Cork, Ireland completed Race 2 from La Rochelle to Rio de Janeiro in fifth place when they crossed the finish line at 07:17:03 local time (09:17:03 GMT). It was a battling finish as they closed to within two miles of the Canadian entry, Cape Breton Island, and delivered an incredible end to 28 days at sea. With their third place in Race 1, it leaves the Irish team with 14 championship points so far, putting them equal third in the overall standings. Line honours for Race 2 went to Team Finland with Spirit of Australia and Jamaica Lightning Bolt taking second and third respectively.
Cork, Ireland, skipper Richie Fearon says, “Everyone is really pleased with themselves for the achievement that they have just accomplished. We sailed a very good race and our only mishap was our spinnaker wrap which set us back 21 hours at the start. We were unlucky with the wind for the second half of the race although for the last 48 hours, it did us a real favour. We were able to close in on the group of three yachts that were 60-70 nautical miles ahead of us. In the end, we managed to cut their lead dramatically and watched Cape Breton Island cross the line just two miles in front of us!”
Team Finland’s skipper Eero Lehtinen, says, “Race 2 was a very balanced and professional performance. The whole team has worked without a word of complaint, in the extreme heat, under pressure from competition, in the long hours with no wind and no boat speed, during the endless sail changes and trimming. “
In a race which has been marked by light winds, Team Finland took an early lead out of La Rochelle but soon lost it by sailing into a wind hole as the fleet rounded Cape Finisterre. As weather forecasts indicated light winds across the 90 nautical mile long gate south of the Canary Islands, Team Finland made the decision to bail out and focus on a ten point win into Rio. Spirit of Australia held their nerve and the decision to go for the scoring gate paid off, beating Hull & Humber across the line and securing the team three valuable points. The decisions made by Spirit of Australia and Team Finland over the scoring gate proved to be the defining moment in both teams’ races, as Team Finland moved into the lead and held it to the finish line. Early on in the race, Cork, Ireland struggled when their spinnaker wrapped itself around the forestay and the team was delayed badly as they struggled to free it. After 21 hours, they admitted defeat and had to cut it down before embarking on lengthy repairs. As such, to finish mid fleet is a very respectable result.
Periods of light winds have dogged the fleet for the first trans-Atlantic crossing of Clipper 09-10. With virtually no wind at the start in La Rochelle, around the Canary Islands and for half the boats through the Doldrums, the normally reliable trade winds have also been lighter than expected. As the fleet neared its final destination of Rio de Janeiro, once again light conditions brought the leading boats to a near halt.
Over the final days of racing a three way battle took place behind Team Finland for the final two podium positions and at one point it looked as though a Finnish victory may not be guaranteed. Spirit of Australia led the charge closely followed by Cape Breton Island and Jamaica Lightning Bolt whose positions swapped on a regular basis as the teams focused on the Cabo Frio finish line. Until the final 100 miles it looked as though the Canadian entry was going to pip Jamaica Lightning Bolt to the post. However, a decision to take a more inshore route proved fatal. Cape Breton Island lost the wind and slowed allowing Pete Stirling and his team to take third place.
At midday GMT the Clipper 09-10 Race Committee announced a shortened course for Race 2 from La Rochelle to Rio de Janeiro. The amended Sailing Instructions has given the teams 24 hours notice of the shortened course and the final positions will be taken at midday GMT on Tuesday 20 October. Those teams that have crossed the finish line will be awarded the relevant finishing position, while the others will be awarded the position based on their distance to finish at that time.
This is a standard procedure used in both ocean racing and around the cans events and is called into play by race organisers who must ensure they meet the goals of the teams, the spectators and the overall event.
The decision is not one that was taken lightly. In all around the world yacht races, the first priority is the safety of the crews and their boats and this is most certainly the case with the Clipper Race. Race 3 is due to start on Tuesday 27 October and it is important from the point of view of good seamanship that the teams get the opportunity to prepare themselves and their boats correctly for the next stage of the race, which will take them towards the Southern Ocean on the way to Cape Town, South Africa.
Once finished, the teams will make their way by fastest means, through a combination of using their engines and sailing, to the Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro, which will host the fleet for the duration of the stopover.
First priority on arriving in port will be to clean the yacht and begin the routine maintenance required to keep the boats in peak performance condition, as well as catching up on much needed sleep and food other than the tinned and dried variety on offer at sea. The victuallers must also ensure their yacht is fully stocked for the next 3,385-mile race to Cape Town.