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Clipper fleet Bound for Rio de Janeiro

14th August 2011
Clipper fleet Bound for Rio de Janeiro
One of the first big decisions the teams had to make on the race to Rio de Janeiro was how to navigate their way round the Canary Islands. This morning's position reports reveal that all ten have gone west of the islands to avoid the big wind holes that the mountainous island chain can create. Furthest west of the fleet is Visit Finland who have decided to ease off the throttle slightly as team navigator, Tomi Lintonen, explains.

"After sustaining a very minor injury to a crew member and a minor rip in our spinnaker, we have eased back a bit to play it safe," he says. "This obviously shows on our performance, but it is a conscious choice which is likely to pay off in the long run.

"We dropped the spinnaker and the evening and night were rather uneventful, only interrupted at times by flying fish landing on deck. We passed the westernmost Canary Islands of La Palma and Hierro so far that we did not actually see them, despite La Palma being 2,425 metres high. The next place of interest will obviously be the Scoring Gate north of the archipelago of Cape Verde. Before that, however, we will be officially entering the tropics. The climate inside the boat does feel quite tropical already; the temperature is above 30 centigrade and humidity very high."

Joining them in their more westerly course is Geraldton Western Australia who are enjoying the strong downwind sailing conditions that the north easterly trade winds are delivering.

"A great days sailing once again," reports the team's skipper, Juan Coetzer. "The spinnaker went up at first light and we flew along all day beneath her, making good progress south. Evening came and the spinnaker went down as the wind increased.

"While it has been plain sailing, routine maintenance has been carried out, checked and carried out again on all our ropes and halyards - all is well on board."

The Chinese team are having equally as good a time as the Western Australian entry, who also opted to drop down to a poled out Yankee yesterday evening as darkness fell.

"Another fun day on the happy ship Qingdao!" exclaims the team's skipper, Ian Conchie. "We hoisted the kite at first light yesterday and then through the day we ended up using all three spinnakers. We started with the medium, then the lightweight and finished the day under the heavy weather spinnaker before changing down to a poled out No 2 Yankee for the night. So a lot of spinnaker packing yesterday which, in the heat below deck, is no easy thing."

Pushing hard in these downwind conditions can be quite stressful for boat and crew with large loads on the lines and the risk of broaching under novice helms is always high.

"With our waypoint dead downwind, it is a choice between running deep downwind with an unstable spinnaker, yet not able to quite make the course (fastest option) or taking it more steadily and being able to steer the course required under goose wing (poled out head sail)," explains Welcome to Yorkshire's skipper, Rupert Dean. "In heavier conditions the goose wing option has definitely been the way to go. Whatever happens, no one wants to risk a crash gybe with the huge loadings involved."

Rupert's thoughts are echoed by skipper of Derry-Londonderry, Mark Light, who says, ""Helming has been challenging with the crew doing 30 to 40 minutes each then coming off with arms like Popeye. With these sorts of boat speeds come the inevitable boat breakages as loads on the boat are high. Overnight we blew a halyard which meant our heavyweight spinnaker dropped from the top of the mast and ended up in the water. A call of 'all hands on deck' followed and we managed to slow the boat down enough to be able to haul in the sail, undamaged, in double quick time. A fantastic effort from the crew, but worse was to follow! A huge wave hit the side of the boat, soaking the crew and landing a large proportion of Atlantic Ocean over the skipper... not amused! I guess that will teach me for going on deck!"

De Lage Landen has also suffered in the heavy downwind conditions as skipper, Mat Booth, explains in is 0600 report.

"There's a saying in sailing, 'If you're thinking about it, do it' and sure enough it was proved right yesterday afternoon!

"After a full day sailing with our heavyweight spinnaker we'd made some good ground. As the evening began setting in I decided to drop to go to a poled out Yankee 2 as the sea state was increasing and the crew were struggling. I planned to write my position report to Clipper HQ then drop the spinnaker and go to white sails.

"I was sitting at the chart table, writing my update when the boat began heeling over. This was normal as the sea state was considerable. Calls of 'ease the sheet' and 'bear away' from deck didn't give me cause for concern as the guys on deck have become very competent spinnaker handlers.

"I became aware we were going to broach after a few seconds, they were not going to recover this time! Leaping up the companion way the priority was to ensure crew were safe and not going to go overboard – we run a rule of being clipped on most of the time and the crew were all fine. Getting my life jacket on to deal with the carnage it became quickly apparent we had snapped our port spinnaker pole.

"I called for all hands on deck and within a minute or so the other watch began appearing. What happened next makes me proud to be sailing with these guys – the crew work I witnessed was nothing short of spectacular. With my guidance the kite was quickly dropped, pole recovered and the mop up had begun – all very efficient and panic free.

"The good news is all crew are fine, the spinnaker is in one piece, nothing else got damaged and we got sailing again quickly. The bad news is the pole is now so we will have to be careful to nurse our intact pole though to Rio."

At the front of the fleet Gold Coast Australia and Singapore are in a fight for the lead, with Singapore's position further west just giving them the edge on the Australians this morning.

Singapore's skipper, Ben Bowley, says, "We've been pushing very hard for the last 24 hours and I think that this should translate into a very good improvement in our overall position and a sterling effort from the crew has enabled us to achieve this. The trade off has been an uncomfortable and fairly stressful night pressing on under spinnaker. The strong trade winds have been pushing us down the rhumb line at an amazing pace, at times reaching 18 knots surfing down waves and the speed rarely dropping below 12 knots."

Gold Coast Australia is pushing equally hard and is now considering their options: go for the Scoring Gate and the points on offer or take a faster route towards Rio in the hope that the team will secure more points by being the first across the finish line.

"The decision to go through the gate is still undecided due to its position in relation to the various pressure systems.  A close eye is being kept on the barometer and the cloud formations ahead of us," says Aussie skipper, Richard Hewson.

"Our top speed recorded in the last 24 hours was 17.2 knots, which was very exciting and a good sign of things to come."


Published in Clipper Race
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About the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is undoubtedly one of the greatest ocean adventures on the planet, also regarded as one of its toughest endurance challenges. Taking almost a year to complete, it consists of eleven teams competing against each other on the world’s largest matched fleet of 70-foot ocean racing yachts.

The Clipper Race was established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo, non-stop, around the world in 1968-69. His aim was to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience, the chance to embrace the thrill of ocean racing; it is the only event of its kind for amateur sailors. Around 40 per cent of crew are novices and have never sailed before starting a comprehensive training programme ahead of their adventure.

This unique challenge brings together everyone from chief executives to train drivers, nurses and firefighters, farmers, airline pilots and students, from age 18 upwards, to take on Mother Nature’s toughest and most remote conditions. There is no upper age limit, the oldest competitor to date is 76.

Now in its twelfth edition, the Clipper 2019-20 Race started from London, UK, on 02 September 2019.

 

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