Gold Coast Australia at the start of Race 5 from Geraldton, Western Australia to Tauranga, NZ, (Photo by Karl Monaghan/onEdition)

Gold Coast Australia at the start of Race 5 from Geraldton, Western Australia to Tauranga, NZ, (Photo by Karl Monaghan/onEdition)

With this morning’s confirmation of Gold Coast Australia’s eighth victory during the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, the battle for the final podium positions for Race 10, from Oakland to Panama.

“I am ecstatic with my crew’s performance in light fickle winds and extreme heat,” reveals Gold Coast Australia skipper, Richard Hewson, after his team crossed the finish line at 0844 UTC.

 “Gold Coast Australia sailed like true professionals over the past few days making the most of wind shifts and squeezing every drop of speed that Gold Coast Australia had to offer.

“I would like to congratulate the other yachts on their performance in such challenging conditions. The last few hours of the race dolphins guided us towards the finish line as we left a long trail of phosphorescence in our wake making it a near perfect finish,” continues Richard.
 
On Saturday, the Race Committee sent every skipper of the ten-strong fleet revised instructions for Race 10 which contained an anticipated shortening to the course.

“The Clipper Race Committee, chaired by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, shortened the course for Race 10 by selecting one of the pre-existing gates within the Course Instructions as the new finish line,” explains Race Director Joff Bailey.

“This line is perpendicular to the route and is long enough so that it does not adversely affect any team tactics.
 
“The Race Committee has taken this decision after it was advised by the Panama Canal Authorities that there would be shutdown period on the Panama Canal locks over the coming weeks and the lighter than expected wind strengths on this section of the race and the need to maintain the overall race schedule.”

Further to Saturday’s developments and after careful assessment of each team’s position the Race Committee decided yesterday (Monday) evening to finish the back markers of the fleet; Derry-Londonderry, Geraldton Western Australia, Singapore, New York, Qingdao and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, using one of the earlier mandatory gates.

Derry-Londonderry beat Geraldton Western Australia to fifth place with just four minutes separating the two teams, while seventh and eighth place were secured by Singapore and New York respectively with Qingdao grabbing ninth place ahead of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital.

With Gold Coast Australia claiming victory the race for the final remaining positions of Race 10 are still up for grabs as Welcome to Yorkshire, De Lage Landen and Visit Finland continue to battle it out.
 
“We’re very excited about coming up to the finish line,” reports De Lage Landen, skipper Stuart Jackson.

“We have enjoyed the enthralling cat and mouse race we have been having with Visit Finland, Welcome to Yorkshire and Gold Coast Australia. Our thoughts will soon be turning to Panama and transiting the canal, a first for all on board.  In the meantime the final push is on to make sure our position is maintained for the next few hours.”

Hoping to come out on top in the final drag race to the line is Welcome to Yorkshire’s skipper, Rupert Dean.

“The suspense is palpable as Welcome to Yorkshire approaches the finish line. With just three yachts left in the race, precious little separation exists between De Lage Landen, Visit Finland and Welcome to Yorkshire.
 
“At the 0000 UTC report, Welcome to Yorkshire had taken third position from Visit Finland, by virtue of the stronger winds found in her southerly position. Can she do the same to De Lage Landen?”

After securing seventh place, Singapore skipper, Ben Bowley, is more than pleased with his crew’s performance.

“We had excellent breeze throughout the night which was a welcome respite from the windless day we’d endured yesterday. We made good progress thanks to this, and accurate trimming and helming, with the crew maintaining its focus throughout.
 
“Spirits rose considerably when we discovered that we were sixth after the other yachts (apart from
Welcome to Yorkshire) came out of Stealth Mode, and the sight of New York astern of us was a real boost to morale,” continues Ben.

“Both watches redoubled their efforts and gradually we watched New York recede into the horizon. 

“The email from the Race Office announcing that we had finished, and that we were seventh, was greeted with jubilation when it came in – and not a moment too soon as the wind almost as if on cue dropped away.
 
“After our time in tenth place and the struggles we had with the heat and windless conditions we are all pretty pleased to have kept going and got into seventh, and feel rewarded for our efforts.”
 
Gareth Glover, skipper of New York, was hoping to reduce the gap between his team and their Singapore rivals but had to settle with equalling their points haul for Race 10.

“After winning the Ocean Sprint we will come out of this race on the same points as Singapore, which will help on the overall standings. We now don’t need eight people for each watch and have put in a three watch system whist we are motoring and the next five days to Panama will be filled with maintenance and cleaning.
 
“After ourselves and Singapore went further north to pick up more wind we managed to overtake Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and Qingdao, but we were unable to hold off Singapore in the last six hours and in the night they just got a little more wind and crossed the line less than a few hours after 15 days of racing.

It was a photo finish in the battle for fifth place as Derry-Londonderry crossed the finish line just four minutes ahead of Geraldton Western Australia.

“A very good result, bearing in mind that we had slipped way back to tenth (from second) and fought our way back up in light and fluky wind conditions!” explains Mark Light, skipper of Derry-Londonderry.
 
“Now our concentration is switched to getting our boat safely and efficiently into Panama all ready for our transit thro the canal from the Pacific Ocean and into the Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean)…yet another milestone!”

After a furious fight to the line Geraldton Western Australia, skippered by Juan Coetzer, had to settle for sixth place after a valiant fight with the Northern Ireland entry.

“After a slow days sailing and a beautiful sunset, the wind disappeared again. We sat stationary with our sails just flapping from side to side,” reports Juan.
 
“We even got the wind seeker out. Eventually some breeze filled in and we got ready to hoist a kite. ‘Ready on the bow, Ready at mast, Ready on sheets- Hoist away…..Aah that looks like the heavyweight… oops.’”
 
“So down came the heavyweight and up went the lightweight kite. Soon enough we were gliding through the water again. The race was shortened today and we reckon it may have been a photo finish; we were about 70 miles south of Derry-Londonderry.
 
“So engine checks were done, sails lowered and then we notice a bird sitting on the mast light. So Ian Geraghty was sent up to scare the bird away. This bird had some attitude and would not budge, but after some encouraging words, it flew away.”

The first teams are expected to reach Panama later this week where they will await their slot to pass through the canal before commencing Race 11 to New York.

 Positions at 1200 UTC, Tuesday 1 May 2012
 
Boat                      
1 Gold Coast Australia                    Finished
2 Welcome to Yorkshire                   Racing
3 De Lage Landen                             Racing
4 Visit Finland                                    Racing
5 Derry-Londonderry                     Finished
6 Geraldton Western Australia   Finished
7 Singapore                                        Finished
8 New York                                         Finished
9 Qingdao                                            Finished
10 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital     Finished

 

Gold Coast Australia at the start of Race 5 from Geraldton, Western Australia to Tauranga, NZ, (Photo by Karl Monaghan/onEdition)

Gold Coast Australia at the start of Race 5 from Geraldton, Western Australia to Tauranga, NZ, (Photo by Karl Monaghan/onEdition)

 
 
After a gruelling 6,000 miles at sea crossing the world’s largest ocean, victorious Gold Coast Australia was the first yacht in the ten-strong fleet to sail across the finish line under the Golden Gate Bridge and into Jack London Square, Oakland, at the end of the toughest leg yet of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.
 
As they crossed the finish line at 0216 UTC this morning, the heavy fog lifted and it was an emotional sight for the crew of the Australian entry, securing their seventh win from nine races. Arriving in Jack London Square, Tasmanian skipper, Richard Hewson, said, “What a proud moment. We won the race across the North Pacific Ocean, the roughest sea in the world.
 
“What a relief to get here. It’s been a really tough race and I’m really proud of my guys, they’ve worked so hard. We’ve had a lot of people that got injured and five of the crew especially worked hard to keep the crew motivated and keep the boat performing. To get in here in first place, despite what happened, and have such a good lead over to Singapore is just fantastic. To get here safely after 27 days of storms is just amazing.”
 
Singapore is expected to arrive in Oakland on Saturday morning local time and with less than 50 miles separating them from the finish line, the team reflect on how far they have come on their North Pacific adventure.
 
Skipper, Ben Bowley, says, “This is likely to be my last report for a couple of weeks as at this rate we shall be passing under the Golden Gate Bridge whilst enjoying a hearty scrambled eggs breakfast at around 0700 local time!
 
“We had our race debrief at our 1700 meeting today and reflected on what has been a truly epic race and, for all of us, the hardest challenge we have faced to date. Sighting land in the next few hours will see many people, myself included, realise a dream that formed many years ago when first looking at a chart of the Pacific and wondering what it would be like traverse the world’s largest body of water. The harsh reality of this leg has truly lived up to its reputation and I for one shall not want to be returning to this part of the world (well, not in winter anyway) for quite some time!
 
“I have been continually impressed with my small crew’s relentless, dogged determination to just grunt up and get the job done. I thank them for making my job all that much easier to bear this leg by being consistently willing to pit themselves against Mother Nature in her foulest of moods; this has enabled us to acquire and maintain a fantastic race position which should set us up well for the remaining few races.”
 
With a message for those thinking of taking on the challenge of a lifetime in a future edition of the Clipper Race, Ben adds, “To those who are considering this leg I say you have been warned, it’s a tough one, but the sense of achievement felt at the end is quite unlike any I have experienced before.
 
“Watch out Oakland, there are some thirsty sailors heading your way!”
 
A margin of just 30 miles separates New York and Derry-Londonderry in terms of distance to finish, and New York skipper Gareth Glover reports that the American entry is determined to hold off the opposition.
 
“After a quiet night with winds around 20 knots from the south west  this afternoon we could see the front as it came over us and the wind built from the south, giving us around 25 to 30 knots. We went from a beam reach to close reach/haul and, with around 150 miles to go, the Pacific Ocean is making us work every mile to San Francisco Bay and the end of this leg.
 
“We now have Singapore in our sights and we are hoping that they will have to beat into San Francisco Bay from the north giving us the time to catch them up and hold off Derry-Londonderry. As always there is still all to play for.”
 
In preparation for their impending arrival Gareth adds, “Today the two watches started to get ready for our arrival by doing a stock take of any food we have left and going over our quarantine checks for our arrival.”
 
In contrast to yesterday’s mood, Derry-Londonderry’s crew are resigned to their position within the fleet as Mark Light reports.
 
“We are racing in, currently placed in a very respectable fourth position. There is a decent gap between New York and our nearest rivals behind, Welcome to Yorkshire, so barring any mishaps we are in a comfortable position. We are no longer racing in too close proximity to other Clipper 68s but we have a slightly different race on our hands against Mother Nature.
 
“A fairly deep low is charging up behind us and bringing with it sustained winds of 50 to 60 knots true. At our current speeds of ten to eleven knots we have enough pace to get ourselves safely into San Francisco Bay before the really severe stuff hits, and it will hit very hard indeed! The wind is building steadily out here but, unfortunately, at the moment it is forward of the beam making conditions far from comfortable. We should escape the worst of it but I do feel for the guys behind us, knowing that they will have to endure a few more hours battling the conditions than us.”
 
He concludes, “It has been an epic adventure with very strong winds for the majority of the passage but the north Pacific Ocean has been fairly kind to us overall. I just hope that this trend continues right to the finish line!”
 
As the remaining yachts in the fleet close in on San Francisco Bay, the North Pacific has thrown one last punch at the teams as strong winds from the predicted low pressure system strike.
 
“It’s a full on world on Welcome to Yorkshire at the moment,” reports skipper, Rupert Dean. “After being becalmed at times last night and this morning, tacking and gybing for a pastime, to keep the ‘Pink Lady’ pointing in the right direction, the predicted winds arrived with a bang.
 
“Having seen the GRIBS and being warned by fleet meteorologist, Simon Rowell, about the ferocity of this nasty, fast moving low, we didn’t hang about on reducing sail once angry clouds were seen on the horizon. From full main, Yankee 2 and staysail, we went straight to two reefs, staysail and Yankee 3. Since then we have reduced sail further, exchanging the Yankee 3 for our venerable storm jib. Just as well, too, for the wind has been coming from the south, on our beam, at over 40 knots true, bringing boiling, confused seas to match.
 
“Needless to say the team have been working very hard these past 24 hours, knuckling down to these numerous sail changes and evolutions with renewed determination as the finish to Race 9 draws near. With the distance between many of the boats in this part of the fleet so small at this late stage of the race, it will be a very close battle as we approach the Golden Gate Bridge. Extra spice is added when considering three of our closest rivals, Qingdao, De Lage Landen and Visit Finland, have been in Stealth Mode recently, so we don’t know exactly where they’ll pop up.
 
“Whatever our result and those of our competitors, all the crews should be immensely proud of what they have achieved so far in this cold, hard, wet, rough and epic race. That certainly should be the case on Welcome to Yorkshire where I am justifiably very proud of them all.
 
“Just one more push to the end please!” he asks.
 
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is also battling against the powerful winds and building sea state.
 
Skipper Gordon Reid explains, “After around 15 hours of light and frustrating winds yesterday, when the wind speed went up and down from four knots to 12 knots, backed and veered 40 degrees at a time and taxed the helm no end, we altered sail plans and trimmed non-stop just to keep the ‘Purple Beastie’ moving.
 
“Now the Pacific Ocean is refusing to let us go without one last gale and what a storm it has become. The Barometer dropped eight millibars in under six hours and we are now fully reefed with the storm jib and staysail in a constant 38 knots of apparent wind. We have seen regular gusts of over 50 knots and the sea is a boiling mass of pure raw fury. There are breaking waves coming from all directions with white foaming spray spinning off the tops. It’s very close to being the strongest gale of the entire relentless, crazy, full on race across the Pacific Ocean.
 
“One minute happily sailing along with a full main sail, Yankee 2 and staysail on a fast beam reach at 12 knots, the next minute I was on the helm as the wind gusted up to 40 knots, we were picked up by a wave the size of a two-storey house and surged east at 20 plus knots, looking almost vertically down the front of the wave towards a mass of foaming sea rushing over the bow and along the deck.”
 
Gordon adds, “Within 40 minutes we were fully reefed and went straight to the storm jib, the speed and sheer ferocity of this latest low is truly awe inspiring, out here Mother Nature rules and we are just passing through on our great adventure.”
 
In the dash towards the finish line four teams have played their Stealth Mode cards in a last bid attempt to climb the leader board. In Race 9 the teams are able to use two periods of Stealth Mode, either combining them to make a period of 48 hours, or using them separately at any time of the race.
 
Using this tactic so late on in the race whilst managing the variable conditions as the Californian coast and the Golden Gate Bridge appear over the horizon, has created a climax of intrigue as to which teams will gain the upper hand over their competitors.
 
Qingdao emerged from their second course of Stealth Mode in this race at 1200 UTC today and hoping their tactic will pay off, skipper Ian Conchie reports, “Our cat and mouse game with Welcome to Yorkshire continues. Yesterday we managed to pull ahead a little bit but then in the night we both lost the wind but Welcome to Yorkshire managed to get out of it ahead of us.
 
“It is now a drag race to the finish, but we still don’t know where De Lage Landen is either so it will be interesting over the next 24 hours.
 
“The weather system we have been expecting arrived very quickly. It was almost the case that as fast as we did a sail change, we had to start the next as the wind built. Now it is the final push to San Francisco Bay to settle the final positions.”
 
Geraldton Western Australia is also flying under the cloak of invisibility. The Australian entry entered Stealth Mode at 0600 UTC today and will emerge in 48 hours’ time, or when they are within 100 miles of the finish line.
 
On board skipper, Juan Coetzer, reports on the testing weather conditions, saying, “The wind has been pretty strange today, swinging around 150 degrees. “We had a poled out Yankee 2 on a starboard tack, heading 090, and landed up close reaching on a port tack. We could see this on the GRIB files and came to the conclusion that when the wind swings again, we’ll drop the Yankee 2 and go for storm staysail. The crew have been sailing the boat well, in these trying conditions.”
 
Commenting on the forecast for the next 24 hours, Juan adds, “It shall be an overcast morning, becoming sunny for a time with scattered showers, and a strong possibility of hail later. The wind shall range from 20 knots to 50 knots. Happy days, Geraldton Western Australia!”
 
Visit Finland will emerge from 48 hours in Stealth Mode at 1150 UTC today and skipper, Olly Osbourne, remains positive as they push on towards the finish line.
 
“It would seem that the mighty Pacific has one last trick up its sleeve as we face the final battle through gale force winds. This seems to be nothing we are not used to however, and the breeze filling back in this morning was a welcome change after a slow night of light airs. We had our heavyweight spinnaker up for some time hunting for a puff of wind to get us going, and then a couple of hours later the storm jib was going up!”
 
Olly adds, “As ever a very mixed bag, although the forecast looks promising for a solid run in from here.”
 
De Lage Landen will also emerging from 48 hours in Stealth Mode today are the crew are anxious to see how they have fared within the fleet after sailing under reduced canvas because of sail damage.
 
Skipper Stuart Jackson, explains, “After having suffered considerable damage to the mainsail 36 hours ago, we have started to make some considerable progress towards the finish line again.
 
“Due to existing damage to the mainsail track, we had lost the top four sliders that attach the sail to the mast. This meant that there was no possibility to increase or reduce any more sail without taking any more risk on serious damage.
 
“Sailing well underpowered for 12 to 18 hours, we had to wait until the conditions were calm enough to drop the whole sail to the deck and repair the damage we had sustained. In the midst of the night the wind had eased off enough in order to undertake the necessary repairs.”
 
Stuart adds, “By the break of day we were finally racing again, destination Oakland, San Francisco Bay.”
 
Singapore is expected to cross the finish line mid-morning local time today (mid-afternoon UTC), with the chasing boats arriving across the weekend and into next week. They will be berthed in Jack London Square, Oakland. Watch out for updated ETAs which will be posted on the official race website and you can follow the teams’ progress on Facebook and Twitter. They will be hosted by the 2012 Strictly Sail Pacific boat show.
 
ENDS
 
Positions at 1200 UTC, Saturday 31 March 2012
 
Boat                                                       DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia                    Finished 0316 local time 30 March
2 Singapore                                        36nm (+36nm DTL**)
3 New York                                         87nm (+87nm)
4 Derry-Londonderry                     115nm (+115nm)
5 Welcome to Yorkshire                                200nm (+200nm)
6 Qingdao                                            212nm (+212nm)
7 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital       299nm (+299nm)
8 Visit Finland                                    303nm (+303nm)
9 Geraldton Western Australia   480nm (+480nm) Stealth Mode: position at 0600 UTC 31 March
10 De Lage Landen                          633nm (+531nm) Stealth Mode: position at 1800 UTC 29 March
 
*DTF = Distance to Finish, **DTL = Distance to Leader
Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com.

Gold Coast Australia Crew (Photo by onEdition)

Gold Coast Australia Crew (Photo by onEdition)

Gold Coast Australia, one of the ten 68-foot yachts competing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, has diverted to Taiwan to evacuate a crew member who broke his leg in the gruelling conditions the amateur teams are currently enduring in the race from Singapore to Qingdao, China.

The high winds and heavy seas with waves of up to four metres made it impossible for the search and rescue helicopter and Taiwanese Coast Guard vessel dispatched to the scene to transfer the casualty from the yacht.

Round the world crew member, Tim Burgess, 31, from Petersham, NSW, Australia, was on the foredeck changing a headsail when broke his left leg above the knee.

 

Tim Burgess and Dan Oliver (Photo by Kit de Guymer)

Tim Burgess and Dan Oliver (Photo by Kit de Guymer)

Dutch entry, De Lage Landen, which was just eight miles from Gold Coast Australia when the incident happened, diverted to assist as they have two doctors among their international crew. The Race Office asked them to stay with the Australian yacht while plans for the medevac were put in place but they have now been released to resume racing.

As a precaution, Gold Coast Australia’s skipper, Richard Hewson, decided to evacuate a second round the world crew member, Nick Woodward, 55, from Birmingham, UK, after he sustained a head injury when he was thrown across the crew accommodation in the rough seas.

Nick Woodward

Nick Woodward

Both are now on their way to hospital, Tim and Nick’s families have been informed and the rest of the crew are safe.

The Race Director would like to thank the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres in Falmouth, UK, and Taiwan for their assistance.

 

Gold Coast Australia at the start of Race 5 from Geraldton, Western Australia to Tauranga, NZ, (Photo by Karl Monaghan/onEdition)

Gold Coast Australia at the start of Race 5 from Geraldton, Western Australia to Tauranga, NZ, (Photo by Karl Monaghan/onEdition)

 

Gold Coast Australia Leaving Cape Town (Photo by Bruce Sutherland/onEdition)

Gold Coast Australia Leaving Cape Town (Photo by Bruce Sutherland/onEdition)

It’s a day of reflection and celebration for the ten-strong fleet of
ocean racing yachts taking part in the Clipper 11-12 Race as the
skippers and crew members look back on a year which has seen them race
half way around the world.

“The race so far has been full of emotional highs and a great sense of
achievement,” reveals Geraldton Western Australia skipper, Juan Coetzer.

“The crew have all had time to reflect on how far they have come since
they started their training back in Gosport, UK, were the Clipper Race
HQ is based,” continues Juan, with his team currently sitting second
behind rivals Gold Coast Australia.

“We have just past our virtual mark and currently the wind has decided
to be kind and give us a massive lift to the next virtual mark of New
Ireland. We came across our first fishing vessel today, and sadly there
were two whales hanging around in the area.”

Meanwhile on board Australian rivals Gold Coast Australia, skipper
Richard Hewson reports perfect sailing conditions to conclude a year
which has seen his team claim five wins out of a possible six.

“It has been almost like a dream run and I have been saying to all on
board how lucky we are to have this wind as we sail up through the
Solomon Sea,” explains Richard.

“The area we are sailing through is so beautiful sometimes you need to
close your eyes and remember where you are, however you can be quickly
reminded as the wind shuts down completely and the familiar crack crack,
crack crack of the main flapping across the boat in zero knots of wind
and the random swell.”

Crew members across the fleet are being faced with stifling conditions
as they close in on the Equator with dehydration becoming a constant
danger.

“Today at midday, being New Years Eve we had planned to have champagne,
but it was so hot this has been postponed until later in the evening
when it cools down.”

The champagne sailing conditions were also short lived as the Australian
team today saw their boat speed fall to zero knots.

“During the calm conditions we have also made a wind scoop for the front
hatch to try to funnel what wind we can down into the ghetto. This
scoop will probably come in very handy for the remainder of the race in
the north east trade winds once we reach them.”

Also attempting to make best of the current scorching conditions is
Singapore’s skipper, Ben Bowley.

“It is not just the heat that is sapping our strength but also the
humidity. I did not think it was possible for the human body to sweat so
much!” explains Ben.

“Even our two Singaporeans (for whom you would think this climate was
vaguely acceptable) are suffering. Relief comes in the form of squally
downpours shortly after dark. Be aware though, if you are going to dive
below and lather up in shampoo and shower gel mid tropical shower, you
need to be sure there is enough rain left to rinse it out again when you
return on deck.”
Every knot of boat speed becomes of vital importance during light
conditions as Singapore continue their battle with Qingdao.

“We are making our way slowly north via a series of tacks, trying to
ensure that we are always on the making tack. Qingdao have once again
been our sparring partners and a good pace guide to let us know when our
performance is wavering. Occasionally the wind gets up to a more
sensible ten knots of true and our big red bus gets moving nicely; but
mostly we have to be content with ghosting along hoping that the rest of
the fleet is in the same predicament. It seems that the Solomon Sea is
not keen to let us go!”

Just 84miles separates the ten ocean racing yachts as they continue
north for the way point of New Ireland.

“With only a couple of hours away from New Year, the crew are getting
very excited in expectation of the Big Party,” reports Stuart Jackson,
skipper of De Lage Landen.

“Every once in a while we must take some time to celebrate what we have
achieved so far. For half the crew we are going to celebrate the last
five months of this year, since they’ve been gone from home and raced
halfway around the globe. Also I would like to take some time to thank
every one of them for the enormous effort that has been put in this
challenge so far.

“What a beautiful place and a great bunch to celebrate New Year with
signing off with the last blog of the year.”

With over 3,400 miles still to go, Race 7 is still anyone’s to play for,
with Welcome to Yorkshire’s skipper, Rupert Dean, hoping recent
conditions are a sign of things to come.

“Finally we’re moving again! After 24 hours of long calms, interspersed
with intense squalls, Welcome to Yorkshire is on her way.

“Sailing in these Doldrum like conditions has been quite a challenge. It
truly has been an all or nothing scenario. From keeping our yacht moving
in the lightest of zephyrs under windseeker, to deep reefing the main
and beating with staysail alone, constant evolutions and attention to
trim have been required,” explains Rupert.

“Navigationally it has been a challenge too, with 90 degree wind shifts
requiring numerous tacks, in order to remain on the one with the best
VMG.

“The crew are working hard and all are looking forward to welcoming the
New Year in tonight,” signs off the Yorkshire entry’s skipper.

“A Happy New Year to all from the crew on New York,” says Gareth Glover,
skipper of the Big Apple entry.

“This New Years the crew of New York will be working hard on trying to
pull in some miles on the leading yachts and put some to the others and
working every point of a knot upwind. Life on a race yacht is nonstop
even on New Year’s Eve.

“As the fleet are tacking towards our next way point at New Ireland
which is still over 350 nautical miles away we were able to pull in some
miles on the Singapore and Qingdao to a point when we were able to chat
on the VHF,” continues Gareth, with his team sitting in seventh place.

“During the night there was a big patch of wind then no wind so if you
were lucky you would sail in 20 knots for 30 minutes and then no wind
until the next clouds came over so it was on and off all night.”

Ahead of New York by just three miles is Derry-Londonderry, whose
skipper, Mark Light, summed up the race to Singapore so far.

“Heat, thunder, lightning, squalls, torrential rain, fierce gusts, poor
visibility, tropical cyclones, unfamiliar waters, lots of reefing, all
in contrast to blue skies, lots of sunshine, calms, reefs, islands,
fishing boats and flat seas!”

Currently nine miles behind fifth placed Visit Finland, the Northern
Ireland entry will hope to make gains on the Finns during the New Year
period.

“As you may appreciate we are experiencing a bit of everything and lots
of certain things – notably rain!

“Conditions are stifling down below decks and when it is not raining we
have the hatches open wherever possible just to make the temperature
slightly bearable inside!” says Mark.

“Unfortunately for us, we sailed through a large squall last night all
very prepared, knowing what to expect but afterwards didn’t quite expect
the wind to desert us while all other boats in our vicinity managed
after a short while to sail slowly away as we sat there helpless! Let’s
hope our luck will change in 2012!” signs off Mark.

“What a year it has been” reveals Gordon Reid, skipper of Edinburgh
Inspiring Capital.

“For me the entire year has been spent preparing and training crews for
the race. Being appointed skipper of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital in this
fantastic adventure racing around the world is definitely one of my
highlights; surfing monster waves in the beautiful, wild and furious
Southern Ocean another highlight.

“The sailing conditions have been fairly variable from very light winds
to howling squalls, thunder and lightning and heavy rain bouncing off
the decks, numerous head-sail changes all the way from Yankee number 1
to wind-seeker and back and constant reefs in and out of the mainsail,”
explains Gordon.

“We are still racing hard and our efforts seem to be paying out as we
continue to close on most of the other yachts.”

ENDS

Positions at 0900 UTC, Saturday 31 December

Boat DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia 3420nm
2 Geraldton Western Australia 3423nm (+3nm)
3 Qingdao 3443nm (+23nm)
4 Singapore 3443nm (+24nm)
5 Visit Finland 3464nm (+44nm)
6 Derry-Londonderry 3467nm (+47nm)
7 New York 3469nm (+49nm)
8 De Lage Landen 3480nm (+60nm)
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 3490nm (+70nm)
10 Welcome to Yorkshire 3495nm (+75nm)

 

Gold Coast Australia Leaving Cape Town (Photo by Bruce Sutherland/onEdition)

The teams are enjoying a welcome respite from the ferocious weather of the past few days as they commence the charge to the Scoring Gate.

At the front of the fleet Gold Coast Australia is maintaining a comfortable lead in the calmer conditions. Richard Hewson and his team are heading slightly north to make the southern end of the Scoring Gate.

 “Life on Gold Coast Australia is a little less extreme now the winds have abated and we are heading north. Whilst conditions remain a chilly 7 degrees Celsius outside during the day and below 5 degrees at night, the wind has reduced and the ocean is no longer boiling with white caps,” Richard said

Richard reports that Gold Coast Australia passed 34 miles to the north of lle aux Cochons (Pig Island) and later today will pass to the north of other islands in Crozet group en route to the southern end of the Scoring Gate. “This is the closest we will be to land for almost half a month before we land in Geraldton,” Richard said.

Gold Coast Australia is now just 170 miles from the Scoring Gate for Race 4 and Richard will have his sights set on bagging the maximum three points on offer. The first, second and third teams to cross the line between 40 degrees south and 55 east and 45 south 55 east will be awarded three, two and one points respectively. Richard was back up the mast yesterday trying to remove the remnants of their badly damaged heavyweight spinnaker and checking the rigging following their monster wrap.

 “When I was up the mast I took a few minutes to observe the fantastic beauty of the surrounding ocean. It is possibly one of the most amazing feelings in the world perched above the albatross and petrel with the boiling white seas of the Southern Ocean below. I took in the amazing expanse of beauty that surrounds us for thousands of miles in a land where in the past only sealers and whalers dared to travel,” he said. After experiencing the full force of Mother Nature in the Southern Ocean over recent days, the teams will be studying the weather closely to ensure they are prepared for the next onslaught.

 To help them navigate and stay safe in the notorious Southern Ocean, the skippers receive a daily weather update from meteorologist Simon Rowell, who skippered Jersey Clipper to victory in Clipper 2002. Simon has been commissioned to provide the skippers with forecasts, and he does this by analysing observations relayed back from the fleet and creating local charts from data available from the US National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) Global Forecast System (GFS) model.

 “The next depression seems to be going south of the fleet, but the skippers will need to be careful of the front as it’s looking sharper than the GRIB files suggest, and the amount of precipitation on the 48 hour forecast indicates lots of squalls and therefore gusts,” Simon said. “Before the cold front goes over, the winds will be coming in a northerly direction from the tropics, so it may give the teams poor visibility over the cold sea,” Simon warns. New York has regained second place from De Lage Landen as they charge for the Scoring Gate, and skipper Gareth Glover is feeling upbeat. “The repairs following yesterday’s damage have begun, the tunes are playing, the sun is almost shining, the bread smells amazing and cups of tea are flowing. The news of our second place has boosted morale even higher and it’s not far to the gate, so who knows,” Gareth said. “In the last 24 hours the winds have been pretty fraught, increasing to over to 20 knots overnight. Despite the cold and wet conditions morale stayed high throughout the night as we surfed the waves and covered some good mileage,” he added.

On De Lage Landen, Stuart Jackson and his team are also enjoying a reprieve from recent conditions despite persistent cold. “There’s more frozen rain coming with the clouds down here, so things haven’t decided to warm up yet. Although now the low has passed conditions have improved greatly with the wind down to around 20 knots on the beam,” Stuart said. “We still have a rather sloppy sea state from the swell of the low that passed through and it looks like conditions should stay pretty much like this for the next few days,” he added.

Rupert Dean, skipper of Welcome to Yorkshire, said his team has slipped back into fifth overnight due to what he describes as “a poor decision” to run bare-headed after tearing their Yankee 3 headsail. “Normally we’d have changed for another sail whilst we repaired the Yankee 3 and then re-hoist. Due to the strong gusty conditions, however, I felt the Yankee 2 would be too big a substitute, so elected to carry on running just with a deep-reefed main. The result was that we sailed with vastly reduced speed, handing back hard won miles to Qingdao and the rest of the fleet,” Rupert said. “With 20:20 hindsight, I should have got the crew to rig the storm jib as a suitable alternative to the Yankee 3 whilst it was being repaired. Why I didn’t do this I don’t know, so I’m pretty cross with myself right now,” he said. “This could be due to a general lack of sleep, as sailing downwind in this rough remote part of the world requires relentless concentration to look after the boat and crew whilst gunning for competitive speed,” he added.

 Qingdao was the boat to benefit from Welcome to Yorkshire’s stint without a headsail but has since slipped back into fifth, albeit by only a mile. Despite sailing in one of the most remote places on the planet, Ian Conchie and his crew have been within VHF range of  Welcome to Yorkshire and a fishing boat. “Just when you think you are the only boat for miles you are proved wrong,” Ian said, adding that he called fellow skipper Rupert Dean for a catch up and spoke to the fishing vessel to ensure they were not trawling large nets. “You have to be careful with fishing vessels this far out, as the large commercial nets they carry can stretch for miles. After a quick chat on the VHF we established through the Asian crew’s broken English that they were using long lines which do not pose a problem to us,” he said.

Ian said he was later called on deck for a large ship of the port side that was not showing on AIS which turned out not to be a ship at all. “I checked the screen as sure enough nothing was showing. I popped my head up and saw the “ship” in question. I told the crew to keep taking bearing on it to be sure but that I was certain it would not be a problem for us. When they asked why I explained that it would not come within 250,000 miles of us as it was the moon!” he said.

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital has slipped back down to ninth after a brief stint in seventh place overnight, and skipper Gordon Reid reports that his team has been experiencing the “full fury of the mother of all storms”. “What a ride! I have never seen anything like it and I have sailed lots of places all over the world,” Gordon said. “We’ve been taking waves that washed the entire watch on deck from the high side into the cockpit and knocking the helm off his feet,” he added. Gordon describes the extreme conditions that his team has been experiencing as they eat up the miles towards Geraldton. “We were free falling off the top of massive waves all night, one after another after another, the wind was gusting over 60 knots and at one time we were going so fast we caught the wave in front and buried the bow and half the hull straight into it at 25 knots,” he said. “The whole boat was swamped and everyone on deck was washed into the cockpit. The cockpit was full, water pouring down the companionway and everything inside was thrown all over the place,” he said. “Nothing like a bit of seriously scary sailing to make you feel the adrenaline rush of being alive – this is the ultimate Southern Ocean adventure,” Gordon added.

Geraldton Western Australia is hot on the heels of Qingdao as the most northerly of the fleet as they race towards their home port. “The gusty winds make it feel like a roller coaster, but it has all settled down now and we’re making good progress towards the Scoring Gate,” skipper, Juan Coetzer, said. On Derry-Londonderry, skipper Mark Light reports that the temperature above and below decks has dropped dramatically. “We have an air temperature of about 4 degrees Celsius and when you add wind chill factors and lots icy cold Southern Ocean spray, it feels very cold indeed,” he said. Mark said that helming is being done in shifts of 20 minutes to give crew the opportunity to rotate between being on the helm, on watch and down below to warm up. “Hot drinks are a must and we have a large thermos flask down below permanently filled with hot water. Our generator is now run through the night now only to charge our batteries but also to add a precious heat source which has now doubled up as a drying room for gloves, hats and even boots,” he said. Mark said that watches are woken earlier now to give them more time to get ready with all the extra layers required. “One crew member went on deck last night with eight separate layers on and when I commented on the amount of layers she calmly said that she was saving the ninth layer for when it gets really cold. Welcome to the Southern Ocean guys!” he said. On Singapore, Ben Bowley and his crew have managed to hoist progressively more sail as the wind moderates but with a few crew out of action with a bout of the flu, progress has been hampered. “Right at this moment it would be perfect to hoist the heavyweight kite but I am inclined to wait until the next watch change when we have a full complement on deck,” Ben said. Other crew members are struggling with the cold. “Some people are also struggling with fingers seizing up whilst trying to hank and un-hank sails due to not having the correct kit,” Ben said. “It amazes me that many of the crew did not realise just how cold it could get when the southerly Antarctic wind blows, numbing bodies and minds,” he added.

Ben’s top tips for kit for sailing in this part of the world are a good thick pair of wetsuit diving gloves and boots at least one size too large to accommodate thick winter socks without losing feeling in the toes.

Olly Osborne, skipper of Visit Finland, reports that a short break in the weather yesterday allowed his team to run the lower half of the main sail out of the mast track and carry out a repair. “Two large sole boards made a good platform on deck to lay out the damaged part and by holding the sail in place by pinning it to the boards we were able to match up the edges of the tear fairly well,” Olly said. With the wind forecast to build again, the Visit Finland team went for a combination of Sikaflex (waterproof sealant) and strips of sailcloth to close the tear quickly before the daylight faded. “This system worked quite well and although the Sikaflex seemed to get just about everywhere, we were able to lay the strips on quite accurately, With the whole watch battling against the pressure of the wind we managed to roll up the loose sail and tie it in place to see us through the night and to allow the repair to harden. The wind built further throughout the night but when the dawn broke the repair was still intact,” Olly said. During the afternoon with the wind easing again we ran the main back into the mast track and hoisted it to it’s full height It was a great relief to see that the repair had worked, and even looked pretty robust,” he said. “The focus for us will now be to regain our racing spirit, and claw our way back up the leader board,” he added. 

 

 Positions at 0900 UTC, Friday 14 October Boat DTF*

1 Gold Coast Australia 3,105nm

2 New York 3,194nm (+89nm DTL*)

 3 De Lage Landen 3,209nm (+104nm)

Welcome to Yorkshire 3,257nm (+152nm)

5 Qingdao 3,257nm (+153nm)

6 Geraldton Western Australia 3,272nm (+167nm)

7 Singapore 3,334nm (+229nm)

8 Derry-Londonderry 3,390nm (+285nm)

9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 3,395nm (+290nm)

10 Visit Finland 3,422nm (+317nm)

 

Geraldton Western Australia, Welcome to Yorkshire, De Lage Landen and Derry-Londonderry race away from Cape Town, South Africa, at the start of Race 4 to the City of Geraldton, Western Australia (Photo by Bruce Sutherland / onEdition)