SPORT - Light airs hamper progress across the fleet
Tuesday, Sept 13: Light airs across the fleet are hampering progress as the 10 teams battle for position in frustrating conditions en route to Cape Town.
Stuart Jackson and his crew on De Lage Landen
"After a great day's sailing, making good mileage in the sunshine, we are now rolling around with sails slapping back and forth under a full moon," said Jackson.
"We expected the wind to decrease and veer, which it has done, but it's just a little lighter than expected, so we now have to hope that the more southerly boats haven't escaped unscathed, wishful thinking I'm sure," he added.
But De Lage Landen's hopes are well-founded as the whole fleet is experiencing the same frustrating conditions.
The boats that have opted for a southerly route in the hope that they would pick-up the wind first are still waiting for their tactics to reap rewards.
Gold Coast Australia has logged a 12-hour run of just 39nm and skipper Richard Hewson said his hopes of reaching the wind first have yet to be realised.
When Gold Coast Australia hoisted their medium-weight spinnaker yesterday, the team hoped that it would be the run they had been searching for to lead them into the strong winds of the South Atlantic.
"Two hours later, our hopes were destroyed, as the wind first backed around 40 degrees and then died altogether. As we drifted without wind, we watched helplessly on Gold Coast Australia as our nearest rivals, Singapore, only miles to the east, picked-up some breeze and sailed across the horizon and away," said Hewson.
As the boats roll aimlessly in the Atlantic swell, the sound of flogging sails is becoming familiar to the teams as they try to keep their boats moving in the wind hole.
"For hours now, we have been stopped still in the water. The rolling swell of the South Atlantic has been rocking the boat and knocking the slightest bits of wind that pass over our deck out of the sails preventing them from propelling us forward. The swell passes and the sails invert, cracking like a whip as the boat rolls the other way," Hewson reports.
On Visit Finland, the team is focused on catching the current leaders, De Lage Landen and skipper Olly Osborne is all too aware that light airs can often lead to a reshuffle on the leader board. According to Olly, his crew has had to work even harder than ever to keep their 40-tonne Clipper 68 moving towards Cape Town in the light, fickle winds.
"There are significant gains to be made for the teams who are the most focused in these conditions. Good trim is essential as well as plenty of head scratching on the skipper's part as we try to devise the most effective sail plan. Greg said to me earlier 'I wasn't expecting to use the wind seeker on this leg!' And I don't think I was either, but right now every last metre counts," said Osborne.
On Welcome to Yorkshire, skipper Rupert Dean said the frustration of being becalmed is tempered by the knowledge that the rest of the fleet is in the same situation.
"Slat, slat, slat — that's the sound of under-powered sails moving lifelessly from side to side as Welcome to Yorkshire bobs on the ocean swell like a lame duck. It's a sound and motion no sailor likes to experience, bringing frustration to all and considerable wear and tear on the sails, particularly the main," says Dean.
"The challenge for us now is to maintain our focus, trim the wind-seeker like mad and be patient. Strategically, we're not in a bad position, being mid fleet in terms of position and our distance to the finish, but a dose of lady luck would be very welcome right now.
"Yachts to the south of the fleet should be in the best position to get these winds first and their southern strategy looks set to pay off handsomely in the near future," he said.
On Geraldton Western Australia there is no sign of the breeze and progress has been painfully slow, with skipper Juan Coetzer reporting that his team only managed to log 0.1nm in the hour prior to him filing his report this morning.
"We are sitting in a large wind hole and one minute the wind is coming from the west, then the south, even from the north at times,” says Coetzer. “We're hoping that when the sun comes up, the wind wakes up, too. However, I know the common saying is to be careful what you wish for, and when this front comes, it's going to be an exciting sleigh ride."
Meanwhile, Coetzer and his team are grasping the opportunity to clean-up the boat and do some maintenance onboard.
"The morale is high, with lots of laughing and joking. The crew understands that ocean racing is about being in the right area and playing for long-term goals. So for now it's back to trim, trim, trim and the wheel of fortune," Coetzer said.
The Qingdao team, currently in third place, is trying to push southeast, despite the lack of wind and flogging sails.
"We had a nature day yesterday with turtles, whales and even a spot of fishing,” reports Qingdao skipper Ian Conchie. “Dave, our intrepid fisherman (who has yet to catch a fish), had two bites yesterday but unfortunately on both occasions the fish managed to break the line."
For the Clipper 11-12 teams, the stopover in Rio provided an opportunity to restock provisions onboard. For the crewmembers tasked with the responsibility of victualling, language can present problems as common foodstuffs can be mistaken for others as the crew of Qingdao has discovered.
"The packets of yeast we bought in Rio have turned out not to be yeast but rather baking powder. So we are hoping we have enough leftover from Leg 1 to make enough bread to get us to Cape Town," said Conchie.
On New York, crewmember and wine sales consultant Lisa Perkin, who has joined the team in Rio de Janeiro, reports that she has adapted to life onboard.
"I've managed to get through some seasickness and my first round of mother duty. Whilst on mother watch, we get a very welcome downtime of 12 hours which has helped me to become more functioning onboard," Perkin said, adding that highlights of the day onboard included freshly baked bread and apple pie, some "great tunes on deck" and a movie night for those off watch.
"As we sail further and further away from Rio and closer and closer to Cape Town, talk onboard is changing to what our next destination will bring and excitement is building for what it will be like to sail into Cape Town. I'm personally looking forward to seeing that first glimpse of Table Mountain and rounding the breakwater to see familiar faces on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront," she said.
In their southerly position, along with Gold Coast Australia, Singapore has been trying a variety of sail combinations as the team battles with light airs, confused swell and wind shifts up to 60 degrees.
"For a short while, we had the light kite up and were making good progress in the direction we wanted but only for about five minutes,” skipper Ben Bowley said. “The confused swell only added to the frustration and in the end, we opted to keep to white sails for safety and just drift in the right general direction.”
But Bowley suspected that things were looking up this morning. "As I write now, the wind has just started to fill in from the northwest and fingers crossed, it will hold steady enough for us to launch the kite on port gybe. This should enable us to capitalise on being to the south and start to make progress toward the Scoring Gate," Bowley reported.
In the light airs, crews have been honing their skills at trimming and helming in light airs. On Edinburgh Inspiring Capital the crew managed the keep their boat moving until the wind died completely overnight leaving them in a "close quarters drift" with New York.
But conditions have improved this morning, according to skipper Gordon Reid. "As the morning watch awoke they had a hearty, low-GI breakfast of porridge for lots of energy,” he says. “Then the wind eventually settled and increased, allowing us to gybe and set for a nice, deep spinnaker run. Fingers crossed that we remain in this elusive wind band."
The Scottish team has taken advantage of the lack of wind to some running repairs onboard. "On the good ship Edinburgh Inspiring Capital every cloud has a silver lining and the light winds have allowed us to crack on with our list of jobs. The crew is becoming very fond of the purple beastie and likes to look after her well. It's great to see such enthusiasm," Reid said.
On Derry-Londonderry skipper Mark Light is reflecting on the evolution of ocean yacht racing since Clipper chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to sail solo and non-stop round the world in 1969. Mark and his team are acting as ambassadors for Derry-Londonderry around the world and are carrying a range of bright pink kit to promote the brand of the UK City of Culture 2013.
"I know that on Sir Robin Knox-Johnston's first voyage around the world he carried countless tins of bully beef and numerous bottles of whisky,” said Light.
“Well, we have 52 pink grass skirts, lots of homemade pink woolly hats, music by the Pogues and 8000 ‘You've been LegenDerry'd!’ stickers. Oh, and let's not forget the pink sunnies, Brazilian carnival headgear, an icemaker and pink fluffy dice.
"This Clipper Round the World Race is all about the people. Throw in a fast boat, some fantastic places around the world and amazing sailing conditions and you have the perfect adventure," he added.
The fleet is expected to arrive in Cape Town between September 26 and 29, where they will be berthed at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront until the start of Leg 3 to Geraldton in Western Australia on October 5.
Positions at 0900 UTC, Tuesday, September 13
1. De Lage Landen
2. Visit Finland
5. Welcome to Yorkshire
7. Gold Coast Australia
8. New York
9. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital
10. Geraldton Western Australia
*DTF = Distance to Finish DTL = Distance to Leader Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com
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.