a very busy night,” says
watch leader Emil Vartiainen. “All our evolutions went very well and the
crew had the silhouette of Spirit of Australia in their minds the whole
time. As we got them in our sights again this morning they were behind
us – a brilliant extra kick for our celebrations of Finland's
Independence Day!”

After 3,000 miles of ocean racing, we are literally two miles from Team
Finland – racing neck and neck towards Geraldton,” says Spirit of
Australia's skipper Brendan Hall. “While it is nice to be in front on
the daily position reports, having another boat next to you is very
exciting and makes for more interesting racing and a more motivated
crew. Team Finland has thus far proven that they are the boat to beat in
this race, so we are enjoying testing ourselves against such strong
opponents.”

The leg from South Africa to Western Australia is turning out to be one
of the closest races of Clipper 09-10 so far, with only 120 miles
separating the top seven yachts.

“There are two distinct groups,” explains Pete Stirling, skipper of
Jamaica Lightning Bolt. “The second of which we are leading, or at least
we were at the last position update. The yachts behind us are snapping
at our heels and even though we can't see any of them, knowing they are
just over the horizon really helps motivate the crew to keep Jamaica
Lightning Bolt sailing as fast as possible.

Just ahead of the Carribean team, Uniquely Singapore is grateful that
the gale force winds that they are currently experiencing are coming
from behind with following seas.

“Well a busy night as we were caught somewhat by surprise by gale force
conditions,” says skipper Jim Dobie. “The saving grace has been that the
swells have been behind us again and have saved us from the pounding we
would otherwise normally have received. Watching the wind, it is slowly
tracking around from the north east to the west and once again making
for some good downwind sailing.”

Good downwind sailing conditions are something that the crew on board
Cork are currently experience, having waited days for the real sleigh
ride conditions to begin.

“The Southern Ocean is now showing its true colours and we, the Cork
crew, are loving it!” says skipper Richie Fearon. “It's cold, it's wet,
it's windy, and it's brilliant. We are pulling out some big miles with
12-hour runs in excess of 130 nautical miles. The spinnaker wasn't up
yesterday, due to the wave set, but we don't feel disadvantages at all
especially as we achieved our best speed so far, of 25.6 knots!”

Following a good run over the past 12 hours, California is plotting the
best tactics to improve on the 10 miles they have just taken from
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital. “At the moment there is a lot of agonising
over weather files to decide on the strategy for the coming days and
then the run up to Geraldton,” admits the team's skipper Pete Rollason.
“We also had a very interesting headsail change last night when at least
two crew members were temporarily airborne with another physically
fighting with the Yankee 2. Although the sail took an early lead, the
foredeck crew soon levelled the score and eventually beat the sail into
submission.”

Whilst California battles with their headsails, Cape Breton Island has
been deciding which ones to go for as the constantly changing conditions
keep the crew guessing.

“This morning has seen the wind come all the way aft and thoughts
amongst the crew were of hoisting a spinnaker,” says the Canadian team's
skipper, Jan Ridd. “But the sea state made me decide against it, so we
poled out the headsail and enjoyed an hour of exhilarating downwind
sailing with gusts reaching over 45 knots. Unfortunately the rest of the
fleet seem to be in exactly the same airflow and all the boats are on a
similar course and achieving similar 6 hour runs which will make gaining
miles that much harder.”

At the present time there is a large and stable high pressure system
sitting off the western coast of Australia. All the teams will have to
cross this and deal with the associated lighter winds as they make their
way towards the finish line at Geraldton. It could make for a very
interesting and possibly frustrating end to the Southern Ocean leg but
an exciting one for those following the race back home. It means that
the podium positions could remain wide open until the last couple of
days of racing.

Based on the latest weather information, Qingdao's Skipper, Chris
Stanmore-Major, believes that a period of position changes is imminent.

He says, “Critically we have positioned ourselves where we feel we are
best able to make our way through the interesting weather system that
has developed in front of us. With large windless areas opening up all
around us in the next twelve hours this pattern is set to rearrange the
front of this fleet as surely as the day follows the night.

Hull & Humber has now passed beneath the 40 degree line of Latitude and
crew member John Nixon got to celebrate his birthday in style – flying
along under spinnaker in the Southern Ocean.

Skipper Piers Dudin says, “No sooner did we hit 40 degrees south the
wind veered, the heavy spinnaker went up and off we went. A feisty
looking forecast, dropping pressure, and tales-of-woe encouraged us that
moderation was in order. So as not to allow John's big day to end with a
bang we decided to drop the heavy weight at last light.”

Positions at 0900 UTC, Sunday 6 December

Boat DTF* DTL*
Team Finland 1916nm 0nm
Spirit of Australia 1921nm 5nm
Uniquely Singapore 1950nm 34nm
Jamaica Lightning Bolt 2016nm 100nm
Cape Breton Island 2020nm 104nm
Qingdao 2022nm 107nm
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 2047nm 131nm
California 2145nm 229nm
Cork 922nm 121nm
Hull & Humber 3861nm 1946nm

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