Clipper Round the World Yacht Race – Slow progress in tough conditions

Derry-Londonderry set sail in race two (from Madeira to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-2012 second race in leg one started in Madeira and finishes in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. It’s tough going for the remaining five boats still racing towards Rio.

Strong southerly winds are buffeting the teams, making progress painfully slow and life on board extremely tough. It’s the last thing they need after three weeks racing across the Atlantic Ocean when they are physically and mentally exhausted.

'One particularly large wall of water hit us on the beam and caused some excitement and minor bumps and bruises. Everybody is very alert and aware and always looking out for each other. It’s times like these that really pull people together and show team spirit,' says Derry-Londonderry’s skipper, Mark Light.

At the back of the fleet, Derry-Londonderry is faring much better than the other four teams, and is now just 234 miles from the finish line with the thought of some home comforts spurring them on.

'The sail plan is two reefs in the main, Yankee 3 and staysail and we have wind of 30 knots so we are flying along at good speed. There is much talk on board of cold beer, warm showers, large steak and chips, laundry, a floor that doesn't move, a hotel that doesn't leak, a toilet you don't have to pump 30 times and a proper bed,' continues Mark.

They are closing in on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital who are in turn nibbling away at the distance to the finish line, bashing into headwinds and closing the gap on Dutch rivals, De Lage Landen.

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, De Lage Landen, Qingdao and Geraldton Western Australia have been making painfully slow progress into the headwinds of up to 30 knots on the nose. Progress straight into the wind is impossible in a sailing yacht so the teams are forced to zig-zag down the course, tacking from side to side to make any forward gains.

'Everything is an effort at this point of sail in these winds,' says De Lage Landen’s skipper, Mat Booth. 'Mothers have had a tough time of it preparing essential food to keep the crew going. Down below floors are slippery and it's essential to keep a good hand hold at all times.'

De Lage Landen - Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12 Race 11

Around Cabo Frio, where the yachts make a right turn around the headland and start their final approach to Rio, the winds become very fluky, as the De Lage Landen crew are discovering.

'We're now just 22nm from the final turning point of our journey and now we find ourselves in just ten knots of wind fighting to keep the yacht moving. As I type we're shaking out our final reef and going to full main sail.

'It's a testing time for crew and boat but I'm proud to say that spirits are still high. It would have been easy to get disheartened as we've had to beat the final few hundred miles but crew have remained positive and there's a feeling arriving in Rio will taste sweeter given the hard work we've had to do.'

There is a real plot twist developing between the two teams who are expected to arrive in Rio today. Two days ago you would have been forgiven for thinking that Qingdao and De Lage Landen would be the two boats match racing to the finish line, but in the last 12 hours Qingdao has made great gains and appears about to overtake Geraldton Western Australia and sneak into sixth place. That would be a great result for the Chinese team and a massive psychological boost for them ahead of the next race to Cape Town.

Qingdao crew member, Tom Way, says 'The news that we had managed to pull even further ahead of De Lage Landen today was a real morale boost. It has made the crew feel that all the effort they are putting in is working and getting results.

'Once leaving the oil fields the wind backed and we were able to head straight for Cabo Frio. As we approached the headland the breeze began to drop, the crew were eager to increase sail area and not let the gap we had opened up with De Lage Landen decrease.

'It can now safely be said that the group of individuals that left Southampton a little over a month ago aboard the Qingdao boat will be arriving in Rio as the well-formed Qingdao crew.'

The key for Qingdao has been their slightly more offshore route around Cabo Frio which has allowed them to avoid the worst of the unpredictable winds and maintain momentum in the right direction.

Geraldton Western Australia set sail in race two (from Madeira to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race

Unfortunately not the case for Geraldton Western Australia who could only watch from their position closer to the shore as their lead over the Chinese team dwindled to virtually nothing, according to skipper, Juan Coetzer.

'We made some good ground today until we reached Cabo Frio. The current around this point was pretty strong and the wind died off completely at midnight. Qingdao was 23 miles behind us at the 0000 sched. When the wind died, they raked in a whole ten miles on us. We managed to get the boat moving eventually, but in the wrong direction. But hey, at least we got out of the wind hole. It has been quite the eventful evening: reefing in, reefing out, headsail change, followed by another. The crew are giving it their all.'

With no sign of a let up in the conditions for the next 48 hours, the sight of Sugar Loaf Mountain and the Rio skyline will be a welcome one as the teams enter Guanabara Bay and cross the finish line.

For Geraldton Western Australia and Qingdao, that is not likely to be before this evening.

In the marina work continues to prepare the yachts for the next stage of their 40,000-mile circumnavigation which will take them into the South Atlantic, and possibly even into the fringes of the Southern Ocean.

Winches have been serviced, ropes whipped and spliced, anti-chafe material applied, rig checks carried out, sails checked and repairs begun, boats deep cleaned, laundry washed and kit re-stowed while victuallers are off today to recce the local supermarkets so they can adapt their meal plans according to what is available locally before they begin loading up their shopping trolleys tomorrow.

The ‘to do’ list on a boat is always a long one but in between all the work there is also time for play and, having also had a couple of good nights’ sleep, the crews have been enjoying exploring Rio de Janeiro, devouring the long-dreamed-for steak and sampling a few of the local caipirinha cocktails.

Positions at 1200 UTC, Saturday 3 September
Boat / DTF*
1 Gold Coast Australia / Finished: 0707UTC 31 August
2 Welcome to Yorkshire / Finished: 0110UTC 1 September
3 Singapore / Finished: 0620UTC 1 September
4 New York / Finished: 0134UTC 2 September
5 Visit Finland / Finished: 1443UTC 2 September
6 Geraldton Western Australia / 32nm
7 Qingdao / 33nm
8 De Lage Landen / 78nm
9 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital / 156nm
10 Derry-Londonderry / 234nm

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

Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website