Clipper Round the World Yacht Race - Close racing for top three boats

Qingdao in the Clipper 11-12 Race fleet parade of sail in Rio de Janeiro.
Daniel Zeppe/onEdition
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-2012 third race, from Rio De Janeiro in Brazil to Cape Town, is currently underway.

After a first night of close racing in fluky winds in the 3,300-mile race the ten internationally-backed teams are getting back into the routine of life at sea after a memorable stopover in Brazil.

In the group at the front of the fleet, which has opted to close reach on a south south easterly course, Qingdao, Welcome to Yorkshire and De Lage Landen are racing in close quarters with just two nautical miles separating the three boats.

At the latest position report, the Chinese boat was lying in joint first place with Welcome to Yorkshire, just two miles ahead of De Lage Landen. Qingdao crew member Tom Way said everyone on board is 'chuffed' to be racing again.

'After the excitement of the start and the leg out to our first mark we settled back into life at sea. As night progressed we stayed within a stone throw’s distance of De Lage Landen and Welcome to Yorkshire with everyone jostling for position in the light and fluky winds,' Tom said.

Although the teams are focused on the race in hand, the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks will be remembered across the fleet today. The ten crews will put their rivalries aside to unite in a minute’s silence to remember the people who died in the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001.

The commemoration will be led by the New York crew, who are raising funds and awareness for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, a not-for-profit organisation created to design and run the Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center, through their participation in Clipper 11-12.

At 1246 GMT (0846 EST) today, exactly ten years after the first plane hit the Twin Towers, the team of 18 led by skipper Gareth Glover will observe a minute’s silence before casting roses into the Atlantic Ocean.

For the Clipper 11-12 crew members who hail from New York, the ten-year anniversary is especially poignant.

New York crew at the start of Race 3 of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race
Daniel Zeppe/onEdition

New York crew member for Leg two, Pat Coppolechia is a 56-year-old lawyer and a New York resident, and admits that today’s anniversary will bring back powerful memories.

'In my wallet I’ve got the times that the planes hit the Towers and the times that they collapsed. It is certainly going to be on my mind and I’ll reflect on where I was when it happened and the whole impact it had on New York and the world as a whole. I think there’s going to be a moment of vulnerability and concern for those at home and everywhere around the world on the tenth anniversary,' Pat said.

Just over ten years ago the biennial Clipper Race visited New York in August 2001, enjoying a stopover at Liberty Landing in New Jersey overlooking the Twin Towers after racing from Brazil. The fleet set sail on 31 August just 11 days before the attacks.

Former crew member Sarah Thorogood, who took part in Clipper 2000-01, said many of the crew enjoyed trips to the top of the Twin Towers during their visit to the city.

'We heard about the attacks mid-Atlantic when one of our crew called his son on the satellite phone. It was a huge shock and hard to comprehend when so many of us had been to the top of the Towers just a few days before. It didn’t fully sink in until we arrived in Jersey when we saw the shocking images,' Sarah said.

Despite a delayed start yesterday after a crew member was taken ill, Welcome to Yorkshire has managed to secure an enviable position at the front of the fleet. Rupert Dean’s team was slightly delayed as they dropped their sails half an hour before the start and returned to the marina to drop off crew member Keith Pickering, who had fallen ill and needed medical treatment ashore.

The Race Committee held the start line open and the 15-and-a-half minute delay did not damage the English boat’s chances in the second transatlantic race in Clipper 11-12 as the rest of the fleet had to change course to avoid a tanker entering the harbour.

Commenting on yesterday’s medivac, Rupert said, 'Our race start yesterday will be remembered with mixed emotions. Whilst all are excited to be on our way again, we are very sad to have left our much loved team member Keith Pickering behind in Rio.'

Keith, a crew member participating in Legs one to three, developed a painful abdominal swelling at the start line yesterday, necessitating Welcome to Yorkshire to abandon racing and return to the marina for medical help.

'The decision to leave in him Rio was difficult but undoubtedly the correct one. We all wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to racing with him again on the next leg,' Rupert said.

In the group opting to sail more close hauled and head south, Singapore is hoping that their investment will reap its rewards later in the race. .

'Initially things were going well and we were making good pace in the direction we wanted. However, we’ve been headed massively and are currently making about two knots through the water,' skipper Ben Bowley, said.

'All we can do is stick to our game plan and have faith that some investment here will pay dividends further down the line,' he added.

Also opting for a more southerly course is Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, currently lying in ninth position.

Skipper Gordon Reid said: 'Following the excitement of the race start from Rio with its very short line, busy traffic and fresh breezy conditions, the first night has been one with very light shifting winds. All eyes are now on the intense low pressure system forming and heading straight for the pack.'

Gordon said his team is focused on making the Scoring Gate whilst trying not to stall too close to the centre of the South Atlantic High. 'It's shaping up to be an exciting ride,' he said.

Race three from Rio de Janeiro includes a Scoring Gate, with the boats crossing first, second and third winning three, two and one bonus points respectively, and an Ocean Sprint between five degrees west and two degrees east – approximately 420 miles as the albatross flies – with another bonus point available to the fastest crew to cover the distance.

On De Lage Landen, skipper Stuart Jackson who took over following the departure of Mat Booth in Rio said his crew is settling into the watch system after an exciting start yesterday.

'After holding good wind at the start we decided to sail slightly low to keep speed as the wind gradually died off. We’ve all been settling into sailing together and we’re spending our time talking through and practicing the trim as it looks like we are in for light airs for the foreseeable future,' Stuart said.

Gold Coast Australia at the start of Race 3 of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race
Daniel Zeppe/onEdition

Gold Coast Australia, currently the most southerly boat closely followed by Visit FInland, is hoping to be the first boat to benefit from the next weather system.

Skipper Richard Hewson said: 'We’re currently crossing an area of light wind and we’re doing everything possible to maintain headway so we can get some decent pressure to send us towards Cape Town.'

Richard said his crew had a 'fantastic' stay in Rio de Janeiro. One of the priorities for the Gold Coast Australia team was to repair the two spinnakers that were damaged on Race 2. 'We’ve had fantastic repairs on the two spinnakers that we ripped, one of which has already been flown since the start of the race,' Richard said.

The other Australian entry, Geraldton Western Australia, is also battling to keep moving in light airs. 'Once we passed Sugar Loaf Mountain and headed for the fairway marker, the wind died off and we’ve been moving up and down the leader board ever since,' skipper Juan Coetzer, said.

As a South African, Juan will be keen for a good result into the port where he lived and worked for many years before moving to the UK to work for Clipper Ventures.

Mark Light on Derry-Londonderry said his crew had a great experience in Rio and an exciting start dodging local yachts and tankers.

'It got pretty exciting as a yacht came straight at us under spinnaker on certain collision course. We were on starboard but the poor skipper looked like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights and seemingly didn’t know which way to turn. With moments to spare we bore away to clear him. Shortly after, we rounded the fairway marker buoy just off of Copacabana beach and headed out… next stop Cape Town!' Mark said.

The fleet is expected to arrive in Cape Town between 26 and 29 September where they will be berthed at the famous Victoria and Alfred Waterfront until the start of Leg three to Geraldton in Western Australia on 5 October.

Positions at 1200 UTC, Sunday 11 September
Boat - DTF*
1 Qingdao - 3173nm
2 Welcome to Yorkshire - 3173nm
3 De Lage Landen - 3174nm
4 Derry-Londonderry - 3187nm
5 Geraldton Western Australia - 3189nm
6 New York - 3191nm
7 Visit Finland - 3192nm
8 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital - 3193nm
9 Singapore - 3194nm
10 Gold Coast Australia - 3204nm

DTF* = Distance to Finish. Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found here.

Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website