Clipper yachts surfing to Hawaii

Nova Scotia - surf’s up!

With the leading eight boats still separated by just 62 nautical miles, Race 7 of the Clipper 07-08 Round the World Yacht Race is turning into another high stress, high pressure, high octane ocean battle.

Putting it into real terms, the current spread of 62 miles between the first eight teams equates to less than 2.5 percent of the distance they have covered since leaving China and with 2,000 miles still to cover any of the nine yachts still racing could easily make up this tiny margin.

The most interesting tactical move at the moment is by Durban 2010 and Beyond, who have moved significantly further north to try to avoid a light airs patch that the rest of the fleet could sail into over the next 48 hours. This is a bold move and could be the defining moment in this race as Durbanite Ricky Chalmers and his team try desperately to hang on to the overall top spot.

This morning Ricky said, “Our move to the north is a calculated risk - quite a big risk. There is a light bubble moving in (…) which I am hoping to avoid. Moving now has not cost us many miles and I am gambling on being able to keep sailing in a few days’ time whilst the rest of the fleet will be in light airs. If the light winds don’t materialise, then our move is in vain.”

Ben Galloway and his team on Liverpool 08 appear to be using the opposite tactic and have made a break south. In theory, they cannot both be right and this weekend will reveal which of them has picked the correct route to come out on top.

Hull & Humber and New York are still slogging it out at the front of the pack. Neither Danny Watson nor Duggie Gillespie on the American entry have made any significant tactical errors, or taken any risks and are sticking doggedly to the idea of sailing as close as the wind will let them to the Great Circle Route to sail the shortest distance to Hawaii.

This continues to be an interesting battle, arguably the two most experienced skippers going head to head over such a long distance. The big question is: who will blink first?

The fight between Qingdao, Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper, Uniquely Singapore and Nova Scotia is intense and several of the boats came within sight of each other overnight.

Nova Scotia’s Rob McInally says, “Having not seen another Clipper for seven days, last night suddenly there were three crossing our path within half a mile. In the early hours two of us duelled for three hours until finally we inched in front of Uniquely Singapore, who had previously done the same with Qingdao. Radio contact with Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper allowed us to tell of days sewing spinnakers and poles that go bump in the night.

“We knew Liverpool 08 were close as we pushed on in the heavy swell and venomous winds. We knew we were quick and thought of making the most of the weather to position ourselves nearer the podium and strategically in line to have the least inconvenience from the windless high due tomorrow.”

While the wind lasts the yachts are experiencing some huge seas. “The bow wave actually was higher than head height as far back as the cockpit!” says Uniquely Singapore’s skipper, Mark Preedy.

And from Qingdao his counterpart, Marcus Cholerton-Brown, says, “We have no instruments on deck so have been judging speed by how far above the guard wire the bow wave comes when we are surfing flat and straight. When we hit the highest speed so far '25 knots' came the cry from the chart table, and the bow wave was hitting the boom. Surf’s up, dude. Which way to Hawaii?”

Race Director Joff Bailey says, “With the strong westerly airflow due to continue over the weekend the ETA for the fleet in Hawaii looks like it may be a few days earlier than expected. The Race Team will start to arrive in Honolulu next Wednesday in preparation for the fleet’s arrival.

“westernaustralia2011.com is making good progress and averaging more than 5 knots with her jury rig. The Race Team has been in discussions with the authorities in Midway Island, which is still the most likely first landfall for re-fuelling. The initial ETA for their arrival in Midway is between 16 and 18 March. This is very dependent on the wind conditions that prevail and a more accurate ETA will be provided as they get closer to Midway Island.”

The Clipper Race Team would like to express their thanks, and that of the westernaustralia2011.com crew, friends and family to the US Government Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the dedicated FWS staff that are stationed on Midway Island for their assistance in preparing for the arrival of the yacht.

The yachts will be berthed in Ala Wai harbour, Honolulu, during the stopover in Hawaii.

Clipper - Positions, DTF and DTL at 12:00 GMT, 7 March 2008

1 Hull & Humber 1929 0
2 New York 1943 14
3 Qingdao 1968 39
4 Nova Scotia 1969 40
5 Uniquely Singapore 1971 42
6 Glasgow:Scotland with style 1972 43
7 Liverpool 08 1983 54
8 Durban 2010 and Beyond 1991 62
9 Jamaica 2120 191
10 westernaustralia2011.com 2362 433