Uncomfortable racing conditions for Clipper fleet

Uniquely Singapore’s Emma helming in rough seas - Clipper 07-08
The teams onboard the Clipper Round the World Racing yachts are still pounding their way north against the constant and unrelenting northerly wind as they make their way towards Qingdao.

Most of the boats are choosing to hug the Taiwan costline, except Nova Scotia who has made a tactical decision to stay further east. Skipper Rob McInally described a night of battling winds and currents: “We spent the night trying to make our way east. The currents, tidal rips and freaky wind clouds have led us a merry dance! At 13.30 boat time (8 hours on from the UK) It looks like we have finally found our cloud with the wind to set us free. Free from the chain of islands in the Luzon straights and hopefully more nights of madness. The yacht felt like it was in tar at times, rather than in the sea, as we punched the negative tides and currents.”

Joff Bailey, Race Director: “This constant bashing upwind takes its toll on the body and mind and many of the crew will have bumps and bruises of various degrees (and sizes) and several will have more painful injuries. One thing for sure is that whatever pain and discomfort, each crew member will be putting the pain behind them, gritting their teeth and trying to sail the boat as fast as possible, even though it means more pain and discomfort. When they finish they will be more than aware that they have tested themselves against some of the hardest sailing that can be done.”

One boat to report such bumps and bruises is Qingdao with “a morning queue for Ibuprofen” following various knocks and minor injuries. Skipper Marcus-Cholerton Brown has also joined the queue after a collision with one of the life rafts but his spirits remain high despite the dramas of yesterday: “We are making good progress towards Taiwan with the full crew of 18 onboard, despite Carlo's bid for freedom yesterday. Everybody did really well to recover him so quickly, all the drills we have practised just clicked into place with no panic and a proper sense of urgency. It just goes to show the value of Clipper Training when it counts.”

Joff Bailey says: “With the night time temperature in Qingdao regularly below freezing and only 900nm to go before the finish it does not take a rocket scientist to work out that very shortly the crews will also be battling against the cold weather. This has the effect of sapping strength and making every job 10 times harder and slower. In these conditions it is very important that crew members look after themselves and each other as any injury could reduce the strength of the overall team.”

The maintenance work onboard has to continue even though the boat is bouncing around and the temperatures are due to drop. Mast inspections are essential and general repairs have to be carried out just to keep the complex machine, that is a racing yacht, running efficiently. The teams that look after their boat and each other are those that often end up at the front of the fleet.

Many of the teams have likened the experience of being onboard a racing yacht in the present conditions to “being in a washing machine on a spin cycle.” Race leaders Jamaica are not only struggling to retain their lead but also to keep the water out of the navigation station. Skipper Simon Bradley said: “The last time I sailed through the Luzon Strait it was warm, sunny with a moderate breeze. This time wet, wild and windy are the right words to use, there appeared to be more water inside the yacht than outside, but that was just an illusion wasn't it......wasn't it??”

Many different groups of people and individuals monitor the progress of the Clipper fleet, from friends and families of the crew to professional sailors and sailing enthusiasts. One group of sailors that will be watching and monitoring this current leg very closely will be the teams and race organisers of the Volvo Ocean Race. The Volvo fleet will be following in the wake of the Clipper Round the World Race and sailing from Singapore to Qingdao in 2009.

POSITIONS AT 0600 GMT 08 FEBRUARY 2008

Jamaica: Distance To Finish (DTF) 931
Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper: DTF 951, (Distance To Leader +20)
Uniquely Singapore: DTF 957, (+26)
New York: DTF 965, DTL (+34)
Durban 2010 & Beyond: DTF 965. (+34)
Hull & Humber: DTF 966, (+35)
Nova Scotia: DTF 998, (+67)
westernaustralia2011.com: DTF 1008, (+77)
Liverpool 08: DTF 1026, (+95)
Qingdao: DTF 1118, (+187)