CLIPPER 2009–2010, RACE 2: LA ROCHELLE – RIO DE JANEIRO, DAY 16
* Team Finland and Jamaica Lightning Bolt opt for stealth mode ahead of Doldrums crossing
* California sets sights on catching up with the fleet
* Kite repairs for Qingdao and Hull & Humber
Team Finland went undercover at midnight UTC last night and Jamaica Lightning Bolt will disappear from our screens – and from the scheds for the other boats – for 24 hours at midday UTC today.
Ordinarily being mid fleet or at the back of the pack at this stage is something of an advantage as you can see the difficulty – or ease – with which the leaders traverse the Doldrums and adjust your own tactics accordingly. Team Finland and Jamaica Lightning Bolt's decision to go into Stealth Mode will deny the rest of the fleet the opportunity to see how they fare in their approach to the Doldrums, as Finnish skipper, Eero Lehtinen explains.
"Team Finland has gone into hiding. Why? Well, to start with we have this exciting tool in our hands and since the race from Equator to Rio is pretty much a drag race reaching in line and pretty much staying in the order we come out of the Doldrums... it's now or never.
"We are hitting the Doldrums first and our lead will shrink rapidly. We can only hope that the boats behind us get their fair share of what seems a rather badly timed crossing for us. The other boats not being able to track our performance for one day makes it slightly more difficult for them to choose the ideal route through the fluky winds. They cannot avoid our mistakes or get some ideas from us. At least in theory."
Meanwhile, Jamaica Lightning Bolt is living up to her name. Skipper Peter Stirling says, "Our tactic of sailing to the north of the Cape Verde Islands seems to be paying off. Over the course of the last 24 hours we have been the fastest yacht in the fleet and have made significant ground on everyone else. This is largely due to the fact that we have had slightly stronger winds further to the west and north and are not trying to sail dead downwind. The dreaded Doldrums are fast approaching and will prove to be very decisive in the final outcome of this race. With that in mind Jamaica Lightning Bolt is entering Stealth Mode at 1200 UTC today. So far we have been the most northerly, easterly and westerly yacht. Our next plan is to be the most southerly!"
"It's another big day in the Hull & Humber camp and across the fleet as we received accurate forecasts to take us into and across the ITCZ," Piers Dudin says. "Anything before now has just been about trends and patterns, but the current forecasts give us clear indications of what to expect. Over the past few days the Doldrums belt has been looking really settled compared to its active August and September when hurricanes are born there. But it's obviously heard the Clipper fleet is on its way and decided to through us a bit of a curve ball as there's a tropical depression starting right where and when we were planning to cross! So it's been action stations to position ourselves for what we hope will be a quick ride across the usually light wind belt."
The light winds of the Doldrums are only one element of the challenges this part of the race brings the teams on board. The sun is almost directly overhead and the searing heat is inescapable. There are 41 nationalities represented in Clipper 09-10 and many of those taking part will be accustomed to temperatures in excess of 30 and 40C – but out in the Atlantic there is no air conditioning into which to escape. In fact, below decks it's even hotter than it is on the open deck.
Brendan Hall, skipper of Spirit of Australia, is frank about what that means for those on board. "During the day, the temperatures are increasing rapidly and the inside of the boat has become a smelly sauna," he says. "The Doldrums are looming ever closer and I can foresee an uncomfortable few days drifting in the heat ahead. For the time being we have more champagne sailing conditions during the evenings, a big moon above us lighting the deck and everyone enjoying the cool breeze."
More than 45,000 people are now playing the Clipper 09-10 Virtual Race and will have to make the same decisions as the teams in the real Clipper Race. Clipper Chairman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, has sailed through the area many times and provides some technical advice on www.clipperroundtheworld.com
Trailing the leaders by more than 700 miles, California has finally managed to escape the light winds of the Canaries and is picking up speed. An upbeat Pete Rollason says, "At last we have found some steady north easterlies which should only build further from the current 12 knots and we can enjoy a fast downwind sail in pursuit of the fleet. I don't think any of us will have any inclination to visit the Canaries in the future, especially if we are looking for wind. Hopefully the rest of the fleet will start slowing down as they approach the ITCZ, allowing us to make some big gains and then, if we can get a better passage through, then it is still all to play for.
Two of the teams have been busy with the sewing machine. The sail repair team on Hull & Humber is spending a second day working on the heavyweight spinnaker, while on Qingdao, the lightweight kite is now the focus of attention for the sail repairers on the Chinese boat. Uniquely Singapore is also currently dealing with a kite wrap.
POSITIONS AT 0900UTC, WEDNESDAY 7 OCTOBER
1 Team Finland DTF 2334 (position at 0000UTC – now in Stealth Mode)
2 Cork DTF 2373
3 Spirit of Australia DTF 2397
4 Jamaica Lightning Bolt DTF 2420
5 Cape Breton Island DTF 2423
6 Hull & Humber DTF 2455
7 Qingdao DTF 2464
8 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital DTF 2498
9 Uniquely Singapore DTF 2596
10 California DTF 3060
(DTF = Distance to Finish)
Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found here