Tight battle in champagne conditions for Clipper fleet

Skipper of the leading team, Brendan Hall, reports champagne sailing
conditions today as Spirit of Australia continues to keep their nose
just ahead of Team Finland. For the last three days, every move that the
Australian teams makes in to shake of their closest competitors the
Nordic entry has matched, with virtually identical 12-hour runs being
recorded for each boat.

“There's sunshine, a lovely beam swell, laughter on deck and albatross
wheeling about above our heads,” says Brendan. “This is the benign and
peaceful mood of the Southern Ocean, though the barometer tells me that
it will be changing later today, back to the harsh and indifferent mood
we know so well.”

Yet to experience just what the conditions can be like is the team on
board Hull & Humber, although it won't be long before they too have a
taste of the sleigh ride further south.

“The Southern Ocean beckons over on the starboard side,” says skipper
Piers Dudin. “There's a big bank of cloud like something out of Lord of
the Rings, except they'd probably call it something fancy like

As Hull & Humber approaches the line of Latitude at 40 degrees south
which signifies the start of Southern Ocean, Cork has officially entered
and immediately got a sharp reminder of why it has such a fearsome

“We were happily trucking along under spinnaker when we saw a pressure
line come across the surface,” explains Irish skipper, Richie Fearon.
“When the wind hit us it rounded us up due to the sudden increase in
strength and the variation in direction. The force on the sheet meant it
couldn't be held and once we got it back under control it took two
people to hold it! This wasn't just a gust so it was time to get the
spinnaker down and switch to a poled-out headsail.”

“As we are in stealth and the website will not be reporting our
movements for 24 hours I will not need to say much,” says skipper Chris
Stanmore-Major today, following Qingdao's decision to enter Stealth Mode
at 1800GMT yesterday. “Speeds are good, there are boats close by, sail
repairs are coming along well and we are now rebuilding the heavy weight
in such a way that it will render it stronger than the original.”

Meanwhile, Cape Breton Island has been testing the performance of their
heavy weight spinnaker to the full as skipper Jan Ridd explains.
“Towards the end of the day our superstar helm Luke (Dampier, 18) did an
amazing job reaching under the heavy weight kite in a building breeze
which was moving forward all the time. He managed to hold the boat on
the edge of being overpowered and broaching for three solid hours. A job
that requires both high levels of concentration and skill. The results
were some very impressive boat speeds and a lot of miles under the

Yesterday's frustration on California has become today's delight as
skipper Pete Rollason and his team start to close the gap between
themselves and the boats ahead. “It has been a fantastic 24 hours and so
the mood is very upbeat,” says Pete. “Our plan to get slightly further
north ahead of the next depression and position ourselves to the
northern end of the fleet is coming together. We should pick up the next
depression ahead of the others and thereby close down some more miles.
As long as the gains are bigger than the losses we are a happy boat.”

Likewise, Jamaica Lightning Bolt has also had a good run, with the
highest distance measure in the past 12 hours of 131 nautical miles.
Skipper Pete Stirling says, “After several frustrating days finally we
seem to have found some of the wind this part of the world is famous
for. It is only 20 to 25 knots in strength but is from a good direction
and keeping us moving at a steady 10 knots of boat speed. Better still
is that it is coming off the northern edge of a slow moving low pressure
system to the south west of us and we should hopefully be able to keep
it for several days to come.”

Having moved up two places, Peter and his crew now have their sights
firmly set on overtaking the three boats ahead of them – a task which
may be easier than they think. Emil Vartiainen, watch leader on board
Team Finland, reports a slow 24 hours for the boat currently lying in
second place. “The wind dropped and so the battle to keep our speed up
started. We went from medium weight spinnaker to light weight and then
to our Windseeker, desperately trying to get some speed and steerage
even close to the right course in the high rollers.”

Similarly, just behind Team Finland and currently lying in third place,
Uniquely Singapore has also had a quiet night. “The wind has been coming
from the north east and has been consistently low,” says skipper Jim
Dobie. “It is now swinging back around to the west as the next low
becomes the dominant feature. We are looking for a track that will keep
us in good winds and with a favourable angle. Although still a while
away it won't be long before we start looking at the weather systems and
to see when we should start heading North as we approach Australia.”

Positions at 1200 UTC, Thursday 4 December

Boat DTF* DTL*
Spirit of Australia 2382nm 0nm
Team Finland 2389nm 6nm
Uniquely Singapore 2408nm 26nm
Jamaica Lightning Bolt 2468nm 86nm
Cape Breton Island 2473nm 91nm
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 2483nm 100nm
California 2580nm 197nm
Cork 3316nm 934nm
Hull & Humber 4283nm 1901nm
Qingdao Stealth Mode

M.O.S.S Australia
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Cyclops Marine