SPORT — <I>Gold Coast Australia</I> approaches Ocean Sprint

SPORT - Gold Coast Australia approaches Ocean Sprint

Wednesday, September 21: Gold Coast Australia

maintained the lead overnight with
Visit Finland managing to nibble just one nautical mile out of the Australian team in 24 hours.

Skipper Richard Hewson said he hoped that he would be able to hoist his spinnaker this afternoon ahead of the start of the Ocean Sprint, which starts on a line on longitude 5 degrees West and finishes at a line on longitude 2 degrees East. The team which covers the distance of approximately 420nm in the fastest time will be awarded a point.

Race director Joff Bailey said: "The Ocean Sprint offers each of the boats an equal chance of picking-up an extra point, as all that matters is the speed at which they cover the designated distance, rather than their relative position in the fleet."

Gold Coast Australia is currently the closest with around 160nm separating them from the start of the Ocean Sprint and is experiencing "fantastic sailing conditions" in a wind belt 200nm to the east of Tristan da Cunha, according to Hewson.

"At the moment, we are sailing east-southeast making our way around the high-pressure system to the west of us," he said.

Visit Finland is keeping the pressure on Gold Coast Australia sailing a parallel course to the south. Skipper Olly Osborne said he is focusing on picking a way through the weather ahead while trying to sail as few miles as possible.

"The rhumb line course (a line crossing all meridians of longitude at the same angle) looks much more doable now and the westerlies appearing on our weather files should up our ETA considerably when they arrive," Osborne said.

He said he had a much happier crew this morning as they were no longer constantly being doused in South Atlantic seawater.

"And we are enjoying a break from the bone-jarring slamming of the hull on the water that has dominated life below decks for the past few days,” says Osborne. “The wind angle has become much more favourable overnight and the sea state is now much less steep, so it's good to be making 'easy miles' again.”

On Singapore, currently the most easterly of the southerly group, skipper Ben Bowley said he was disappointed that the wind shift they had been waiting for had arrived 12 hours later than he had hoped.

Despite the teams to the north getting the wind shift first, allowing them to tack over and make some gains, he said his team is now making good pace to the east and the finish in Cape Town.

"The main objective now is to try and stay in this band of northerly wind and keep making progress toward Cape Town," Bowley says, noting that his team has been making good progress averaging between 10 and 11 knots for the last 12 hours.

Bowley said that with less than 1500nm to the finish the game was on to see who will be best positioned to maximise the strong westerly winds from the approaching deep low-pressure system coming in from the southwest.

"Too far north and you run the risk of getting sucked into the light winds of the South Atlantic High, too far south and you not only sail more miles than necessary, but also have to contend with some fairly extreme wind and waves again," Bowley said.

He added his team was keen to gain a couple more places to achieve a good consistent place in our overall standings, but not at the expense of causing damage to their yacht.

"Knowing when to push at 100 per cent and when to back off to 95 per cent is one of the key roles of a Clipper Race skipper,” said Bowley. “If you get the balance right the rewards are plentiful, but get it wrong and you either sail too slow or trash your boat and sails.”

On New York, Gareth Glover and his team are focused on chasing down Singapore as there are just 40nm between the two boats at the latest position report.

"Singapore is only a few miles ahead of us and the crew is fully focused on overtaking them on the way to Cape Town, so look out Ben we are hunting you down," Glover said, adding that he believes his current position places the New York team in a good position to head up the rankings.

"There is a big high-pressure to sail round yet but New York is in a great place to do this as the fleet from the north are now sailing south to get round the high and we are already south of the high," Glover said.

Welcome to Yorkshire remains the most southerly boat and has opted to sail slightly farther south to clear the Tristan da Cunha islands and light headwinds.

Rather than sailing a more direct course to Cape Town under white sails, Rupert Dean and his team have decided to hold the kite up with the pole set well forward nearly 90 degrees to the wind just in front of the beam.

"The extra speed gained with the kite produces as good a VMG (velocity made good) towards Cape Town as would be achieved with white sails, and it feels much better," said Dean.

He said Welcome to Yorkshire's course should take his team within 25nm south of the uninhabited Inaccessible Island and Nightingale Island in the Tristan da Cunha group.

Tristan Island is the world's most remote human settlement, and home to just 266 permanent residents all descended from original settlers and only seven family surnames survive among the island's present inhabitants. With no hotels, airports or restaurants, and a lack of berths for visiting vessels, the islands are rarely visited by even the most intrepid travellers.

The 10 teams competing in Clipper 11-12 will be glad they fully re-provisioned their boats in Rio ahead of Race 3 to Cape Town as Tristan's Island Store only provides essential products to supplement locally produced food and woollens. The store does not have plate glass windows and store manager Judy Green needs to order goods months in advance of incoming ships.

"Photographs taken from sea in the Admiralty pilot book make Tristan look like a dramatic and fascinating place. If only there was time to stop and visit. As British citizens, we tend to overlook the jewels we have in our possession. South Atlantic islands like Tristan da Cuhna, St Helena, Ascension and the Falklands are every bit as exotic as those in the tropical Pacific. Of course, back home in the British Isles we have some real gems too, with Yorkshire being at the top of that list," Dean said.

Over the last few days a number of teams have been tackling steering issues. On De Lage Landen, Stuart Jackson reports that after a long night spent on emergency steering, his boat is now fully operational again.

"We will need to be very cautious over the next couple of days, but the repair seems to be promising," said Jackson. The team, currently lying in third position, are in a northerly position as they head toward the Ocean Sprint.

"The change of weather conditions has been greeted with open arms by the crew, as the calmer sea state finally offers some relief. Living on an angle has been hard but the crew morale is higher than ever," Jackson said.

Gold Coast Australia has also experienced recent steering probelms, but skipper Richard Hewson said that he is 95 per cent confident that it has not got any worse over the last 24 hours.

"I believe I now know what the problem is and, if I'm correct, it's relatively minor but it can only be repaired back to 100 per cent from the outside of the hull and can safely wait until Cape Town," said Hewson.

On Qingdao, currently the most northerly boat, the team is relieved to finally be able to point towards Cape Town after battling with headwinds.

"During the night, the wind finally backed round to allow us to finally point the right way, we are still hard on the wind but it feels better," said skipper Ian Conchie.

The Chinese team was lifted by a hearty dinner last night of curry to warm up and then apple crumble, all made from scratch on board. "It's amazing how much something like that can really lift the spirits of a whole crew," Conchie said.

The Qingdao crew are now hoping that they can repeat their performance on the last race, when they managed to make gains in the last few days.

On Geraldton Western Australia, Juan Coetzer and his crew have been watching the cloud formations for signs on the wind filling in as they try to make the most of the light and variable conditions with a full main and Yankee 1, the boat's biggest headsail.

Coetzer said he spotted some high and streaky mare's tale clouds, a sign that a weather system was approaching. "This was a good sign as the wind filled in and Geraldton Western Australia made a sharp course alteration to port, and now we are heading towards Cape Town," he reported.

Derry-Londonderry emerged from Stealth Mode at 0600 UTC this morning and is currently in fourth place. Skipper Mark Light said he was relieved that the weather was panning out to be as forecasted and they are looking forward to some great downwind conditions for the remainder of the race to Cape Town.

"We have good speed and our fine ship is in good shape, so now for the cliche... it is definitely a marathon and not a sprint," said Light.

"It's fascinating studying all the different game plans chosen by different boats and I'm sure there are a few people at home shouting at the Race Viewer ‘Don't go that way you fool! You're making a mistake! They're catching you!’,” he said.

On Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, the crew has been hit by a stomach bug, which spread through half of the team in the confined living quarters.

"The boat has been cleaned from bow to stern below decks to ensure we have seen the end of the tummy bug, which has brought down more than half of the crew in the past week, so hopefully our anti-bacterial cleaning frenzy has seen off the last of it," said skipper Gordon Reid.

He said they had picked up speed under white sails but he was keen to get his spinnaker back up as soon as possible to take advantage of the approaching westerlies.

Reid said his team were extremely grateful for all the support and encouragement they had been receiving from their sponsors, friends and family. "We are really thrilled to be sharing our fantastic adventure with so many," he said.

Positions at 0900 UTC, Wednesday, September 21




1. Gold Coast Australia

2. Visit Finland


3. De Lage Landen


4. Derry-Londonderry


5. Qingadao


6. Singapore


7. New York


8. Welcome to Yorkshire


9. Geraldton Western Australia


10. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital



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

The Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race started on July 31 from Southampton on the UK's south coast and will return to the Solent in July 2012 after 40,000 miles of ocean racing — the world's longest ocean race. The event was established by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to give everyone, regardless of sailing experience, the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of ocean racing. More than 500 people representing more than 40 nations will compete in Clipper 11-12. They can sign up for the whole circumnavigation or one or more of eight legs.

The only qualification for the race is the minimum age of 18 — there is no upper age limit. The overall race is divided into individual stages and points are accumulated in a Formula 1-style scoring system. The yacht with the highest total at the finish wins the Clipper Trophy.