#CLIPPER - Derry-Londonderry continues to make steady progress towards Singapore on their southerly route as they maintain their lead over the last 24 hours. In a cruel twist of fate Gold Coast Australia's surge of success on their northerly route has today seen frustration as they split from the rest of the fleet and slip to fifth position.
The current race, Race 7, from Gold Coast to Singapore provided the Clipper Race Committee with many different routes which could have been specified for the fleet, each with a number of significant hazards.
Race Director, Joff Bailey, explains, "After significant research and discussion with regional Navy forces including the Royal Navy and the Pirate Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur the route selected.
"North of Papua New Guinea and through the Celebes and Sulu Seas; is considered by myself, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and the Race Management Team as the least risky of all the options. That said it is not without its risks as we have seen with the cyclones two weeks ago but they are low and risk mitigating actions are being taken.
"The week ahead is going to be an interesting period of time as once the fleet enters the Celebes Sea in a few days time the crews will have to cope with very light winds, navigational hazards that are poorly charted and also the potential threat of piracy. As such the Race Committee will be taking certain risk mitigating actions to ensure that the fleet have the best chance to navigate these hazards safely.
"Over the next few days we will be explaining in the daily report the details of the actions by the Race Committee which will include temporarily suspending racing, Stealth Mode for certain periods, freezing the Race Viewer and permitting the skippers to use their engines if required. Don't be alarmed if some or all of the teams go into Stealth Mode for three or four days, that is part of the mitigating actions we are taking and the Race Office is still in regular contact with the fleet as well as tracking each boat every hour."
Further details of the action to be taken by the Race Committee will be included in tomorrow's Daily Update.
Currently most northerly boat, Gold Coast Australia skipper Richard Hewson reports, "Since the start of the race my tactics have been to head north to the reliable trade winds to make our way across the Pacific to Asia in the best time possible. Normally trade winds are stronger away from the Equator to about 12 degrees north. This race we seem to be experiencing far from normal conditions as Gold Coast Australia once again sits to the north of the fleet, sails flapping as we roll around in the swell becalmed."
Despite the setback, the team is remaining positive with the tactical decision made, "For now there is not much more to do but to have a laugh, continue fixing the medium weight spinnaker and wait for wind!" Richard added.
As the teams receive details of a "very mixed bag of wind" forecast by meteorologist and winning skipper of Clipper 2002, Simon Rowell, this race has certainly become a race of two halves and the changing weather has seen the teams have a clear division of tactics, with just over half the fleet heading south, and the other half, north.
On board Derry-Londonderry, skipper Mark Light, says "We are still hanging on to our coveted first position and making good, steady progress towards our destination - the Celebes Sea gate! There is definitely a feeling of nervous excitement around our boat at the moment as we strive to keep her moving forward as fast as we can and in the right direction!"
Closely observing the north south divide, Mark reports of his team's unusual game play to maintain their poll position, "With a renewed focus, talk on board is often about how we can go even faster and quite often this comes down to reducing weight! Right now we are discussing various techniques". Ten suggestions are currently in the running and include an effort to eat all the food as quickly as possible and chopping crew's toothbrushes in half!
Despite a slow 24 hours for New York and with the loss of their Windex, the team has worked hard to keep moving in the low winds, their southerly tactic has seemed to of paid off as they move up to second place in the fleet.
"We know that we would lose out to the yachts to the north which we did, and now just hope we can keep them off. Our tactic is to stay south knowing that we will sail a bit slower that the other yachts but will be able to sail with good VMG (Velocity Made Good) to the gate," explains skipper, Gareth Glover.
"We could head north and increase our apparent wind which would give us more boat speed but we will have to come back down for the gate which the yachts to the north may have too and then we hope we will get back any lost miles."
Ocean sailing is not just about tactics, it is also important to look after the boat and keep equipment in good condition. Gareth reports that his team have been working hard to maintain New York, carrying out constant rig checks and running repairs continuing on their kites.
Meanwhile, Singapore's decision to stay south has rewarded the team as they move up to sixth place. Despite the light and fluky winds the home port entry is hoping to hold onto a little more breeze after a night of constant sail changes.
"Firstly it was chafe on a spectra loop from a Gibb shackle that sent our medium weight kite flying to leeward. On the next two occasions it was small holes caused by the kite collapsing occasionally and catching on various rough. This was fairly disappointing as we had been making excellent progress and I am sure that being under white sails for around three hours in total will have cost us a good six miles or so. Hopefully we can hold onto a little more breeze than the yachts to the south and continue to claw back ground on them until we can harden up a little past the bottom of Palau."
But it is not only the wind that is causing the team concern as Ben adds, "We are down to our last 50 tea bags!
"Our only conciliation is that they are at least Twinnings English Breakfast (surely the finest tea available.) Ironic really that a "Clipper" vessel should run out of tea. This will have a serious impact on our 1700 tea and cake daily meetings. Our caffeine and tannin hit will have to be replaced by either coffee or Milo. I personally struggle to get through the day without at least three cups of the delightful infusion and considered stashing a few bags in my cabin; but in the interests of keeping the team spirit alive we are going to try drying and re-using a few instead."
On board De Lage Landen, the team has been enjoying the wind that has greeted the Dutch entry as they sample their sails on the race towards the next gate.
Skipper Stuart Jackson says, "We are now nearly finished packing our forth spinnaker of the day, what had been a simple change to the medium weight soon turned into a quick drop as a hole appeared in it. Then shortly after hoisting again the clew decided to release itself, prompting another drop. So it has been a sweaty morning packing spinnakers below decks. Hopefully this one will decide to stay up until we want it to come down!"
The variable winds continue to affect Visit Finland and in the last 24 hours the team have slipped down to seventh place.
"During the last six hours we have gybed three times and made eight miles to the north, three to the south and two to the west! So there is plenty to keep us busy anyway! It would appear that the fortunes have turned to favour the more northerly boats for the time being which must be a relief for them," says Olly Osborne, skipper of the Finnish entry.
"Although we appear to have found our way back into more squally weather today, we did have a good run throughout the night which puts us about 600 miles from our way point."
On Geraldton Western Australia, skipper Juan Coetzer reports that his team has been experiencing "light and fluky winds" accompanied by "clear skies and soaring heat", which has caused problems for the Australian entry."Below decks, things are exploding. A carton of soya milk exploded in one of the lockers leaving a beautiful mess.
"There is a rather large obstacle in our way called the Palau Islands. For the last 300 miles we have been trying to go south of the island, but it's like a big magnet drawing us in. Unfortunately, I don't think we will get to see the Islands during day light," he added.
"A case of the 'haves and have not's'" is how skipper Rupert Dean describes the past few days on the race to Singapore. The changing weather has certainly made this a race of two halves, as Welcome to Yorkshire grapple with the variable winds with their competitors in sight.
"Yesterday morning, Welcome to Yorkshire was making reasonable progress west, some 22 miles behind Visit Finland. Later that day we were very surprised to see Visit Finland on our bow, struggling to sail out of a massive windhole by heading north under white sails. Before we knew it we were in the same hole, requiring us to drop our spinnaker and do the same. This continued into the night, until we both found some wind and were able, once again, to hoist our spinnakers and head west," Rupert added.
"Unfortunately for us, following an epic squall and rainstorm this morning, we were becalmed again for a few hours, soon to learn that Visit Finland had regained eleven miles on us. So a period of mixed fortunes for both of us. We are now ghosting along with full main, staysail and Yankee 1, relived to be moving again, yet hoping that the north easterly trades will re-establish themselves soon, enabling us to make better speed towards our target."
Race 7, one of the longest in the series on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, and after 19 days at sea, on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, cabin fever is starting to creep up on the team. Despite the challenges faced by Mother Nature, skipper Gordon Reid reports that his team always maintain a positive attitude after a night of no wind.
"Stuck in a windless hole, baking under the tropical sun, sweating like a blood donor at a vampire's tea party, being drenched in a tropical downpour for the fifth time in four hours we always keep the faith and remember what a great adventure we are undertaking."
In an effort to keep the Scottish entry moving, Gordon adds that the team have been working very hard, and praises the team on the crew's skill and determination as they execute a variety of sail changes in a bid to claw back position.
"So far today our sail change evolutions have included a change from the Yankee 1 and Staysail, to 'Big Frank' peel to 'Little Frank', swap to wind-seeker, back to Yankee 1, the main has been in, it's been out, we've had preventers on preventers off. Barber haulers here there and everywhere. We are now moving and in the right direction, a true testament to the skill and determination of the crew!"
Continuing to push forward is Qingdao, whose crew has been working hard changing sails after what skipper Ian Conchie describes as "A lovely 24 hours of spinnaker work!
"We hoisted the medium kite 24 hours ago and flew it until early this morning when we swapped for a lightweight. We have been making great progress all day trying to catch up the lead boats.When we dropped the medium weight we found some small holes which were quicklyrepaired my Dave and Lynn our sail repair team. Unfortunately we then noticed similar holes back in the medium weight so another quick change back to the lightweight only to find more holes so yet another change to the heavy while we fix both kites. As I type the lightweight is being repacked ready to be hoisted.
"In the meantime James has been up the rig and found the cause, a split pin in the rigging which had turned to make a great sharp edge for the kites to snag on.I think we can say that we have had enough spinnaker drop and hoist practice today and we are getting quiet slick at it now but the heat makes the repair and packing very sweaty indeed!" says Ian.