Tail-end Charlie is currently Edinburgh, 544 nm behind the leader Gold Coast
RACE 2: MADEIRA TO RIO DE JANEIRO
* Gold Coast Australia, Singapore and Welcome to Yorkshire cross the Equator
* Frustrations grow as gap opens between leaders and chasing pack
* Aussies set sights on Ocean Sprint time trial
“It has been a momentous 24 hours, full of celebrations and memories that will last forever,” enthuses Gold Coast Australia’s skipper, Richard Hewson.
The leading trio of yachts have crossed the Equator and passed from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere, a major milestone for the non-professional crews on board and an important psychological one as their lead over the chasing pack continues to grow.
Richard continues, “Yesterday at midday saw us counting down the final northerly seconds and then cheering as the GPS ticked over from north to south and continued rising again. Gold Coast Australia was then visited by a very comical and well played King Neptune who demanded the crew’s identity and then cleansed them of their sins before allowing the motley crew into his kingdom.
“The party seemed to carry on into the afternoon, with people remaining on deck to chat, listen to music and eat the continuous supply of lollies and chocolate and drinking cans of soft drink that seemed to be appearing from various hiding spots around the boat.
“Morale on Gold Coast Australia has always been quite good, but after yesterday’s festivity there is a new buzz in the air. The excitement for racing that we had on day one is back and everybody feels refreshed. Crossing the line came at the perfect time for us and the fact that people were able to relax and enjoy the day has really made a difference to the feeling on board, like having a weekend between two busy weeks at work.
“Throughout the festivities I imagine we lost a bit of ground. As I look at the track from 1300 to 1600 yesterday it is a bit wonky and slow but I think that little investment will pay big dividends as the crew is ready for the next half of the leg to Rio.”
Maintaining that focus throughout a three and a half thousand mile race is tough. In no other sport do you find such extended durations where concentration is key.
On board second placed Singapore skipper, Ben Bowley, has been reinforcing that point after losing just three miles to third placed Welcome to Yorkshire.
“We called a morning crew meeting where I was able to give a little pep talk about the importance of keeping the focus, especially with regard to helming. The wind had been shifting around ten or 15 degrees back and forth throughout the day and therefore required constant monitoring of the three magic numbers: course over ground (COG), boat speed and apparent wind angle, to ensure that we were making the most of any lifts and getting good speed still in the headers.
“It’s often hard to remain focused on a long race when the last time you caught sight of your competitors was two weeks ago! For this reason we have a small laminated sheet that is just inside the companionway cuddy with ‘Boat Ahead’ and ‘Boat Behind’ mileages on it. There were a magic few moments this race when the ‘Boat Ahead’ box proudly stated ‘NONE’ and I think that has given everyone a real desire to get that there again. Some of the crew talk about how this race has brought out a competitive streak within them that they never knew existed.
“We had a couple of visitors on board last night in the form of King Neptune and Davy Jones. We made them as welcome as we could and thanked them with many offerings for allowing us to enter their realm as we passed from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere. Neptune himself seemed to have been spending a lot of time in Australia recently as he had picked up a fairly strong accent and could not refrain from swearing like a true sailor.”
Welcome to Yorkshire crossed the line just ahead of Singapore by virtue of their more southerly position but they’ve yet to have a visit from the King of the Oceans.
“Because it was getting dark King Neptune decided not to make an appearance at the crossing but has informed us he will do so today, which we are all looking forward to,” reports Rupert Dean, the skipper of the English boat. “We celebrated the occasion privately as a happy team, with good food and a tipple of plum gin, made exclusively for the occasion by the skipper at his home in Somerset.
“Due to the south east trades blowing more southerly than anticipated, we’ve been sailing a little more to windward of the rhumb line in comparison to Gold Coast Australia and Singapore. This is to put windward miles in the bank and to avoid ending up too close to the Brazilian coast where an adverse counter-current might be experienced. This tactic also enables us to cover better the yachts behind us and to the east which have freer reaching conditions.
“Our windward track explains the miles we have been losing to Gold Coast and Singapore recently. It’s a tactical decision and once we bear away a little, better speed should be restored.”
While we were studying the wind forecasts in the Race Office this week the first mutterings of ‘the rich are going to get richer’ were heard and the current situation perfectly illustrates how this prediction is playing out. The leading three boats were first to wriggle free of the Doldrums and get into a more favourable weather system while the other seven have been frustrated and pinned back by a wind direction that is not changing as forecast. Consequently the gap between leaders and chasers is growing. At 1800 yesterday there were 258 miles between first and fourth, at 0600 today that had grown to 304 and to 320 by 0900.
The frustration is evident in Ian Conchie’s report to the race office this morning.
“Another day spent slowly heading south west,” the Qingdao skipper says. “Despite what the weather files keep promising the wind refuses to back so we continue to make slow progress. This is more frustrating as the boats ahead of us are making good progress as they have cleared these light winds. The question still remains: what will the wind do?”
Juan Coetzer, skipper of Geraldton Western Australia, which had been in tenth place, says his team took their chance as soon as they saw it and have gained ground.
He says, “The wind swung around to the south early morning yesterday. This was our chance so we tacked. Our course is OK, but we are waiting for this wind to go south east. Once this happens we will be smiling. Over the last 24 hours we have improved one place – next, number eight.”
“The midnight position report brought us long waited news about our progress,” says Visit Finland’s navigator, Tomi Lintonen. “First, we had averaged 7.7 knots towards Rio. That is a huge relief compared to the situation 24 hours ago; at that time we were approaching our destination at the speed of 3.8 knots. Secondly, we had moved up one position on the list – something the crew have worked hard to achieve. We will do our best to please our large fan club during the coming 24 hours!”
The team is making good on its promise – by the 0900 position report they had moved up to sixth place.
With just 80 miles between fourth and eighth place there is every reason to put aside the frustrations and race hard towards the finish line in the hunt for the greater points tally, something that is recognised by De Lage Landen’s skipper, Mat Booth.
“My call for wind in yesterday’s update seems to have come through,” he says. “We’re still beating but in a fresh 20 knots which has made our progress towards our waypoint off Recife, Brazil, much better. The leading three look set for the home run but it’s never over, however 300+ nautical miles is hard to make back in a matched fleet. There are still points to make and it’s looking like an interesting race for the other half of the fleet.”
Derry-Londonderry is also in the middle of the chasing pack. Yesterday they were entertained by a pod of 40 or so dolphins who played with the boat for an hour, easing some of the frustration of watching the leaders draw further away.
“Still we wait for a change in wind direction to send us towards Rio – at the moment it is a choice between the Amazon on one tack and Namibia on the other. This doesn’t seem fair to have good steady winds but completely in the wrong direction at the same time as watching other boats ahead sail off in different breeze towards Rio,” explains skipper, Mark Light. “But then, if this Clipper Race was easy it quite simply wouldn’t exist, so onward we push until the wind decides to show us her hand.”
“Does the Equator really exist?” asks New York skipper, Gareth Glover.
“Over the past few days New York has been working her way south west towards the Equator. At the start of each watch we ask, ‘are we nearly there yet?’ but, alas, the same response keeps coming back. Un-forecast light winds have continued to slow our progress. Some amongst us are now doubting whether it truly exists. Do your ever reach the Equator or do you just ‘pop up’ at five degrees south at some point soon? I guess we will find out soon enough.
“The light winds have allowed other boats to gain on us and, as such, we are looking forward to the easterly trade winds which will finally allow us to get the kite up, secure our position and put a challenge into catching the leaders.”
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s crew are also putting their all into climbing up the leader board, riding every wind shift in a bid to gain ground on the boats up ahead.
“We are attempting to make the most of the squalls and the higher wind strengths they bring by riding around the edges of them and utilising the stronger winds, a strategy not for the faint of heart but one which has great results if you tuck your skirts in and hold your nerve. The crew are loving it but let the skipper do the driving to ensure we ride along the edge as close as we dare but not too close!” describes skipper, Gordon Reid.
“It was all going rather well until we drove straight into the middle of an enormous squall. The rain was torrential and eventually the wind switched off but we made the most of it by having deck showers en masse.”
There’s a silver lining to every cloud.
As well as the opportunity to move up the rankings for a greater number of points there is one more bonus point on offer for this race in the Ocean Sprint. This is a time trial between the latitudes of five and ten degrees south where the quickest yacht to cover the distance will be awarded one point.
“We’re going to do everything possible to ensure the nitrox is charged and the pedal is to the metal when we hit the magic five,” says Richard. “The crew are revived, the boat is dry (well, reasonably) and now it’s time for Gold Coast Australia to make some serious ground towards Rio.”
Positions at 0900 UTC, Wednesday 24 August
1 Gold Coast Australia 1,447nm
2 Singapore 1,491nm (+44nm DTL*)
3 Welcome to Yorkshire 1,513nm (+65nm)
4 New York 1,767nm (+320nm)
5 Qingdao 1,770nm (+323nm)
6 Visit Finland 1,836nm (+389nm)
7 Derry-Londonderry 1,841nm (+394nm)
8 De Lage Landen 1,853nm (+406nm)
9 Geraldton Western Australia 1,936nm (+489nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 1,991nm (+544nm)
*DTF = Distance to Finish, DTL = Distance to Leader
Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com.