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Back You are here: Home News Yacht Racing News CLIPPER 11-12 RACE 1: SOUTHAMPTON TO MADEIRA DAY 6

CLIPPER 11-12 RACE 1: SOUTHAMPTON TO MADEIRA DAY 6

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* Fleet braces for strong headwinds as they round Cape Finisterre
* Visit Finland maintains narrow lead
* Geraldton Western Australia and De Lage Landen in tacking duel

If you take a look at the race viewer on www.clipperroundtheworld.com you will see Edinburgh Inspiring Capital out to the north west of the rest of the fleet. Two days ago they missed the tidal gate rounding Ushant on the western tip of Brittany which separated them from the pack. In cases like this, following the pack is rarely going to bring a positive result so you might as well try something different. That is exactly what Gordon Reid and his crew on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital are doing - and it might just pay off for them.

Later this afternoon the next depression (area of low pressure) is due to hit Cape Finisterre and the whole fleet will experience strong headwinds as they round the north west tip of Spain. This is the kind of weather the Bay of Biscay is famed for.

Visit Finland's navigator, Tomi Lintonen, who is taking a break from his every day job as a research director to compete on Leg 1 of Clipper 11-12, reports this morning, "The Bay of Biscay showed its teeth again. Although the winds were generally in the 20 knot range the seas were rather uncomfortable and many in our crew were affected by motion sickness. The night saw the wind veering and becoming more moderate, almost dying in the early hours. All is looking well and everyone is keen on passing Cape Finisterre."

Winds of up to 25 knots will last for about 24 hours before dropping to between 10 and 15 knots and moving round to blow from the north. That wind shift will allow the yachts to make a more direct and fast route to Madeira.

Visit Finland is maintaining her narrow lead over the rest of the fleet - just one mile ahead of New York and seven ahead of Gold Coast Australia at the 0600UTC position report. But the weather is bringing its own frustrations for Richard Hewson, Gold Coast Australia's skipper.

"Becalmed again!" he told the Race Office this morning. "It seems this leg has a lot of wind holes in it! Once again we are becalmed in an area where there is generally a lot of wind... We were hoping to round Cape Finisterre shortly after midnight, as we flew south under heavy weight spinnaker and full mainsail.  Tactics seemed good and it looked like we were just going to be able to sail around the other boats. Everybody was very excited as we screamed downwind at over 10 knots.  Unfortunately the wind has now completely died and, after a succession of sail changes, Gold Coast Australia is left chasing clouds with false promises.  Even the darkest clouds that look like a massive front have little to offer.  Hopefully our westerly position will benefit us in the hours to come."

Derry-Londonderry's skipper, Mark Light, reports the wind had died away for his team as well. "We are rounding Cape Finisterre and the wind is veering to the north west and easing - good for the angle of living down below but not so good because we are very competitive upwind and have had a very good run through Biscay," he says.

"Life on board is good as everybody settles into the daily routines that have to be in place for a life at sea: bilge checks, deck checks, engine checks, checks for chafe, generator checks, constantly checking sail trim, water maker checks, always checking the race course and the positions of the rest of the fleet, etc.  And all this has to be done without forgetting the skipper's breakfast and coffee in bed at 0700! The last bit is wishful thinking but my crew would do it - they are fantastic and have put in so much effort. It all looks good for the rest of our campaign together - we have a very happy ship!"

Singapore is still maintaining the pressure on the leading trio. Hold on to your stomach while skipper, Ben Bowley, explains what it's like to cross the Bay of Biscay on board a bucking, 68-foot ocean racing yacht.

"The last 48 hours have been very challenging for the crew at this early stage of the race.  Keeping the boat driving hard to windward in steep chop and gusty wind is hard enough during the day but almost impossible when the night sky is as dark as the inside of a cow. The compass rose spins wildly as if possessed when the boat slams off the crest of every other wave and, with no stars or visual reference to steer to, there have been a few occasions where the boat has ended up heaving to (rapidly coming to a standstill), not fast!  With time and experience the crew will start to get a better feel for the boat and need fewer visual cues but for now about 20 minutes on the helm is all they can manage. 

"We seem to have made good progress against the rest of the fleet in the last couple of days, clawing our way up to third place for a while, and this is testament to how hard the crew have been working during the day to keep the boat perfectly on course and trimmed just right for the conditions. 

"Finally the big wind shift we have been waiting for arrived and we were able to head straight for Cape Finisterre, powering along under full sails at 11.5 knots on a beam reach for a while!"

A beam reach is where the yacht is travelling at right angles to the direction of the wind.

In addition to the difficulties the strong winds will bring, there are very busy shipping lanes rounding Cape Finisterre so Singapore and the rest of the pack will have to ensure they stay clear of cargo ships and other merchant vessels.

De Lage Landen, Welcome to Yorkshire and Geraldton Western Australia are locked in a three way battle for ascendency, as Mat Booth, skipper of De Lage Landen, explains.

"Yesterday was a hard day, beating into more than 30 knots it was difficult for some crew with sea sickness. Much of the day we were close tacking with Geraldton Western Australia and at around 1900 we both tacked together, under half a mile from each other and a tussle began!

"We opted for a sail change to our larger Yankee 1 from the 2. This was tough because the guys had only just put up the 2 from the 3! The tired crew pushed on and once the Number 1 was hoisted we had better boat speed than Geraldon Western Australia and managed to pass them.

"We're now becalmed in very frustrating conditions. The residual sea state is making it difficult to keep the sails filled. When we do we're not making the course we'd hoped. On deck they are working incredibly hard to keep our big blue boat moving."

De Lage Landen is having a few technical issues with the on board email system but the crew would like loved ones to know they are all well on board.

Mat's sentiments are echoed by those of Juan Coetzer, skipper of Geraldton Western Australia, who says, "The crew worked hard throughout the day changing head sails and reefing sails, trying to keep the boat at its optimum peak. We had been waiting for the wind to veer around to the west and eventually it did. When this happened the wind filled in and we made good progress towards our waypoint at Cape Finisterre. Most of the day was foggy with a light drizzle, making visibility tough at times. Early this morning the wind decided to go light, resulting in yet another sail change."

"Another 24 hours of frustration with the wind," says Qingdao's skipper, Ian Conchie. "Early this morning the predicted shift finally happened allowing us to bear away and for once sail directly towards the finish line. However this morning finds us struggling to keep the boat moving under the lightweight spinnaker. On the whole morale is good, people are finding their sea legs and we keep pushing on."

The frustration may well last slightly longer as the next weather system comes in. One thing is for sure - the next 24 hours are going to involve some uncomfortable conditions for all of the teams before the wind comes around and allows some downwind sailing to Madeira.

Positions at 0900 UTC, Friday 5 August

Boat                                        DTF*
1 Visit Finland            760nm
2 New York            762nm (+2nm DTL*)    
3 Gold Coast Australia        766nm (+6nm)
4 Derry-Londonderry        771nm (+11nm)
5 Singapore            777nm (+17nm)
6 De Lage Landen        789nm (+29nm)
7 Geraldton Western Australia    791nm (+31nm)
8 Welcome to Yorkshire        792nm (+32nm)
9 Qingdao            858nm (+98nm)
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital    902nm (+142nm)

*DTF = Distance to Finish, DTL = Distance to Leader
Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com.