Clipper fleet heads to the Tropics

Nova Scotia’s crew member Mel trimming - Clipper 07-08

With the top three boats split by just eleven miles in terms of distance to finish, the fight for those all-important podium positions is really heating up.

Overnight the leading three - Hull & Humber, New York and Liverpool - have opened a ten mile gap on the next group, led by Nova Scotia and Glasgow. With the other yachts so near the crews can see the effects of everything they do. If an evolution goes well they can see the boat behind get further away but if the crew make a mistake they will be quickly overtaken.

Skipper of Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper, Hannah Jenner says she and her crew are loving the conditions. 'We have had an awesome 24 hours sailing,' she says. 'Close reaching under kite we are making good speeds and all in the right direction! Fantastic stars last night as we sailed in company with five other Clippers, all made even better by a slice of the best carrot cake in the world!'

As the fleet heads north the temperature rises with midday temperatures on deck close to 40C and even hotter below decks. The humidity is hardest to cope with and this will soon be climbing towards 90 percent as they head north towards the Tropics.

With TC Melanie now a shadow of its former self the way is clear for the skippers and navigators to plan their next move. Only westernaustralia2011.com has made anything like a tactical move by staying further inshore after the start, relying on local knowledge to try to give them an advantage. This has backfired and they have now moved further offshore in hot pursuit of the boats ahead.

The remains of the tropical cyclone will be causing the navigators some headaches over the next few days as there are areas of very disturbed air and lumpy seas. The three options are to go west, go east or straight on through the middle.

Skipper of the overall race leader, Durban 2010 and Beyond, Ricky Chalmers, says, 'The choice is whether to skirt this area to the east or west - going through the middle, along our rhumb line looks not to be an option. We have made our way west to avoid other patches of light wind, but our overall plan is to be east of the rhumb line by about January 6 to avoid to the light wind patch. This is all resulting in lots of extra miles and is yo-yoing our position on the leaderboard, perhaps an indication that straight is a better course after all.'

Theirs and the other teams' decisions remain to be seen.

Clipper - Positions - DTF - DTL and 12hr Distance - 06:00 4 january 2008

1 Hull & Humber 1840 0 114
2 New York 1845 5 117
3 Liverpool 08 1850 10 112
4 Nova Scotia 1861 21 101
5 Glasgow:Scotland with style 1861 21 109
6 Qingdao 1865 25 106
7 Durban 2010 and Beyond 1866 26 103
8 westernaustralia2011.com 1868 28 114
9 Jamaica 1898 58 97
10 Uniquely Singapore 1902 62 103

The fleet is due to muster in Batam, Indonesia, on approximately 17 January, with a coordinated arrival at the new Marina at Keppel Bay in Singapore on Saturday 19 January.

www.clipperroundtheworld.com.