At first light this morning in Queenscliff, Australia, Singapore’s crew slipped lines and headed back out through the Port Philip heads and into the Great Australian Bight after successfully repairing their steering quadrant. Happy to be helming with a wheel again and not a tiller, skipper Ben Bowley has sent a note of appreciation at today’s 0600 position report.
“I would like to extend a hearty thanks to all those who presented a wonderful reception committee for us in Queenscliff yesterday afternoon,” he says. “Especial thanks to Kate Parbury and family for proving such wonderful hosts. A delicious barbecue and some cool refreshing beverages were served to us almost as soon as lines hit the dock!”
Kate is the mother of round the world crew member and Singapore watch leader, Will Parbury, who lives a stone’s throw from Queenscliff in Victoria and regularly sails and dives in the area.
Ben continues, “Many of Will’s former colleagues, friends and ex-crewmates were on hand with an array of tools and advice. It really served to remind me how many supporters we have and how far they are willing to go out of their way to help us. Once again, we were truly grateful to see so many welcoming, supportive faces waiting for us on that small dockside. Many thanks also to Queenscliff Harbour Marina and pilot station for accommodating us at such short notice and allowing us full use of their excellent facilities.”
Now back at sea and making best speed towards New Zealand, Ben and the Singapore crew are determined to turn around their run of bad luck and make the most of the time they have together on board.
“Reading the other boats’ updates I fear that we are missing out on a bit of a sleigh ride down south! Much is the shame as we are having to nose our way out of the Bass Straits under iron top-sail [engine]. We did have an excellent hour’s close fetching under full main and Yankee 1 after leaving Queenscliff this morning. However, as we rounded Cape Schanck, the wind veered to almost exactly our desired course, forcing us to motor at a conservative RPM for probably the first 24 hours of our training/passage sail to Tauranga. Things look a little rosier for the following 72 hours though; we should have a nice fast fetch across to New Zealand, assuming we can keep pace with the weak front sweeping across the Tasman Sea. We intend to use this period as an opportunity to ensure that the knowledge base of all members of the crew is improved by concentrated coaching sessions not just delivered by myself. We have some key (halfway round the world) crew members leaving in Gold Coast and we want to ensure that the knowledge they have gained in the last four months is passed on to new and remaining crew members. We intend to be as well trained and focused as possible for the short sprint leg back to Gold Coast. Time to gain back some cruelly snatched points I think.”
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital looks set to claim the bonus point on offer for the Race 5 Ocean Sprint between the longitudes of 150 and 154 degrees east. The Ocean Sprint is a time trial rather than a first past the post contest, which means every team, no matter their position in the fleet, has the chance to pick up an extra point if they cover the distance in the quickest time.
Welcome to Yorkshire had been the yacht to beat, with a time of 21 hours and 22 minutes for the sprint of approximately 240 miles. But the team representing Scotland’s capital city have declared a time of 19 hours and 10 minutes to complete the trial, meaning Qingdao needed to finish by 0820 UTC today to beat them. The results are provisional until the Race Committee verifies them in New Zealand but it looks like they’ll be celebrating on the deck of the Purple Beastie at happy hour tonight.
Gordon Reid, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s skipper, says, “The Purple Beastie is doing some fierce 12-hour runs in these strong winds she thrives and carries a lot of momentum (kinetic energy), so for now we stay the furthest south, closing on the fleet and pushing ourselves and the yacht as hard and fast as we dare, ensuring we keep a little in reserve for when it all gets fruity again.
“After our wild, crazy ride in 60 knots plus, 40 to 45 knots seems a bit pedestrian. The sea is still wild, with some of the swells as big as a two-storey building, but it is amazing how quickly you become used to conditions which are, to be fair, pretty extreme. The crew are loving it and so am I. We spent the day surfing monster wave after wave to see who could top the highest speed of 26 knots. We initiated a squall watch and a few of us took turns at seeing who could ride the wave mid-squall for the longest. A few months ago that would have seemed like a totally crazy thing to aspire to, but on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, sailing in the beautiful fury of the Southern Ocean, it’s just another day at the office.
“With New Zealand approaching fast I’ve got a feeling we are about to face our biggest challenge yet with the forecast predicting up to 60 knots as we surf all the way on to the continental shelf of New Zealand.”
The conditions are certainly challenging all of the teams – they are further south than on the previous leg and the Southern Ocean is making sure they have something to remember her by.
Mark Light, Derry-Londonderry’s skipper describes the “fantastic sailing conditions” his team has been experiencing.
“We are flying along with some really excellent boat speeds: averaging 12 knots and surfing between 15 and 23 knots,” he explains. “The swells are huge with a lot of power behind them; things are very physically demanding and it takes a lot of skill and nerve to helm one of these Clipper 68s powered up in these conditions. My crew have done exceptionally well. We have managed to look after our boat and equipment very well.”
Just the second and third reefing lines have broken. These are the ropes attached to the mainsail which allow the sail area to be reduced or increased according to the conditions.
Describing how it happened, Mark says, “We were reefing down the main just before a series of dark clouds arrived over us and unfortunately one of the mainsail cars jammed on the mast track between the first and second spreaders. While we tried numerous ways to free it, the second and third reefing lines managed to flog, snap and tangle with each other and the existing first reefing line. This resulted in a huge bundle of very tightly knotted line right at the end of the boom which prevented us from grinding in reef one – the whole purpose of the operation in the first place!”
A heave-to and 25 minutes of hard work later and the team was back on track, holding on to third place. Could Tauranga be where the ‘LegenDerrys’ claim their first podium place?
While the Northern Ireland team has been lucky to avoid any worse breakages than a few snapped and tangled lines, second placed New York has not escaped so lightly.
“Just over 12 hours ago, I was thinking it was ‘race over’ for New York,” reveals the US team’s skipper, Gareth Glover.
“While we were putting a second reef in the main as the wind was building and an unseen squall hit us with gusts of over 50 knots, the mainsail got pushed though the rig, breaking three battens and putting three rips along the batten reinforcements.
“The first was about half a metre above the second reef and the two others about 30cm above the third reef. We quickly went to three reefs to make sure the biggest rip did not get bigger and called all hands on deck. As we do on New York, we got on with the job of taking down the Yankee 3 and putting up the Yankee 2, taking the mainsail down on the deck and our storm sail went up in its place. We have been racing under this sail plan now for over 12 hours and have only lost a few miles to De Lage Landen and Derry-Londonderry.
“We have had all the crew working in teams on different parts of the mainsail. The hard bit is that you’re hand sewing though four pieces of sail cloth in 30-knot winds and breaking seas. We’ve got about four more hours of work to be done, taking the full repair to about 13 hours. And then we will put the main back up and chase down Gold Coast Australia.”
With New York in second place, De Lage Landen is running neck and neck with Derry-Londonderry, jostling for third place. After two and a half thousand miles of racing, just a couple of miles separate them but although the racing is red hot, the weather is decidedly not.
“It doesn’t look like the weather is going to give us any reprieve until we are past the southern point of New Zealand,” comments De Lage Landen’s skipper, Stuart Jackson, this morning. “It has also got a lot colder with the south westerly winds bringing cold air up from the Antarctic, so everyone is looking forward to the conditions improving as we make our way up the New Zealand coastline. It’s just all a bit repetitive, putting reefs in and out as the squalls come through.”
Rupert Dean, skipper of Welcome to Yorkshire, echoes Stuart’s comments about the cold, explaining, “These 30-knot winds have been accompanied by enormous, vicious squalls, demanding rapid evolutions to shorten sail and/or bear away. Consequently the crew are working hard in some arduous sailing conditions.
“Race 4 has, for us, been a far truer reflection of what the Southern Ocean should be than Leg 3. Since leaving Geraldton there has hardly been a day when we haven’t been sailing in gale force conditions. To perform day in, day out in winds ranging from Force 8 to 10, in mountainous seas under racing conditions, is no small feat. It demands courage, determination and teamwork of the highest order and I thank my crew for it. In particular, I wish to praise my watch leaders, Hannah Richards (Management Consultant) and Jim Stamp (Plant Operator), along with their deputies, James Charlesworth (farmer) and Richard Williams (accountant), for their sterling efforts in keeping our boat and crew motivated, happy and safe.
“As we near the southernmost point in our round the world adventure, we look forward to turning north again, towards warmer climes (and cold beer). The crew has come a long way since their training days in the English Channel, in more ways than one. They are doing themselves proud.”
Clipper 11-12 is raced by people like you – people from all walks of life who put their everyday lives on hold to fulfil a long-held ambition or take on the challenge of a lifetime. Hannah, a management consultant, Jim, a plant operator, James, a farmer, and Richard, an accountant will have completed the sailing equivalent of climbing Mount Everest when they return to the UK in July 2012 – a circumnavigation under sail. There are presentations taking place in New Zealand and Australia in the next few weeks – go to www.clipperroundtheworld.com for more details.
Geraldton Western Australia’s having a pretty good day as well, according to skipper, Juan Coetzer, whose team will be more refreshed after being allowed to shower instead of the standard wet wipe wash during the rough weather of the last two days.
“For the first time since leaving Geraldton, we have got our Yankee 2 up and a first reef in the mainsail. Being short numbered one has to take seamanship into consideration and choose the best sail plan for the long term.”
The team does appear to have an extra body on board – but not a helpful one, says Juan. “It looks like the electrical gremlin is back again, as our instruments have gone bonkers. Even our deep water anchor alarm has been going off.”
On board mid-fleet Visit Finland, Olly Osborne is in reflective mood as they prepare to head north and begin the first stage of their climb back towards the northern hemisphere.
“With a little more than two days to run to the Stewart Island waypoint our time in the Southern Ocean is drawing to a close. It has not been without its adventures and over the last few days we have seen some of the most challenging conditions yet. Indeed for the first time this year we made good use of our storm trysail which allowed us to weather gusts of up to 60 knots through the night, and the sea state would at times certainly be referred to as ‘high’ if it were given over the shipping forecast,” he says.
“But we are making good speeds none the less and, despite the frustrations of living in a constantly pitching environment, everyone is well rested and in good spirits. The sun shines between towering cumulus clouds and when the boat is lifted onto the crest of a wave you can see for what seems like miles over the surf streaked glittering surface.”
While the rest of the fleet has been experiencing winds of up to 60 knots and more of the same is predicted in the next 72 hours, Qingdao has been slowed down by the high pressure system that they were hoping to avoid.
“It is amazing to watch the barometer down here,” says Ian Conchie, ‘down here’ being right below ‘Down Under’. “In the UK it is rare to get a change of more than one millibar per hour unless there is a strong weather system around. But here, due to the stream of low pressure systems that revolve around the bottom of the globe the pressure goes up and down all the time like a yoyo!”
Currently racing at between seven and eight knots, the team is hoping to stay ahead of the weather to avoid being becalmed as they were on the way in to Geraldton. The crew is anxious to push as hard as they can to arrive in Tauranga in time to enjoy a longer than expected stopover and fully recharge their batteries.
“In the meantime we have been using the gentler conditions today to inspect and repair sails, do our routine maintenance and tidy and clean up the boat,” says Ian. “In rough weather it is hard to keep everything spick and span due to the motion of the boat, so we have to use these days when we can to keep our beloved purple dragon in top shape.”
At the head of the fleet Gold Coast Australia is having a wild and windy ride.
“Some would say it is a bit breezy down here,” comments skipper Richard Hewson. “Yesterday conditions were nearly perfect as we ran downwind towards Stewart Island. Today we have throttled back a bit as the wind has increased to a steady 32 knots, gusting 50 knots. This may sound a little extreme to some, however to make it even more interesting the gusts sometimes last for up to an hour. Gold Coast Australia is handling like an absolute dream and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t acknowledge these yachts as being the most seaworthy I have ever sailed.”
If you think the conditions are hairy, you should see the faces of the crew – the men, at any rate.
They are growing moustaches for Movember – the charity movement that raises funds and awareness for male cancers and mental health issues – and there are some fine sets of whiskers being cultivated on board many of the boats. Styles range from Errol Flynn to Tom Selleck as well as hommages to the facial stylings of Chopper Read and Merv Hughes on the Australian yachts.
“Today we took our half time photos for Movember. No doubt it will be one of the most extreme Movember photos in history as at the time it was blowing over 50 knots and with five-metre swells and two-metre seas,” writes Richard.
As the teams approach the waypoint to the south of New Zealand, all ten are preparing for a change in conditions – and perhaps a shake-up in the rankings. Meteorologist, Simon Rowell, a former winning Clipper Race skipper and Assistant Race Director who sends wind and weather forecasts to the yachts each day, has been looking ahead and has today told the skippers and navigators, “There’s a big spread in wind strength locally as you get further north.”
The depth of the ocean floor will also have an impact on the sea state.
“What is going to be very interesting is the increase in sea and swell in the shallow water to the south of Stewart Island where the depth decreases from 1,000 to 140 metres as we go over the continental shelf,” explains Richard. “I gather that the sea is going to be quite treacherous and we will be battened down and ready to rumble when we go over the shelf.”
Positions at 1200 UTC, Thursday 17 November
1 Gold Coast Australia 1,052nm
2 New York 1,130nm (+78nm DTL*)
3 Derry-Londonderry 1,153nm (+102nm)
4 De Lage Landen 1,161nm (+109nm)
5 Welcome to Yorkshire 1,179nm (+127nm)
6 Visit Finland 1,238nm (+186nm)
7 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 1,305nm (+254nm)
8 Geraldton Western Australia 1,330nm (+278nm)
9 Qingdao 1,507nm (+455nm)
10 Singapore 1,975nm (Retired)
* Slow progress as wind drops for first night at sea
* Qingdao caught on foul tide
* Crews thank HMS Illustrious for support in parade of sail and
flotilla for stunning turn out on the water
After the magnificent send off from Southampton yesterday the ten teams
taking part in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race have spent
their first night at sea, settling into new routines that will become
second nature during the course of the next year.
As the sun set on race start day, the wind died and by the early hours
there was barely a breath of air to fill the huge windseeker sails.
Gold Coast Australia was first out of the starting blocks, first around
the mark in Stokes Bay and pulled out a good lead over the rest of the
fleet but as skipper, Richard Hewson, explains, light winds overnight
have thrown a bit of a spanner in the works.
“After a cracking start Gold Coast Australia led the fleet out of the
Solent and we hoisted the medium weight spinnaker beautifully as we
rounded Bembridge Ledge. We carried the spinnaker throughout the first
part of the night but then suffered big losses stuck without wind as the
fleet caught up and now draws abeam. The crew is now working hard in
light and fickle winds to maintain boat speed and get through shipping
lanes in the Channel. All is well and buzzing on board as we settle into
the watch system and first day of an epic 12-month journey around the
“Good morning from the mid channel mill pond,” says Singapore skipper,
Ben Bowley. “It’s been a long time coming but finally we’re off! Our
procession down Southampton Water yesterday was quite awe inspiring; a
huge thanks to the Captain and crew of Lusty for providing such a great
send off. Seeing such a large flotilla of spectator boats really
brought home to us the enormity of what it is we are about to undertake,
huge thanks and a fond farewells to those who came to show their
“We had good (albeit very cautious) start aboard Singapore with only
Gold Coast ahead of us on the line. I was initially lamenting my choice
of headsail (Yankee 2) as we seemed a little underpowered compared to
the majority of the fleet. However, as the Yankee 2 is non-overlapping
we were able to climb higher than those carrying the Yankee 1 and
subsequently held good position making it round the first mark still in
second place. As we approached the forts with the wind easing we
changed up to the Yankee 1, a flawless change (quite surprising for the
first one!) all credit to the crew and watch leaders. The headsail
change cost us only one place and some close cross tacking ensued, the
yachts all feeling different tidal effects from one side of the Solent
to the other.
“The last 12 hours have been quite frustrating with a distinct lack of
breeze. We elected not to fly a spinnaker last night for two good
reasons: firstly, I’m keen to sail the rhumb line and it was too tight
for the kite as several of the other yachts have proved by having to
sail almost due west. Secondly, the idea of wrapping the kite on the
first night at sea in fluky wind conditions with heavy wash from
shipping was not my idea of fun. On refection, the Yankee 1 and main
alone have set us fairly well and although it is hard to judge positions
at present, I believe we are in the front group, still fairly on the
rhumb line, exactly where we wish to be.
“Now it is time for some strong coffee, porridge and a look at whether
the light kite would be advantageous now the sun is up and we are all
well rested and alert…”
After all the excitement and emotion of yesterday’s spectacular send
off, sunrise on a new day has also brought some a new emotional
atmosphere to Visit Finland, which didn’t have the best of starts in the
Solent but whose crew have worked hard overnight to pull into the lead
by the 0600 UCT report this morning. Skipper, Olly Osborne, sums up what
a difference a day makes, saying, “A night of little or no breeze has
kept us busy trimming and trying to keep the boat on the move. The dawn
is hazy and the sea appears glassy in the morning light, and the quiet
stands in sharp contrast to the noise and emotion of yesterday.”
A lot of that noise came from the flotilla of more than 300 spectator
boats which turned out to give the fleet a fantastic send off. Gareth
Glover, skipper of New York, says, “The boats of the flotilla gave us
great support. Individual cheers from friends and family had the crew
jumping from their hike-out seats to identify themselves and shout back
New York was up with the leading pack at the start and has maintained
pressure at the front despite the lack of wind.
“The wind started slowing down and died completely around 0230 just as
the second watch came on deck. All that our attempts to coax some boat
speed with the wind-seeker would get us was a bit of bobbing around and
just the tide speed. It is morning again and we are moving along at
about four knots with the mid weight spinnaker flying, Welcome to
Yorkshire for company and Visit Finland south of us,” Gareth continues.
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s skipper, Gordon Reid, says, “After an
amazing but emotional race start the team is working hard to keep the
boat moving in the very light breeze and strong tides of the English
Channel. Tactically Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is in a strong position
having already crossed the northern shipping lane and heading towards
Casquets. At this early stage in the race, it is very much all to play
That is a fact that will be reassuring to the Qingdao crew who, as you
will see from their track on the race viewer, appear to be heading back
to Southampton, so good was the welcome there this weekend.
In fact they were in the wrong place when the tide turned and are being
pulled east, in the opposite direction to the one they wish to travel
in. They have two knots of breeze but the speed of the tide against them
is more and therefore they are effectively moving backwards. They are
trying to use their sea anchor – known as a kedge – to hold them in
position off Portland until the tide turns and they can shake loose.
Juan Coetzer, Geraldton Western Australia’s skipper, says “Today it is a
drift-a-thon. It has been sail change after sail change – Yankee 1 up,
then down, spinnaker up and down. The crew are settling in well and
giving it their best. Yesterday was an amazing start, so many boats,
supporting us all on the start line.”
Derry-Londonderry’s crew is also settling in and, according to skipper,
Mark Light, they’re all relaxed, settling in to the watch system, even
enjoying a chicken curry and home-made fruit cake for dinner.
“It was a great start to the race with beautiful conditions. We need
some more wind now though – it dropped overnight and we’re making slow
progress under full main and spinnaker.”
Positions at 0600 UTC, Monday 1 August
1 Visit Finland 1249nm
2 Welcome to Yorkshire 1250nm (+2nm DTL*)
3 New York 1251nm (+2nm)
4 Singapore 1254nm (+5nm)
5 De Lage Landen 1257nm (+8nm)
6 Gold Coast Australia 1257nm (+8nm)
7 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 1257nm (+8nm)
8 Derry-Londonderry 1257nm (+9nm)
9 Geraldton Western Australia 1258nm (+9nm)
10 Qingdao 1260nm (+12nm)
Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race
The Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race started on 31 July 2011
from Southampton on the UK’s south coast and will return to the Solent
in July 2012 after 40,000 miles of ocean racing – the world’s longest
ocean race. The event was established by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to give
everyone, regardless of sailing experience, the opportunity to
experience the exhilaration of ocean racing. More than 500 people
representing more than 40 nations will compete in Clipper 11-12. They
can sign up for the whole circumnavigation or one or more of eight legs.
The only qualification for the race is the minimum age of 18 – there is
no upper age limit. The overall race is divided into individual stages
and points are accumulated in a Formula 1-style scoring system. The
yacht with the highest total at the finish wins the Clipper Trophy.