SPORT - TEAM FINLAND STICKS TO CLOSEST RIVALS SPIRIT OF AUSTRALIA
Wednesday, Feb 3: The general consensus among the Clipper 09-10 teams today is the need to focus and get back into the routine of offshore racing following an exceptional stopover in Singapore.
"It takes time to settle in after a long stopover and for people to find their sea legs again," says Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 's skipper, Matt Pike. "But, after a great stop in Singapore, we left in perfect conditions — a good northeasterly breeze allowing us to hold full canvas as we headed out into the South China Sea.
“A busy night of shipping and total concentration to hold us hard against the wind left little doubt we were back racing! The early morning positions showed it had been a good night's work and the fleet was tightly packed.
“We now have to guess the best route as we work our way northeast against the wind and currents towards China. We are a happy crew and looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead," Pike said.
The Singapore stopover was thoroughly enjoyed by all the teams and none more so than the crew on board Uniquely Singapore.
"After such a great stopover, seeing the sights of Singapore and all the fantastic food, we waved goodbye and geared ourselves up for the race to Qingdao," says Uniquely Singapore's skipper, Jim Dobie. "Myself and the crew would like to thank Keppel and the staff at the marina for looking after us so well.
"We are now picking our best course through the islands to get us into the South China Sea and more wind. An interesting night with a lot of shipping and the guys had to keep their eyes peeled; fortunately it was a bright night so visibility was good," he said.
Following their great start yesterday, Piers Dudin and his team on board Hull & Humber are enjoying being back out on the water once more.
"Here we go again!" exclaims Dudin. "Yesterday was a good start for us sharing the lead out of the Singapore Straits with Spirit of Australia.
“Close tacking past the shipping lanes, minding not to tread too close this time, and out into open water. Even in the few hours it took to set out into the South China Sea it quickly became apparent how quickly things can change. Failing to tack on a favourable wind shift or getting stuck in unfavourable currents punishes the perpetrator pretty quickly," he said.
Spirit of Australia's skipper, Brisbane's Brendan Hall, knows this only too well and he and his team will be fully focused on retaining their current position at the top of the overall leader board.
"A nice little start to Race 6," said Hall. "We crossed the line towards the back of the fleet and then managed to claw our way into first place over the course of three hours, close tacking out of the Singapore Straits. It has given us a good opportunity to get back into the swing of things, racing hard and getting the salt back in the blood stream."
The race viewer today suggests that having lost their top spot on the leader board to Spirit of Australia on the previous race, Team Finland is not going to let the Aussies out of their sights. Skipper Rob McInally knows that this race is a highly tactical one, but has also been reminded early on that a good deal of it will also come down to luck.
"After our start we thought the breeze was going to pick up and so we changed sails," explains McInally. "It picked up a little and the change paid off, but then it started to die again and we felt the pain. So we changed back and instantly the breeze increased for a few hours. It's just one of those sailing laws, at times no matter what you do, it is not right.
"With Spirit of Australia on our hip we were pleased that the Singapore naval vessel, currently involved in manoeuvres and target practice, allowed us to continue on our way. They had called and asked if we could move to the north. Thankfully they did not persist when we made our plea to continue racing," he said.
Intense shipping has been a concern for all the teams as they passed through the Singapore Straits. Now clear and out in open water, there has been a marked spilt in the fleet as California's skipper, Pete Rollason, explains: "Immediately, the fleet has split into two groups, those going east but remaining to the south and those going north. We have chosen the southerly and easterly route, but today the fleet is beginning to close up again as we all tack towards the same destination. This is a pattern that looks set to continue over the coming days."
Joining California to the south is Caribbean entry, Jamaica Lightning Bolt, led by skipper Pete Stirling.
"This race is going to be upwind all the way, so race positions can and will change dramatically depending on whether boats are on the making or losing tack," Stirling said. "One thing for sure is that we are all looking forward to slightly cooler weather as we head north. The dilemma at the moment is whether to get fried on deck under the scorching sun or bake down below in the airless cabin."
Having tasted victory into Singapore, the team on board Cape Breton Island will be hoping for a repeat performance into Qingdao. Although happy with their current position among the fleet, the crew are also suffering in the hot conditions, which skipper Jan Ridd believes may be the result of too much air-conditioning in Singapore.
"The weather and the sea have been very kind indeed and we are beating into a gentle breeze with a virtually flat sea, allowing everyone to get their sea legs back," said Ridd.
"The only problem that we are all suffering with is the heat below decks. I am not sure if it's because we got used to the air-conditioning of Singapore, or because it is actually hotter than the race up from Australia.
“Hopefully, as we head north we will see the temperature drop, but not too quickly as it would be nice to see a gradual transition to the subzero temperatures we expect later on in this race," he said.
Qingdao will be hoping to emulate Cape Breton Island 's performance in the previous race and in doing so become the first team in Clipper 09-10 to secure a homeport victory.
Chris Stanmore-Major, skipper of the Chinese entry said: "Many changes have taken place onboard Qingdao as we go into this next race. Having made a conscious decision to try as hard as possible for a top-three position going into Qingdao, we have altered our watch system and general work ethic to focus entirely on performance.
“This change in gear has been facilitated by being joined by Tai and Keith from Cork
- a boat famous throughout the fleet for its competitive nature and strong team spirit," he said.
Positions at 1200 UTC, Tuesday, February 3.
Boat name / DTF / DTL
1. Cape Breton Island
2. Hull & Humber
2332nm - 1nm
2335nm - 4nm
4. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital
2339nm - 8nm
5. Jamaica Lightning Bolt
2343nm - 12nm
2348nm - 18nm
7. Spirit of Australia
8. Team Finland
2353nm - 22nm
9. Uniquely Singapore
2353nm - 22nm
DTF = Distance to Finish DTL = Distance to Leader) Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com