The North Atlantic Scoring Gate, the elusive, 80-mile-wide target to the south of the Canary Islands, over which an area of light air had rather inconveniently parked itself, has finally been crossed by Spirit of Australia. The only southern hemisphere team in Clipper 09-10 crossed the gate 1830 UT last night and scores three points Brisbane-based skipper, Brendan Hall and his crew.
Round the world crew member on board Spirit of Australia, Andy Rose, writes “After Hull & Humber pipped us by just 40 seconds in the first race from their home port to La Rochelle it has felt as if they have been breathing down our necks again even though they have been just a speck on our navigational computers since our courses first converged to the west of La Palma in the Canaries.
“For a while it felt as if we would never get past the island as for watch after watch it seemed to draw us back towards it. Yet by yesterday we were flying again with some champagne sailing, only to grind to a complete halt first thing Friday morning when the speedo read a depressing 0.0 knots. Thankfully the wind returned to fill our sails around breakfast time and by lunchtime we knew it would take something pretty major to deny us our minor victory.”
The three points have already been added to Spirit of Australia’s overall score, moving the team into the overall race lead following their second place finish in Race 1.
A frustrated Piers Dudin, skipper of Hull & Humber, said, “Admittedly our game plan was based on getting to the gate in the fastest possible fashion and dealing with the high pressure ridge afterwards. Unfortunately the ridge marched towards us and avoiding it became, well, unavoidable.”
Hull & Humber has also now passed the gate and the Race Committee is waiting for confirmation of the third boat to cross before confirming the points awarded.
On Friday morning Jamaica’s skipper, Peter Stirling, reported how his crew had set themselves the target of climbing two places within the next 24 hours. By 0600 UT today they had done just that. And by the 0900 UT position update they’d gone one better – Jamaica Lightning Bolt crackling through the fleet to climb from seventh to fourth place in a little over 24 hours.
“After the painfully slow speeds we were sailing at whilst trying to get past the Canaries, Jamaica is now on a charge,” says Peter. “We have been slowly picking off the boats ahead of us and consistently managing some of the best six hour runs in the fleet. The position updates we get every six hours have become everyone’s main focus. After the low point of going nowhere in Biscay, while everyone else sailed past us, crew morale could now not be higher.”
Having matched each other for much of Race 1 from the Humber to La Rochelle, Jamaica and Cape Breton Island are now locked in battle again. The relief and enjoyment of finding a steady wind flow again is almost palpable in Jan Ridd’s morning report from Cape Breton Island.
He says, “The northeasterly breeze we plugged into off the African coast has held at a nice Force 4 to 5 and we are now flying the medium weight after a perfect peel from the lightweight. We have chased Jamaica all night and it is such a game of cat and mouse as our better helms close the gap only for their better helms to pull away again. I could think of no better example of the importance of good helming.
“It’s amazing the change in the feel of the boat as we are holding a steady course and speed. We had a good 12 hour run yesterday taking mileage out of most of the fleet, and feel we should enter the Doldrums in a good position. Of course, the lottery of getting through to the other side will probably sort out the eventual podium positions but the whole of the crew have their eyes set on winning this leg and, given a wind to work with, are definitely showing their ability to achieve this.”
Up at the front of the fleet Cork, Ireland, is in second place, chasing down the leaders, Team Finland. Skipper, Richie Fearon, says, “We've had a good night sailing and finally getting the double figure speeds we have been looking for since leaving the Canaries. Our task now is to catch up with the Finns now we are both in similar winds and hopefully close their lead. Game on!”
Team Finland watch leader and navigator, Mark Cole, says, “It's now time to head west and start thinking seriously about our crossing of the Doldrums. Yesterday had us gybing down the Mauritanian coast, attempting to balance the need for speed and the need to head west, to skirt the outside of the Cape Verdes. The morning had us going along nicely in 16 knots of wind or so, but from 1800 UT onward we managed to find a bit more pressure with the wind increasing regularly until midnight, where we found ourselves with a nice following Force 6 to 7, at a good angle for rounding Cape Verde.”
“The wind strengths will continue to grow and be stronger on the eastern side of the race track, so the boats positioned further east are best positioned to take maximum advantage from this,” explains Race Director, Joff Bailey. “That said, the skippers will now be focusing their attention on how to cross the Doldrums. The difficulty with the Doldrums is that it moves on a daily basis, so finding the best way through it is very difficult. There is a general rule that the further west you go the narrower the Doldrums are but that then puts you in a difficult position when you come out the other side and hit the trade winds in the south Atlantic. The Doldrums will compress and mix up the fleet and will give California a chance to jump back up the leader board.”
That would be welcome news for the American team, which has been held captive by the light winds at the back of the fleet. The yachts are spread by more than 400 miles at the moment but that could all change in a very short time as the fleet reaches the Doldrums, putting the brakes on the front runners and allowing the back markers to catch up and, potentially, overtake.
There were undoubtedly fireworks in Rio de Janeiro yesterday as the city celebrated winning the rights to host the 2016 Olympic Games and, with 3,000 miles still to race before the ten 68-foot yachts get there, there are bound to be plenty more to come.
POSITIONS AT 1200UTC, SATURDAY 3 OCTOBER
1 Team Finland DTF 2920
2 Cork DTF 3059 DTL +139
3 Spirit of Australia DTF 3084 DTL +164
4 Jamaica Lightning Bolt DTF 3161 DTL +241
5 Cape Breton Island DTF 3162 DTL +242
6 Hull & Humber DTF 3167 DTL +247
7 Qingdao DTF 3187 DTL +266
8 Uniquely Singapore DTF 3250 DTL +330
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital DTF 3252 DTL +332
10 California DTF 3355 DTL +435
(DTF = Distance to Finish, DTL = Distance to Leader)
Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com