Weather brings new challenges for Clipper fleet

westernaustralia.com broken spinnaker pole - Clipper 07-08
Every day the weather brings new challenges to the Clipper fleet as the tacticians try to keep the boats between the North Pacific high pressure system and the constant stream of depressions that come from the west chasing down the fleet.

Today is no exception as the leading eight boats have sailed into the southern edge of a small, locally-generated secondary high pressure cell which has given them light headwinds overnight, slowed them down considerably and caused all eight to lose miles to the south.

Says Qingdao skipper, Marcus Cholerton-Brown, who is awaiting confirmation he and his crew yesterday matched the Clipper Race record for the furthest travelled in 12 hours, “After the last few days the lighter winds we are now experiencing seem very pedestrian.”

According to Joff Bailey, Race Director, “This system could be clearly seen on the weather information provided to the boats but it was very difficult to navigate around. This small secondary high pressure is very localised and hasn’t affected either Jamaica or Nova Scotia who have continued to make good progress; in fact it is possible Nova Scotia’s move south 48 hours ago may have been anticipation of this weather system developing.”

This small hiccup in the fleet’s progress will not persist for very long and will soon be replaced by the next in the constant stream of depressions that sweep west across the Pacific Ocean. But, while the crews may bemoan their lack of speed just now, the lighter winds will allow much needed repairs and maintenance to be undertaken.

“Another 24 hours has passed of 'make do and mend' on Jamaica,” says Simon Bradley, whose team has managed to get their generator and water maker working again. 'A repair of a very small section of the mainsail luff is taking place on deck, this will be completed soon and we'll be able to hoist a full mainsail again and make better speeds towards Hawaii,” he says.

Many of the teams have pushed very hard over the last three or four days and stories of sail repairs and broken spinnaker poles have not been uncommon.

Westernaustralia2011.com’s skipper, Martin Silk, said this morning, “At this time yesterday, whilst running before 35 knots with full main and poled out number 2 there was little margin for error but, with future winds predicted to be light, we wanted to get as far east as possible. [Qingdao] was hot on our tail when the boat rounded up, the Yankee backed and sheet slipped, before the pole ripped a section clean out of the track. We reefed and cleared the damage, then went about modifying the system. With repairs complete we now eagerly await tail winds again.”

It is, however, not the macho approach that wins these races. The teams that can keep their sails in the best condition and who look after and maintain the various systems onboard are usually the ones that come out on top.

Since the fleet left Liverpool on 16 September 2007, the Race Committee has not awarded any penalty points for sail damage. However, following the stopover in Qingdao, China, the Committee is currently considering the possibility that some teams may be penalised in accordance with the rules that govern the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and the outcome of their deliberations will be revealed in due course.

The fleet is currently expected to arrive in the Ala Wai Small Yacht Harbour in Honolulu, Hawaii, on approximately 20 March.

POSITIONS AT 0600 GMT, 2 MARCH 2008

1. Hull & Humber: Distance to Finish (DTF) 3087
2. Durban 2010 and Beyond: DTF 3096 (Distance to Leader 9)
3. Qingdao: DTF 3109 (+22)
4. westernaustralia2011.com: DTF 3112 (+25)
5. New York: DTF 3114 (+27)
6. Liverpool 08: DTF 3124 (+37)
7. Glasgow: Scotland with style Clipper: DTF 3130 (+43)
8. Uniquely Singapore: DTF 3134 (+47)
9. Nova Scotia: DTF 3135 (+48)
10. Jamaica: DTF 3243 (+156)

Inspecting sail damage on Liverpool 08 - Clipper 07-08


Berths are currently available for the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht
Race. For more information call +44 (0) 2392 526000 or email
oceanracer@clipperroundtheworld.com.