Clipper Round the World Yacht Race fleet prepare for Chinese New Year

Derry-Londonderry at the start of the race from the Gold Coast to Singapore - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race.
Steve Holland/onEdition
Clipper 2011-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet are on day thirty of race seven, from the Gold Coast to Singapore.

The Clipper 2011-12 Race Team has arrived in Nongsa Point Marina in Batam, Indonesia, where the yachts are due to muster ahead of next Saturday’s arrival in Marina at Keppel Bay, Singapore, and now all that’s needed to complete the picture is ten 68-foot yachts, each emblazoned with the name of an international city, state, country or corporation.

But we won’t have long to wait as the first teams are expected to arrive in the marina at 0700 local time tomorrow (2400 UTC Sunday) at the end of race seven from Queensland, Australia.

Race seven winners, Gold Coast Australia, and Derry-Londonderry, who secured their first podium finish of the campaign with a convincing second place, will be the first to arrive, with the group of five expected 24 hours later, and the final three early on Thursday morning local time.

The final stage of 4,300-mile journey from Australia’s east coast has been completed with a mixture of motor and sail after the Race Committee made the decision to finish the race early. Freed from the need for constant concentration on trim, course and boat speed, the last few days have given the teams some time to revisit training drills and to get to the items right at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.

'Deb Grant and Chris Hopkins completed their wind scoop today which is making a fantastic difference to the cooling of the internals of the boat,' reports Gold Coast Australia’s skipper, Richard Hewson. 'As we motor-sail along it scoops up the wind from all angles making life below a lot more pleasant from bow to stern.

'Today we also utilised our time to practice a few emergency drills including man overboard, flood and fire. All these drills reiterated how important it is to keep what to do in an emergency at the back of your mind as it could happen any time. When you’re on a yacht preservation of life and the yacht is the most important thing in the world.

'Everybody is very excited about reaching Batam and Singapore, and there is a lot of talk about eating and enjoying the fundamentals of land based life which normal ‘landlubbers’ tend to take for granted.'

Top of the list every time: hot/cold showers (depending on the weather you’ve been through), flushing toilets, cold beer and food you need to chew.

The weather for the final stages is also producing a little bit of wind so it’s a chance to enjoy a respite from the noise of the engine. Race meteorologist and former winning skipper, Simon Rowell, is predicting a 'gentle reach' to Singapore.

'We are able to give our engine, aka ‘the beer-seeker’ a rest and proceed under full sail,' says Derry-Londonderry’s skipper, Mark Light.

'Everybody is looking forward to a great stop in Batam before transferring to a fantastic welcome ceremony in Singapore. Last minute jobs are being completed in order to maximise our down time in Batam – I hear it is a beautiful place and I am looking forward to a cool shower, cold beer(s) and some good food - not necessarily in that order!

'It is a great feeling to have our first podium position and it will only sink in when we finally get on that stage to accept our runners up pennant in Marina at Keppel Bay. With our boat in very good order and lots of work already complete, it is shaping up to be a most enjoyable and very welcome stopover.

'We have got on really well with the crew of Gold Coast Australia over the past week or so and I am sure that the mood and celebrating will continue long into the early hours when we arrive.'

The next five yachts are expected between Monday evening and Tuesday morning local time. Skippers report a speed over ground of ten knots, thanks to a favourable current and very flat sea state.

Among the teams in the second group of yachts is third placed Geraldton Western Australia, Qingdao and home team, Singapore, who are assured of the warmest of welcomes when they arrive in the premier waterfront precinct, Marina at Keppel Bay, on Saturday.

Qingdao arrives at race 10 finish in San Francisco - 213-14 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race
Clipper 13-14 Round the World Yacht Race

Qingdao’s skipper, Ian Conchie, reports his team are also enjoying being able to switch off the engine during the closing hours of the stage from the Gold Coast.

'During the night the wind filled in enough to allow us to hoist our headsail and get a bit more speed for less revs for a while to help us on our way,' he says.

Tomorrow is a very special day for Chinese communities around the world – including the one on the 68-foot yacht approaching the Singapore Straits – as it marks the end of the Year of the Rabbit and heralds the beginning of the Year of the Dragon. Already, looking from the shores of Batam Island across the Straits to Singapore, fireworks are filling the sky. The streets of Singapore are decorated with red lanterns and the doorways of businesses and hotels are adorned with mandarin trees with red envelopes tied on to their branches bearing wishes for an auspicious new year.

Ian comments, 'We have prepared the boat for Chinese New Year with Brett (Liang Wu) providing some authentic Chinese posters and writings to put up around the boat.

'We also finally got the results from the inter boat quiz with Geraldton Western Australia and Singapore but there appears to be some debate over some of the answers and therefore the overall result may need to be settled with a tie breaker over a beer or two in Batam!'

The final trio of yachts are currently expected on Thursday morning.

'The convoy of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, Welcome to Yorkshire and Visit Finland eventually set off from the refuelling port just around sunset,' Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s skipper, Gordon Reid, tells the Race Office this morning.

'We had been rafted up on the pontoon and enjoying a bit of light relief in the form of a spot of swimming and a very nice lunch i.e. not pasta, rice or couscous, whilst we waited for the fuel delivery truck to arrive and allow us to refuel to capacity.

'Now we have refuelled we can be a bit more generous with the revs and have been easily making nine knots Speed Over Ground as we weave our way around the various reefs, numerous oil and gas platforms, seismic survey vessels and rig support vessels.

'With most of our maintenance and cleaning programme done, the crew have a bit of time to do some personal grooming, lots of shaving and filing of nails going on – and that’s just the boys!'

Welcome to Yorkshire in Race 5 - Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race
Karl Monaghan/onEdition

Welcome to Yorkshire’s skipper, Rupert Dean, also notes the need to dodge various obstacles in their path.

'Lots of floating logs, oil and gas fields to avoid. Right now we're having to do a detour to give a seismic survey vessel six miles of clearance, before we can resume our chosen course. Nevertheless, we're making good progress under engine. Thank goodness for Perkins Power!'

While the teams are in Batam they will mark several key dates for the teams. Chinese New Year – also called Spring Festival in China – is on Monday, while on 25 January Edinburgh Inspiring Capital will lead the fleet in a Burns Night celebration of one of Scotland’s favourite sons, the poet, Robert Burns; and the following day on 26 January, the two Aussie teams will encourage everyone to join in as they mark Australia Day.

Overall standings after race seven:
1. Gold Coast Australia 73 points
2. Visit Finland 53 points
3. De Lage Landen 46 points
4. New York 40 points
5. Singapore 38 points
6. Welcome to Yorkshire 37 points
7. Derry-Londonderry 35 points
8. Qingdao 34 points
9. Geraldton Western Australia 31 points
10. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 14 points

Clipper Round the World Yacht Race website