Strong winds and big seas test Clipper fleet

Hull & Humber - Clipper 07-08

“Scream if you want to go faster!” exclaims Marcus Cholerton-Brown, skipper of Qingdao, this morning. “It’s been another great 24-hours of sailing filled with excitement and drama. We thought the roller coaster ride south from Qingdao was fast, but we are now regularly clocking 20 knots of boat speed. The whole of Qingdao quivers as we accelerate on a wave and surf our way down, accompanied by a mixture of delight and exhilaration from the crew.”

With all of the teams enjoying winds of up to 30 knots from the west the fleet is making fast progress as they start to leave the coast of Japan behind them. Those that decided to make an early tactical move north have benefited substantially overnight with Durban 2010 and Beyond, westernaustralia2011.com and Qingdao leaping up the leaderboard.

Putting in the highest 12-hour run of 141 nautical miles, Durban 2010 and Beyond reports to be, “screaming along under poled out number 2 Yankee and full main, with the wind gusting up to 35 knots and big seas.”

The strong winds have brought with them occasional squalls accompanied by rapid wind shifts, which has caused several of the teams to broach. One of these teams is Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper, whose skipper Hannah Janner says, “We’ve had two major wipe outs over the last 12-hours during some vicious squalls, one with forked lightening touching down very close to the boat.”

The livelier conditions has led to a reduction in sail across the fleet in an effort to reduce the risk of broaching as Race Director Joff Bailey explains, “Reducing sail sounds like it may make the boat go slower, however, the opposite is usually the case if you reduce sail at the right time. The reason for this is that if the teams take a more cautious approach to the amount of sail they fly the yacht is easier to handle and can be driven in a straight line more effectively. If you have too much sail up and push too hard it is very difficult to maintain a steady course and there is an increased risk of breaking something. This has obviously been the case on some of the boats as they push harder to gain more miles.”

One such boat is westernaustralia2011.com and skipper Martin Silk gave an insight into life onboard the WA boat this morning. Martin says, ”Looking up its mackerel skies, amongst the long mares tails, but on westernaustralia2011.com we don’t do small sails! It’s been a mammoth 24-hours, 275 miles and speeds of up to 24.6 knots. We’ve had a busy morning investigating spinnaker pole repair techniques and considering future tactics whilst sailing downwind with up to 40 knots of wind. Life is good, or was until two minutes ago when the track ripped off the mast…”

Looking at the race viewer, Nova Scotia is considerably further south than the rest of the fleet, an interesting position considering the stronger winds to be found further north. Race Director Joff Bailey thinks their current position could be explained by yesterday’s daily blog from the boat, which reported that several crew members were suffering from cold and flu. Joff says, “With several crew members suffering from cold and flu and not having a full strength watch system, it can sometimes be difficult to change sails or change course safely. In these instances the only safe option is to carry on until conditions moderate or more of the crew are back to full health. With so many miles still to go this is a good tactic as it is very easy to push the crew and the boat too hard early on and lose out later.”

Hull & Humber appears to be following their own tactical plan this morning and even without going further north they have extended their lead to 24 nautical miles. The team from the east of England, led by skipper Danny Watson, has been the most consistent performers since departing Liverpool last September and have never been outside the top 5 positions.

The fleet is now making excellent progress towards Hawaii and the first yachts are due to arrive in the Ala Wai Small Yacht Harbour in Honolulu on approximately 20 March.

POSITIONS AT 0600 GMT, 01 MARCH 2008
1. Hull & Humber: Distance to Finish (DTF) 3268
2. Durban 2010 and Beyond: DTF 3292 (Distance to Leader +24)
3. westernaustralia2011.com: DTF 3294 (+26)
4. New York: DTF 3295 (+27)
5. Qingdao: DTF 3295 (+27)
6. Liverpool 08: DTF 3302 (+34)
7. Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper: DTF 3308 (+40)
8. Uniquely Singapore: DTF 3317 (+49)
9. Nova Scotia: DTF 3361 (+93)
10. Jamaica: DTF 3465 (+197)

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