RACE 2: MADEIRA TO RIO DE JANEIRO
• Race 2 gets underway in perfect conditions
• Teams look ahead to first Atlantic crossing of Clipper 11-12
• Geraldton Western Australia first across start line
At 1630 local time (1530GMT) the gun fired and the ten internationally sponsored teams competing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race crossed the line at the start of the 3,850-mile Race 2 from Madeira to Rio de Janeiro.
In the strong north easterly trade winds, blowing 20 to 25 knots, the boats jostled for position and Geraldton Western Australia, who were early to the line and had to put on the brakes to prevent themselves crossing early, were first across. They were closely followed by Derry-Londonderry who trimmed their sails at the right time to cross in second place. Visit Finland were third across followed by Singapore, Qingdao, New York, Welcome to Yorkshire, Gold Coast Australia, De Lage Landen and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital.
As the teams headed towards the turning mark off the coast of Machico, Geraldton Western Australia had stretched out a lead of eight boat lengths and was first to round the mark. Battling it to be second round the mark were the three podium placed boats in Race 1, New York, Gold Coast Australia and Visit Finland who rounded in that order with barely a quarter of a boat’s length between them. Next to turn was Welcome to Yorkshire followed by Derry-Londonderry, Qingdao, Singapore, De Lage Landen and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital.
Speaking before the start, winning skipper of Race 1, Richard Hewson from Gold Coast Australia, said, “This will be the longest time on the water many of the crew will have ever spent. The last race was only nine days, this will be more than 20 days. Tensions will build, people will get tired and no doubt agitated. Everyone has just got to keep their cool, keep sailing the boat fast and keep focusing on the wind. Our main tactic is just to stay between the fleet and Rio.”
As the fleet heads south the teams will be influenced more and more by the North Atlantic high pressure system which will propel the yachts for many days at good average speeds in perfect trade wind conditions. Spinnakers are likely to be set constantly for as long as two weeks and this race will become a battle of the trimmers who keep the sails in the perfect shape for optimum speed.
The Canary Islands are on the direct route from Madeira to Rio and the decision whether to leave them to the east, sail through the middle or pass on the west could deliver one of the biggest turning points in this race. Get it wrong and the teams will be caught in the wind shadow of the huge mountains that extend for more than 100 miles out to sea.
As the fleet closes in on the Equator the teams will prepare for two things. Firstly, the dreaded Doldrums of the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) with large wind holes, squalls and unpredictable conditions which will try the patience of even the most stoical crew members. Secondly, a visit to the Court of King Neptune as crews ‘cross the line’ of the Equator and go from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere.
Skipper of Derry-Londonderry, Mark Light, says, “This race is going to deliver lots of downwind sailing and the temperature will get warmer every single day. I think we are going to get some pretty difficult and testing conditions around the Doldrums, but it’s going to be a good race.”
The fleet is expected to arrive in Rio between 2 and 5 September, after which they will race back across the Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa.
Positions at 1800 UTC, Friday 12 August
1 Singapore 3,681nm
2 De Lage Landen 3,682nm (+1nm DTL*)
3 Gold Coast Australia 3,682nm (+1nm)
4 Welcome to Yorkshire 3,682nm (+1nm)
5 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 3,683nm (+2nm)
6 New York 3,683nm (+2nm)
7 Qingdao 3,683nm (+2nm)
8 Derry-Londonderry 3,683nm (+2nm)
9 Geraldton Western Australia 3,684nm (+2nm)
10 Visit Finland 3,684nm (+3nm)
*DTF = Distance to Finish, DTL = Distance to Leader
Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com
RACE 2: MADEIRA TO RIO DE JANEIRO
• Gold Coast Australia plays Stealth Mode option
• Singapore rues accidental gybe and subsequent spinnaker wrap
• Last 24 hours is a tale of loaves and fishes
The leading boats are just 300 miles away from the Scoring Gate and the stage is set for a very interesting 36 hours as they jockey for position to gain the additional three race points on offer there.
Race Director, Joff Bailey, comments, “At the moment it looks like any of the leading four teams have a good chance of getting these extra points but until Gold Coast Australia comes out of Stealth Mode at 1200GMT today we don’t know if five teams will be in the hunt. We should know who has chosen the right tactics sometime on Tuesday. It is worth remembering that the Scoring Gate is optional and may not be on the fastest route to the finish and therefore some of the teams may have their eyes firmly set on the ten points for winning the race rather than three, two or one at the Scoring Gate.”
A full explanation of the Scoring Gate, Ocean Sprint and Stealth Mode options in this race can be found on the Race Office Commentary on www.clipperroundtheworld.com <http://www.clipperroundtheworld.com> .
Looking at the more general tactics being employed by the fleet, Joff says, “With the exception of New York, who have stayed east but made big gains to the south, all the teams appear to be staying close to the rhumb line by regularly gybing ahead of the steady north easterly trades. This is by far the safest option in one design fleet racing as it is very difficult to sail very much faster than your competitors in a straight line and therefore you have to have a very good reason to sail the extra miles.
“Over the next 48 hours the strong winds that the fleet has been enjoying will start to move away to the west, this could leave New York a bit isolated unless they make a big move west soon.”
Undercover skipper, Richard Hewson on Gold Coast Australia says, “It’s been an interesting night as we delved into Stealth Mode in an attempt to break away from our competitors.
“I have been down sick now for a nearly a day, so cannot be on deck as often as I would have liked, but I have been very impressed with the crew’s performance, sailing the boat without my advice. In a way quite a good test bed to know if something happens to me in the future the crew can sail fast and win the race and get me into port as soon as possible.”
Richard is on the mend and with the Gold Coast Australia crew set to come out of Stealth Mode at the midday update on the race viewer, Rupert Dean, skipper of Welcome to Yorkshire, who are currently in the lead, says, “And so it goes on... two distinct groups of yachts running south southwest, some to the east, some to the west. Where they will cross the Doldrums is anyone's guess!
“We're heading deep downwind, gybing as appropriate to get us to our waypoint and 'possibly' through the Scoring Gate. It's good to be at the front and morale continues to be high - as it has been since Southampton.
“We're studying our daily grib files avidly to establish where to cross the Doldrums. A game plan is in hand, which will be tweaked to suit conditions as they unfold. As this is a crucial decision, the fleet is playing their cards close to their chests, with Gold Coast Australia already playing their 24-hour stealth joker.
“All’s well on Welcome to Yorkshire and Ann Finch's freshly baked bread on board yesterday was simply amazing. Bread quality is a hot topic (forgive pun) throughout the fleet with considerable pride shown by the mother watch in this discipline. Before the race, Ann completed a specialised bread making course run by a French chef and, by golly, it has proved to be a wise investment!”
It seems to be about the loaves and fishes on board today. With small luxuries like fresh baked bread to raise the morale, flying fish are causing a bit of a stink. It’s the first time the teams will have encountered them – and if you don’t get rid of them quickly from wherever they land, in this heat you soon know about it.
New York crew member, Andrew Priest, writes, “Already formed into two watches to split the 24- hour day into two sets of on and off times, now we have a ‘fish watch’.
“This is not culinary in purpose – fish is not yet part of our diet, save for the omnipresent tins of tuna which accompany any expedition these days. Nor is it a formalisation of our constant scouring of the near horizon for bigger amphibious fellow travellers like dolphins, whales or indeed turtles.
“No, ‘fish watch’ has a single, but crucial mission - to clear our decks of still flapping or recently departed members of the flying fish family, which are now constant airborne hazards to New York and her crew. Our first sightings were several days ago but it was only on Saturday that the first daredevil, or was it kamikaze, fish, launched itself on one last mission from the waves of the Atlantic... into the shorts of Raghu.”
You can find out what happened next by reading Andrew’s report in full in the ‘Follow’ section of www.clipperroundtheworld.com.
Back with the sailing and Singapore’s crew have learned a hard lesson – but one that is better to learn early on in the campaign – as skipper, Ben Bowley, explains.
“Yesterday saw us getting stuck in a patch of very light wind that took us several hours to work our way out of. Eventually we were able to work our way back to the west and find some more wind with the loss of only one place. Last night, however, we threw away all our hard work of the previous night with one small error on the helm.
“At about 2200 a lapse in concentration meant that we ended up accidentally gybing and the medium spinnaker wrapped itself savagely around not just the forestay but also the inner forestay, pole, up-haul and anything else it could find up forward.
“Luckily the wind was light and the double preventers held but by the time we got back to course the kite was so badly wrapped that there was no chance of getting it unwrapped easily. The next couple of hours were spent tugging at sheets, easing halyards, gybing back and forth trying in vain to get the sail free whilst we drifted aimlessly around, watching other boats in the fleet overtake us again. In the end the only solution was to remove both the sheet and guy and try to unravel the sail from the forestay. Eventually we got the sail unwrapped and the result was a medium spinnaker flying like a flag from the mast-head. Some cunning manoeuvring enabled us to get it collapsed behind the mainsail and with brute force drag it back aboard. Damage? Nothing worse than four small tears which were swiftly patched up.
“We will learn from this experience and hopefully make sure it never happens again.”
With their renewed focus, Singapore’s crew are holding on to second place behind Welcome to Yorkshire, with Qingdao’s dragon breathing fire behind them.
Skipper, Ian Conchie, says, “Everyone is adapting to life back on board now and the talk is of food and the Doldrums. Everyone is interested in ‘The Plan’ to cross them and all the skippers are keen to know each other’s plan. Most of the fleet appears to be west of us at the moment and the next decision for me is when to gybe back and join them, but then there is also the Scoring Gate...”
One team that has decided to forego the bonus points available at the Scoring Gate is De Lage Landen, whose skipper, Mat Booth, reports to the Race Office this morning, “Tactically we've decided to not go for the Scoring Gate. A few days ago, before our port spinnaker pole snapped, we were in a lovely position to make it but, with our slower speed, the plan is now to line up for our passage of the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone – the Doldrums), so we're heading west.
“Crew morale is high as ever and as we continue to head South the boat is becoming more like a sauna, night time is a refreshing break from the heat.”
Juan Coetzer, skipper of Geraldton Western Australia, has a solution to give the crews a break from the heat as he gives another insight into living conditions on board. It’s clear his crew are enjoying the sailing conditions they’re experiencing on their first ocean crossing of the Clipper 11-12 Race.
Juan says, “Awesome sailing conditions; we’ve had the kite up all day and night. Gybing (where the back of the yacht passes through the wind as opposed to tacking where it is the front of the yacht) is no longer an issue, the crew just get on with their roles and do it. It is really good to watch.
“Life below decks is not that easy, as it is a sweat box of smells in the ghetto. I decided to spoil the crew and got out the big fan. It is great just to blast out the old, stuffy air. We’ve just spotted Gold Coast Australia on AIS. The crew are excited and I am proud to be sailing with them on Geraldton Western Australia.”
The Derry-Londonderry crew’s attention has been on a spot of housekeeping in the last 24 hours, according to skipper, Mark Light, who says, “The day started with the mysterious disappearance of our port heads toilet seat. The crew seemed very coy when asked about its whereabouts. After investigation it was revealed that in attempting to fix the shower drain in the ports heads the toilet seat was somewhat modified and re-distributed (i.e. broken and hidden!) by our loyal and hardworking bosun, Bazza. Once located, chief engineer, Tim, and his merry band set about repairs to the aforementioned article and we now have an amazing and very articulate fix to the problem. The engineering team was even going to apply some anti-chafe protection when I reminded them that it was just a seat for the toilet!
“Apart from that, we've had a spinnaker tear, a spinnaker wrap, a spinnaker trawl and a spinnaker recovery. Not bad for a day’s work.”
Derry-Londonderry’s new focus will be on chasing down Visit Finland, who are 12 miles closer to the finish line at Rio de Janeiro and locked in battle with Geraldton Western Australia.
Navigator, Tomi Lintonen, says the Finnish team has been kept on their toes by the changing wind through the last 24 hours.
“The forecast predicted winds in the 15 to 20 knot range but, in reality, we started the day in winds up to 30 knots diminishing to around ten knots in the afternoon,” he explains. “Consequently, we went through the headsail wardrobe from poled out Yankee 2 to heavyweight spinnaker to medium to lightweight spinnaker during the course of the day. Towards the night, winds picked up again calling for further headsail changes. Thus, a busy day for the crew on foredeck and packing the spinnakers!
“Another prominent feature of the day has been a notable east-west divide in the fleet. Navigational decisions are not only influenced by predicted winds and the Canary current but also plans concerning the Scoring Gate north of the Cape Verde Islands. Furthermore, the east-west positions and courses taken now are likely to reflect the tactics of clearing the light winds of the Doldrums.
“Interestingly enough, the Doldrums seem now heavily affected by a monsoon trough extending off the coast of Western Africa and continuing all the way to a tropical wave currently located near the centre of the southern North Atlantic. The next couple of days will show how the different views pay off in terms of points at the Scoring Gate!”
There’s been a bit of housekeeping on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital as well.
“Everything needs to be inspected and serviced twice a day on the purple beastie, to make sure we win the battle with the ocean racers biggest enemy, chafe,” says skipper, Gordon Reid. “So far, with the keen eye, dedication and commitment of the crew, we are all over it!”
Changing wind conditions have also kept them busy – and honing new techniques that will give them a competitive edge.
“The wind is veering between north to northeast then backing to north northeast every few hours so there was lots of gybing done yesterday and last night. The new favourite method is the dip pole gybe which, with such a large pole, takes a bit of skill and good preparation. The crew have shaved minutes off the time and are continually improving as they all get to know the boat and how to find efficiencies. With a few words of encouragement from the skipper they are learning fast. NMA! (No Messing Around!)
“As the mother watch bakes another delicious loaf of bread and prepares the day’s menu, the highly motivated and focused crew are driving Edinburgh Inspiring Capital fast on our roller-coaster ride south. Lovin’ it!”
Positions at 0900 UTC, Monday 15 August
1 Welcome to Yorkshire 3,109nm
2 Singapore 3,123nm (+13nm DTL*)
3 Qingdao 3,127nm (+18nm)
4 Geraldton Western Australia 3,127nm (+18nm)
5 Visit Finland 3,130nm (+20nm)
6 Derry-Londonderry 3,142nm (+32nm)
7 New York 3,144nm (+35nm)
8 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 3,161nm (+51nm)
9 De Lage Landen 3,163nm (+53nm)
10 Gold Coast Australia 3,232nm (+123nm) In Stealth Mode: position at 1800, 14 August
*DTF = Distance to Finish, DTL = Distance to Leader
Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com
* Chasing pack closes in on Gold Coast Australia as wind drops off
* Increased shipping keeps crews on their toes
* Inter-watch contest on Visit Finland boosts boat speed
Being at the front of the fleet is never a relaxing place to be, especially when the wind dies and the chasing pack starts to close in.
But that is exactly the uncomfortable position that Richard Hewson and his crew onboard Gold Coast Australia are in as they approach Rio de Janeiro at the end of Race 2 of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race. With Welcome to Yorkshire eating into their lead, pulling back 17 miles in 24 hours, Gold Coast Australia is just 47 miles ahead with just 400 miles to go.
Skipper Richard Hewson admits he is looking over his shoulder: “As predicted Gold Coast Australia is currently sitting between two weather systems and experiencing very little wind as we continue our run down the Brazilian Coast. This will allow the rest of the fleet to make some ground on us over the next 12 hours or so and we are constantly monitoring Welcome to Yorkshire's position.”
But Gold Coast Australia will be relieved to know that Welcome to Yorkshire is also battling with falling breeze.
Skipper Rupert Dean said: “The wind is decreasing in the area we are in, causing the fleet to compress. Its direction is slowly backing to the east north east, moving the windex [the arrow at the top of the mast showing the wind direction] aft towards a beam reach. The challenge for Gold Coast Australia, Singapore and ourselves is to keep our boats moving adequately under white sails until the moment comes when we can hoist the spinnaker.”
But timing the switch to the spinnaker correctly is crucial, he explains. “Hoisting too soon forces you to bear off towards the Brazilian coast, risking losing wind and current close inshore. Hoisting too late adds unnecessary extra distance away from the rhumb line, which may result in the wind backing totally behind you, making it difficult to hold a course exactly where you want to go,” Rupert said.
Like Gold Coast Australia at the front, Welcome to Yorkshire is following every move of her rivals in order to capitalise on any opportunities that arise. “Even at this late stage, the race is still relatively wide open so we are avidly studying each other's positions at each sched to determine our next move. The distance to Rio might seem relatively small yet to us those cold beers seem some distance away,” Rupert said, in the hope that the distance to the finish provides enough time for his team to reel in the leaders.
Ben Bowley, skipper of Singapore, said his crew has been kept on its toes over the last 24 hours as the wind has backed to a more easterly direction. “This has meant that the crew has needed to keep a constant eye on sail trim with the direction and strength changing on a minute-by-minute basis. This is where it is so important to keep the focus and ensure that the boat is constantly trimmed just so for the conditions keeping the boat speed as high as it can be.”
Despite the wind angle now being favourable to fly the spinnaker on Singapore, Ben is understandably apprehensive following the steering failure they experienced earlier in the race. “The wind is now far enough aft that it would be advantageous to set our spinnaker, something that we have not done since our steering failure. We are still very wary of loading up the temporary repair too much but also keen to try and gain some miles on the boats in front,” Ben said.
Like so many things in ocean racing it is a balancing act to push the boat as hard as possible without risking damage that could put the crew right at the back of the fleet. “I have had to be patient and persuade the crew that it’s better to finish in third than to bust the steering and have some of the boats behind us snatch our precious podium away from us,” Ben concedes.
After encountering very little traffic since leaving Madeira, the fleet is getting accustomed to a much higher level of shipping as they approach Rio and its surrounding oil fields. The ten crews keep a good look out round the clock, both visually and using radar, to ensure that they keep well clear of the giant vessels which are becoming a more common sight.
Geraldton Western Australia skipper Juan Coetzer said: “There are a lot more ships about these days and every once in a while we call them up just to check they have seen us. Every time they respond with same question: ‘What are you doing out here?’”
As well as dodging shipping, the teams are also dealing with numerous squalls and the resulting wind shifts. Mat Booth, skipper of De Lage Landen, said: “Last night was a bit like a mine field of squalls, dodging some and taking others squarely on the chin. The main annoyance of these pesky clouds is the considerable, normally unfavourable wind shifts that come with them. The crew has been dealing with them admirably, tucking reefs in quickly and playing the main traveller and sheet like pros!”
Increased shipping traffic is also keeping Mat’s crew on its toes. “As we head towards Rio shipping has increased. With over a hundred oil rigs between us and the finish I've reminded the crew of the importance of vigilance when it comes to keeping a sharp look out,” he said.
Ian Conchie on Qingdao said his crew is regularly tracking up to four ships at a time as they progress southwards. The extra vigilance is paying dividends though as they have also spotted a number of large whales as well as lots of flying fish. A less welcome sight for the Qingdao crew is the increased level of rubbish in the sea they have seen over recent days.
“After a couple of weeks out away from land we have got used to lovely clear water and now to start seeing plastic bottles, bags and so on floating past is proof if any were needed that we are nearing land again,” Ian said.
Crew member on New York, Andrew Priest, admits that the crew is starting to feel the strain after its first Atlantic crossing of the 40,000-mile circumnavigation. “Ocean racing requires 24 hour vigilance and effort and we are all starting to feel the strain of the four weeks we have been at sea since Southampton, excluding our short, and now seemingly long-ago, pitstop in Madeira. Heads need servicing, clothes need a fresh water wash and most of the crew need a very thorough high pressure hosing down,” he said.
To help break the monotony of a long ocean race, the New York crew has been indulging in some liquid refreshment that is proving popular with various Clipper teams according to recent reports: the UHT chocolate milkshake.
For Gareth on New York, the recipe involved mixing milk powder and chocolate powder with water and then shaking the concoction in an empty five-litre juice bottle.
“It might not have been Monaco style and Tom Cruise in Cocktail it certainly was not, but it was something different and helped make our dinner of beef stew taste even sweeter,” Andrew reported.
Meanwhile, trailing Edinburgh Inspiring Capital by 203 miles at the back of the fleet Derry-Londonderry has been tackling the Ocean Sprint with mixed fortunes. As the point is on offer to the fastest boat between 5 degrees south and 10 degrees south, approximately 300 miles, the team’s position relative to the rest of the fleet is immaterial.
Derry-Londonderry’s skipper Mark Light, said: “Although we didn't have a great wind angle, we were travelling directly south so had the benefit of the shortest route between the two points. We started well with speeds up to 9.5 knots but then got totally becalmed after a squall for about an hour and since then we’ve suffered one squall after another all night.”
In the middle of the fleet with some 314 miles to the leader, Visit Finland is still pushing hard. Skipper Olly Osborne said: “We are now making great speeds and really pushing hard to maintain a 10-knot average speed. The wind is further forward than it has been over the last couple of days allowing us to push for greater speed on a fine reach during the last sprint towards Cabo Frio [the final waypoint].”
Although a podium finish might be out of reach, an inter-watch competition is underway to see which watch will cover the most miles to the finish. “I am sure the overall effect on the boat speed has been very beneficial, and the winning watch will be treated to a three-course meal with wine by their crewmates,” Olly said.
Olly said that things might reshuffle as the boats reach the more fickle breeze along the coast. “We are hanging on to our fifth position and although it seems unlikely that we will reach the lead boats the crew are focused on making the extra miles,” he said.
As every ocean racer knows, the race is not over until you are safely over the line and that line is still a nerve-wracking distance away even for the leaders. Right at the front of the fleet, Richard Hewson on Gold Coast Australia will be all too aware of this. “It’s never over till the fat lady sings,” another skipper has reminded him this week. He will be hoping that the big woman is tuning up as his crew battle to stay ahead as they eat up the miles to the finish over the coming days.
The first boats are expected to arrive in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday.
Positions at 0900 UTC, Monday 29 August
1 Gold Coast Australia 400nm
2 Welcome to Yorkshire 447nm (+47nm DTL*)
3 Singapore 483nm (+83nm)
4 New York 636nm (+236nm)
5 Visit Finland 715nm (+314nm)
6 Geraldton Western Australia 812nm (+412nm)
7 Qingdao 874nm (+477nm)
8 De Lage Landen 877nm (+477nm)
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 923nm (+523nm)
10 Derry-Londonderry 1,127nm (+726nm)
Sept. 16, 2011
RACE 3: RIO DE JANEIRO TO CAPE TOWN
A third of the way into this 3,300-mile race between two continents and Mother Nature is baring her teeth and reminding the crews that she is in charge. Conditions have been testing and the teams are proving they have what it takes to race through them in the extreme sport of ocean racing.
A busy, action-filled 24 hours have seen the Scoring Gate points decided and the brutal conditions taking their toll on the boats with injuries to two crew members and steering gear breakage, Singapore coming out of Stealth Mode and New York going in.
While Singapore, Gold Coast Australia and Geraldton Western Australia opted to bypass the Scoring Gate altogether, De Lage Landen, Welcome to Yorkshire and Qingdao picked up three, two and one points respectively. The Dutch yacht was the first to cross just after midnight UTC, with the other two following at 0421 and 0449 – just 28 minutes apart after more than 1,000 miles of racing.
The bonus points give De Lage Landen, in particular, a well-earned boost, lifting the team from eighth to sixth place in the overall table.
They’ve suffered a setback since, though, with a breakage in their steering gear. Skipper, Stuart Jackson, reported to the Race Office, “The port turning block directly under the pedestal which guides the steering cable has sheared off.”
The team is working on a fix and hopes to be back up to racing speed as soon as possible. They will take inspiration from Singapore’s crew who, in the previous race after a similar setback, solved the problem and re-took their position at the head of the fleet by the end of the day.
The punishing conditions, as well as giving the crews an exhilarating ride, are also proving bruising for the teams. Tim Liverton, a round the world crew member on Singapore, sustained a cut to his head when a huge wave washed him down the cockpit of the yacht. Skipper, Ben Bowley, was helming at the time and describes the moment the wave struck.
“We were running with the wind roughly on the starboard beam with two reefs and the storm staysail off the forestay as a storm jib. The boat was nicely under control making between ten and eleven knots of boat speed in rather confused large swells. I saw one enormous wave with a large breaking crest approaching the boat at speed from dead abeam. I had just enough time to yell, ‘Hold on, massive wave coming!’ before it struck. Next thing I was swept clean off my feet, completely immersed in water with only the wheel in my hands to reassure me that I was still aboard.
“Having regained my position behind the helm and brought the yacht under control I could tell the cockpit was full of water to knee height. I yelled, ‘All OK, anyone hurt?’ to find that Tim, who had been sitting to windward of the companionway, had been swept down to the floor of the cockpit just forward of the main sheet traveller, where I believe he hit his head.”
Tim, a 34-year-old banker, has received treatment from on board medic and fellow round the world crew member, Will Parbury, with medical advice from Falmouth Coastguard in the UK. He has a cut on his head but is otherwise fine and, after some rest and TLC from the crew, is cracking jokes and asking to get back to the business of racing.
Ben continues, “The south Atlantic is really living up to its reputation as a wild part of the world to go sailing. We have had some pretty extreme weather with squalls passing over us, carrying winds in excess of 50 knots and some truly enormous waves. I was awoken this morning by being thrown out of my bunk as the boat broached during a sudden squall that peaked at 56 knots of wind.”
That’s not the highest speed seen. On board New York, which is currently in Stealth Mode, crew member Pat Coppolecchia, a lawyer from the Big Apple, notes, “Now we have winds generally over 30 knots, a deeply reefed main, waves which seem to climb to the first spreader on the mast and the occasional squall. During an earlier squall, one of the crew stared at the wind speed indicator and watched it go from 35 to 57 to 79 to 99.9, quickly returning to the high 30s. However, we continue to move the boat rapidly.”
On board Geraldton Western Australia, 49-year-old housewife, Hilly Bouteloup, who has signed up to race from Rio to the Gold Coast on the east coast of Australia, was thrown out of her bunk when the boat lurched up against a large swell and has suspected broken ribs. Fellow crew member, Jane Hitchens, a doctor, is looking after her on board.
The South African skipper of Geraldton Western Australia, Juan Coetzer, says he’s taking extra precautions in the gruelling conditions.
“It is cold outside and there is no point having the whole on watch getting mopped around the deck when we go crashing into swell. So, I have some of the on watch below on stand-by, making hot drinks. The helm gets rotated every 30 minutes and then swaps with someone below. The crew are working super hard to maximize boat speed and course so we can pass some boats before the Tristan de Cunha Islands.”
The teams are also reassessing how they stow things on board – anything loose goes flying when the boat lurches in the confused sea state. Perhaps teams should take note of the Derry-Londonderry skipper’s method of keeping a tidy saloon. Anything that is lying around for longer than five minutes ends up in the lost property box and is only returned on payment of a fine or completion of a forfeit. It’s amazing how quickly a couple of bilge-cleaning or head-repairing forfeits concentrate the mind!
Qingdao’s skipper, Ian Conchie, says, “The best way to describe life on the boat is, to quote Juan, ‘like life inside a washing machine’. The boat is jumping around as we pick up a surf and then a big wave comes along and the boat leans right over and anything not stowed properly goes flying. And this is down wind! It will get worse in a few days when we have to go upwind. Morale is still high if a little damp.”
Morale boosted, no doubt, by a bonus Scoring Gate point.
Despite the physical and mental effort required to race a 68-foot yacht in these conditions, the crews are revelling in the experience.
“What a ride!” exclaims Edinburgh Inspiring Capital skipper, Gordon Reid. “Described by Csaba, our Hungarian engineer, as ‘better than a bad encounter with a close friend’, that's the adrenaline rush we are all getting from driving the Purple Beastie on the edge of a full blown South Atlantic gale. On the surf we topped 23 knots and the competition is on to top the skipper. To be fair it was a monster wave and I managed to ride it all the way as well as holding on tight!
“The amount of pressure exerted by the near gale force and gale force winds is enormous and takes its toll on lines and sails, so we need to be very vigilant, exercising sheets and halyards to minimise chafe or heat spots. Even our best efforts are sometimes not enough; last night during a 46-knot gust our reefing pennant snapped. We all had to dig deep, get the boat under control, lower the main and re-attach the reefing line and, whilst we were doing that, a quick head-sail change and we were off again!
“Unfortunately a number of the crew including the skipper have been very ill for the past 48 hours. A very nasty bug is making everyone sick and even the skipper had to have a wee lie down for more than his customary three hours a day, but now we are all feeling better and getting on it again.
“As well as the rush from riding waves in gusts of up to 40 knots, every so often we get side swiped by less than friendly wave and BOOM, everything goes flying. We are revisiting our stowage plan and can't leave anything lying around otherwise it will fly. The race team on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital are holding on tight and, with huge grins all round, we are loving the ride.”
So, too, are the crew of Welcome to Yorkshire, according to skipper, Rupert Dean. “Feisty conditions all round as the South Atlantic flexes its muscles,” he reports. “What an awesome place, so carnal, wild and free! If experiencing nature in the raw is what the crew on Welcome to Yorkshire were looking for when they signed up, they've got it in spades!”
His words are echoed by Olly Osborne, skipper of Visit Finland, who says, “We have had some really exhilarating sailing over the last 24 hours with squally conditions overnight producing gusts of 45 knots or more across the deck. Everyone is double clipped on deck as the boat lurches violently in a beam sea, making our attempts at repairing our spinnaker below difficult to say the least!
“We passed below the Scoring Gate this morning having narrowly missed the third position, but we are making good speeds and our sights are now set on how to best tackle the weather for the coming week.”
Winds are forecast to come around from the south east in the next 36 hours and the teams will soon be racing into headwinds, which will make their task doubly difficult.
Furthest to the south and now leading Race 3, Gold Coast Australia’s skipper, Richard Hewson, reports, “The winds have backed towards the south earlier than I expected, bringing with it the coldest conditions we have seen since leaving the UK. Winds have generally eased slightly, though still require the use of a second reef in the mainsail which unfortunately means our pride and joy, the Boxing Kangaroo, is now tucked in a pouch with only his ears showing above the boom. One squall this morning at 50+ knots brought with it hail which stung our hands and faces like frozen needles as we eased sails and ran away with the massive gusts of wind.
“The changing wind direction has required us to change gears slightly and we are no long running with the wind and surfing big waves. Instead we are power reaching at speed. This brings a different angle to life on board as the boat heels over and walls of water fly down the deck as we punch through the big waves ahead, drenching the people on watch.
“Down below the crew can only appreciate the warmth of their sleeping bags and rest as they know it won’t be long until it is their turn to go on watch. The mood on board is surprisingly jovial and there is still the occasional whoop on deck as we surf down a confused sea and laughter and chatter below as the crew discuss the change in conditions and the ground we are making on the rest of the fleet.”
Mid fleet and just 29 miles behind the leader, Derry-Londonderry skipper, Mark Light describes the roller coaster ride of the South Atlantic where the conditions call for “extreme concentration on the helm and a lot of physical effort to keep the boat travelling in the right direction. Add to this many squalls bringing increased wind, torrential rain and sometimes thunder and lightning and you have a high octane adventure that is not for the faint-hearted!
“During a couple of squalls we had terrific wind and ended up flying down waves with the boom in the water and the deck covered in water and foam. Throughout the day we have gone through lots of different combinations of sail plans. The crew have worked tirelessly up on the foredeck as every single sail change takes planning, huge effort and lots of communication. These guys might well get cold, tired, wet and hungry but I'll bet right now that many of them wouldn't swap it for the world!”
Positions at 1200 UTC, Friday 16 September
1 Gold Coast Australia 2,154
2 Welcome to Yorkshire 2,158 (DTL* 4nm)
3 De Lage Landen 2,159 (+5nm)
4 Visit Finland 2,169 (+15nm)
5 Qingdao 2,177 (+23nm)
6 Derry-Londonderry 2,183 (+29nm)
7 Singapore 2,208 (+54nm)
8 Geraldton Western Australia 2,263 (+109nm)
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 2,266 (+113nm)
10 New York 2,358 (+204nm) Stealth Mode: position at 1902, 15 September
*DTF = Distance to Finish, DTL = Distance to Leader
Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com
27 September 2011
Cape Town, South Africa
Gold Coast Australia, one of the ten international teams competing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, have continued their winning streak by finishing first in the third stage of the 40,000-mile circumnavigation from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Cape Town, South Africa. It is the third individual race victory in a row for the crew, ‘people like you’, led by Tasmanian skipper, Richard Hewson.
The 68-foot yacht crossed the finish line in Table Bay against the magnificent backdrop of Table Mountain at 1256 local time (1056 UTC) today at the end of the 3,300-mile race across the South Atlantic. The team had led the fleet for the last eleven days and worked themselves into an unassailable position, which even their very slow progress in very light airs over the last two miles of the course could not damage. The victory has also consolidated their position at the top of the overall Clipper 11-12 leader-board.
Arriving in the V&A Waterfront, Richard was thrown overboard by his celebrating crew. The dripping but ecstatic skipper said, “Third time lucky – a fantastic race by all the crew. The finish was very challenging. We had light airs at the beginning and end and some really tough conditions in the middle, so the dunking and the finish really reflected the whole race, I think!”
“We had the Traffic Separation Scheme (shipping lanes) on one side and Table Mountain on the other side taking away our wind and we just sat there. We had been hoping to finish two hours earlier but without wind sailing boats don’t move!” continued Richard, whose uncle was on the quay to welcome him.
During the race, the second ocean crossing of the world’s longest yacht race, the crews faced mountainous seas and strong headwinds.
Townsville resident, Wayne Reed, a retired army officer who is taking on the whole circumnavigation, said, “We did have some severe conditions; we had number three reef in the main and number three Yankee up doing 20 knots on a broad reach which was quite exciting in ten to 12-metre seas. There was a bit of seasickness and we were very wet and cold but it was great. The team has really gelled. About halfway across the weather was getting people down but we chose to push through that and came up with a scheme which was to form the Gold Coast Choir and we decided we were going to learn a song on every race so that we can sing it when we come in to port.”
As they pulled up alongside the crew gave their own rendition of Africa by Toto.
“That was perfect today – you should have heard it four days ago!” joked Wayne, continuing, “I couldn’t describe the feeling any better than to say it’s euphoric. It was a great start, a great race and we’re absolutely ecstatic.”
Arriving in the V&A Waterfront, the crew were entertained by a traditional Cape Town minstrel group, the Ghoema Entertainers. The colourful troupe are regulars in Cape Town’s unique annual minstrel competition and have also played at the opening ceremonies of the cricket and rugby union World Cups.
During the stopover in Cape Town the teams will visit many of the attractions the city has to offer including taking the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, the beautiful botanic gardens at Stellenbosch and Cape Point which the teams will see from the ocean as they round the Cape of Good Hope in the next race to Geraldton in Western Australia.
Alongside the stopover a busy international trade programme is scheduled with many of the team sponsors, partners and official suppliers to the Clipper Race visiting Cape Town to forge partnerships with local businesses, generating international trade opportunities and developing cultural links.
Competition among the fleet is fierce and a battle royal is being waged between Visit Finland and De Lage Landen for second and third place. Both teams are expected to arrive at the V&A Waterfront tonight.
The rest of the ten strong fleet, including Derry-Londonderry, Singapore, Qingdao, Welcome to Yorkshire, New York, Geraldton Western Australia and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital are due to finish in the next few days and are all expected in Cape Town by the weekend.