SPORT - Aussie entries top the leader board

SPORT - Aussie entries top the leader board

Thursday, Feb 9: Despite the continued onslaught of upwind sailing conditions, the 10 teams participating in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race plough gallantly through the rough seas.

Yesterday Geraldton Western Australia advanced on Singapore and overnight crept up to second position, despite finding themselves in the middle of a 'high traffic' area at sea.

Skipper, Juan Coetzer, says, "Great days sailing yesterday, with the wind steadily building throughout the day. Just before night fall, we decided to do a headsail change from the Yankee 1 to the Yankee 2. Just as we started this evolution, four big ships appeared on Automatic Identification System (AIS) and we were in the middle of it all.

“For days we had hardly seen any ships, and now they are everywhere. The swell is short and tall and below decks it feels like you are on a bucking bronco ride, getting tossed around in your bunk. We have just sighted Singapore again, and glad to see they are still behind us.”

Meanwhile, skipper Richard Hewson and his team on board Gold Coast Australia have had a busy 24 hours that has seen multiple sail changes as they work to maintain the lead.

“This is the first race of the series that is almost entirely upwind and with the renowned conditions of the Pacific and Yellow Sea Gold Coast Australia has adopted an entirely new ethos of how we are sailing the boat. This race is about endurance and survival the only way we are going to win is to first of all finish the race. Consequently our new ethos is about changing gears early, this means putting reefs in well ahead of time, and changing down sails early. Though the wind at the moment is only blowing 22kts, we still have 27-30kts over the deck from our apparent wind," Richard reports.

Singapore skipper Ben Bowley admits in his 0600 report to the Race Office, “Well our sail wardrobe has been getting thoroughly aired over the last 12 hours.

“Similar to the rest of the ten-strong ocean racing yachts taking part in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, the last 24 hours has been testing for the crew, as they deal with the upwind sailing conditions.

“The increasing wind has seen us go from Yankee 1 to Yankee 2 to Yankee 3, full mainsail to 1 reef to 2 reefs. Life below deck has also become a little harder to deal with, the increased sea state has necessitated the closing of all hatches, which has made it very sweaty, and is allowing for moments of weightlessness in one's bunk, neither of which are conducive to getting much sleep," says the Singapore skipper.

“Life on deck however is much more entertaining, the sun is still shining and the great plumes of water that regularly sweep the deck are relevantly warm. Crew return from the foredeck soaked from head to toe but with a grin from ear-to-ear. We have tacked back to the east today in a bid to regain the helpful northerly current that we lost during the night. I fear that this will see us take a bit of a hit initially in terms of overall standings but there is still long, long way to Qingdao and we must keep looking at the big picture. Our current short term objective? Get past Geraldton Western Australia again before we hit the Scoring Gate," Bowley continues.

With only a few miles separating them and rivals Derry-Londonderry, skipper Gordon Reid reports that on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, the Scottish entry is staying focused in the challenging conditions.

“The wind has filled in as forecast with a slight variation in direction and veering more quickly than forecast, this has allowed us to point very high and maintain excellent Velocity Made Good (VMG) as we slowly but surely close in on the four boats ahead, with around 150 miles to go until the Scoring Gate our sole focus is making the 'Purple Beastie' go as fast as possible towards the gate,” says Reid.

“The sea state has gone from slight to moderate and is now rough, with lots of short sharp choppy waves, no big deal in the bright afternoon sun as you can see the waves coming but in the night slamming increases — boom followed by boom as the whole boat vibrates under the shock.

“Conditions are becoming a little more challenging below decks, with all of the hatches secured and watertight, the sun is still shinning and the temperature below is rising as well as the interesting aromas! Now on day six of the race, the focus is still being maintained at the highest levels with a few encouraging words from the skipper," admits Reid.

Derry-Londonderry is pleased with their position gained up the leader board and have kept busy with sail changes over the past 24 hours. Skipper Mark Light reports:

"We have finally got some of the upwind sailing that we were all expecting — up to 20kts of true wind, choppy sea and plenty of turquoise water coming over the bow!

“We had a crew briefing yesterday reminding all and preparing for the sail evolutions — it is worth remembering that the reef we put in our mainsail was the first for about a month. We are currently the most easterly boat which is good considering that about two days ago we were the furthest west. East is where we need to be staying to windward of our competitors and although we took a bit of a hit making ground to the east, I am convinced that this is the place to be to benefit later in the race."

As the fleet receive details of increased wave heights over the next 24 hours in a forecast from meteorologist and winning skipper of Clipper 2000, Simon Rowell, frustrations continue on board Welcome to Yorkshire, as they grapple with the increasing winds that have seen them separate from the majority of the fleet.

“Quite a game of catch-up ahead. Welcome to Yorkshire has just tacked onto port side due to a header and a strong south-going current. Tacking angles are currently shocking," skipper Rupert Dean reports, as the British entry tries to glean back distance on the boats that passed them in the last 48 hours.

Currently in fourth place on the leader board, De Lage Landen skipper Stuart Jackson reports that the Dutch entry have been exchanging pleasantries and sailing tactics across the VHF with their neighbouring rivals Singapore.

“The winds increased yesterday afternoon and there were many smiles to be seen after six o'clock when the real helming began. Notwithstanding this life at 22 degrees has kicked in again and managing to get around the boat has brought a new set of challenges, but one the crew is getting accustomed to again.

“We are currently very focussed on our course north and the Scoring Gate that sits about 170 miles away at present. There will be some interesting decisions to be made on when to tack shortly and hopefully we will be able to capitalise on our hard work and efforts thus far," says Jackson.

Meanwhile Qingdao remains in ninth position with skipper Ian Conchie sending an up-beat report to the Race Office.

"As we continue our beat northeast I am reminded of an only saying 'Gentleman only sail downwind!'" Conchie says.

"There is good reason for this as it is hard physical work weathering a boat to windward! This morning finds us under Yankee 2 with two reefs in the mainsail and a bumpy confused sea with three-metre waves. Try as hard as we may we cannot seem to make a dent in the gap to the boats ahead of us but we will keep pushing. It's still a long way to the finish so anything is possible."

Meanwhile the Finnish entry is getting used to the realism of the challenging conditions at sea. Visit Finland skipper Olly Osborne says, "Today we are getting a first taste of what is to come with a 30kts apparent wind speed over the deck and a fairly short sea. The boat is falling heavily into the troughs at times and it is more like the conditions we were expecting. Our place on the leader board could be better, but spirits are high, and the upwind sailing feels very exhilarating after so long.

"We had some excitement yesterday, too, when the port back stay deck fitting failed with a loud bang and the block and line ended up flailing around. We had just enough daylight left to swap the damaged pad eye with an identical one from the spinnaker sheet block so it is fully functioning again now. So we are all set to tackle the next few days of beating, and the thought of the temperature dropping as we go further north is very appealing at the moment as the deck hatches have to remain firmly closed."

Equally to the rest of the fleet, the American entry New York has picked up speed and return to tactics.

Skipper Gareth Glover says, "Over the last 24 hours New York has been doing much better on the way north now the wind has risen to over 20kts we can almost make the Scoring Gate on this tack and hope to cut down the lost miles to the leader in time.

"We are also looking past the gate now and the tactics that we hope will get us into the top three yachts. The crew are getting used to the yacht beating up wind again and life at 30 degrees, as it has been some time since we have been forced to beat into the wind. The sea state has also built and we are getting waves of water washing down the deck and the crashing of the bow into the waves which is making it hard to sleep and move around below.

The Clipper 11-12 Race fleet is closing in on the one Scoring Gate in this part of the race, which can give the fleet crucial points affecting the overall positioning on the leader board.

The teams are expected to begin arriving in Qingdao between 22 and 25 February.

Positions at 1200 UTC, Thursday, February 9


1. Gold Coast Australia

2. Geraldton Western Australia

1807nm (+25nm DTL**)
3. Singapore

1819nm (+38nm)
4. De Lage Landen

1823nm (+41nm)
5. Derry-Londonderry

1832nm (+50nm)
6. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital

1834nm (+52nm)
7. New York

1843nm (+61nm)
8. Visit Finland

1847nm (+65nm)
9. Qingdao

1890nm (+109nm)
10.Welcome to Yorkshire

1925nm (+143nm)

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

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