Gold Coast Australia has cleared lighter winds to get into stronger breeze to the south to commence the charge to the finish line off Cape Town.
The Australian team logged the joint best 12-hour run of 116 miles with Singapore overnight putting them within 200 miles of the Cape Town finish line on 26 September at 09h00 UTC, after a 3,300-mile race from Rio de Janeiro.
“Gold Coast Australia is now clear of the patch of lighter winds caused by the South Atlantic High and is sailing along with good speed directly towards Cape Town,” skipper, Richard Hewson, said.
Richard added that he was expecting the wind to drop off as his team approaches land, so he cautioned that he was not getting his hopes too high.
“The last few miles of a race always take longer than you think,” he said.
With a third win in his sights, the Australian skipper is feeling confident.
“The crew is sailing the boat really well and everyone has come a long way since the start of the race. Helming and trimming techniques are developing and are now definitely above my expectations for this stage of the race,” he said.
De Lage Landen has also been making good progress as one of the four boats to post a triple digit 12-hour run. Skipper Stuart Jackson and his team are now 92 miles behind Gold Coast Australia after clawing their way up the leader board.
On Welcome to Yorkshire, skipper Rupert Dean and his team have secured the bonus point for the Ocean Sprint between 5 degrees west and 2 degrees east.
Yesterday Welcome to Yorkshire declared a provisional time of 32 hours and ten minutes, the fastest to date. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital has declared their time at 46 hours and 46 minutes this morning. “I would like to credit my crew for our success in the Ocean Sprint. They worked hard, maintained their focus and did our Welcome to Yorkshire sponsor proud,” Rupert said.
Olly Osborne and his team on Visit Finland have opted to go into Stealth Mode as they close in on the finish. They will emerge from the invisibility shield at the midnight UTC position reports tonight and until then they will keep everyone guessing about whether they have managed to keep the pressure on Gold Coast Australia and see off the challenge from De Lage Landen.
“It is beginning to look like this could be a really close finish with the leading boats converging again on the rhumb line. We are desperately trying to hold off De Lage Landen at present but she is sailing well and no amount of trimming and spinnaker peels seem to open the gap between us,” Olly said.
“This may well be due to her more southerly position, but it is a great incentive to hunt for the last ounce of boat speed and keeps the watches focused. With more than 400 miles of spinnaker work ahead of us it promises to be a fantastic finale to this race,” he added.
On Derry-Londonderry, Mark Light said his crew was also looking forward to the downwind conditions despite some “spinnaker shenanigans” in the early hours of this morning.
Mark said his team had been carrying out regular checks for chafe on the loaded lines and hoisting or lowering the halyard by a few inches on an hourly basis, a practice known as ‘exercising the halyard’ to prevent excessive heat build up and pressure which can lead to failure.
“As night fell we had double checked everything and even secured a second spinnaker guy onto the end of our pole so that the pole would stay in position if our existing guy was to break. All these checks and measures are routine on boats these big and powerful Clipper 68s with oversize spinnakers that can exert massive forces on lines and huge stresses on the boat,” he said.
Despite all the checks and precautionary measures, the ‘all hands on deck’ call was made in the early hours of the morning. In the darkness, Mark worked out that the spinnaker guy snap shackle that attaches to the sheet had opened and allowed the spinnaker to detach from the pole.
“Our LegenDerry crew once again excelled themselves by getting the sail down very quickly and with no damage, and after a thorough inspection of all lines, we found nothing untoward, so re-hoisted, trimmed and carried on at a steady 10 knots of boat speed,” Mark said.
Following their success is the Ocean Sprint, Rupert and his team on Welcome to Yorkshire are hunting down Qingdao and New York.
“Right now on Welcome to Yorkshire, we have a race within a race. We’re hunting down New York and Qingdao ahead of us, whilst looking over our shoulder at Geraldton Western Australia behind,” Rupert said, acknowledging that more “twist and turns” were likely before the finish.
On Qingdao, Ian Conchie and his team are doing everything they can to hold their position. As the wind swung round to the west, the Chinese team headed south and hoisted their biggest spinnaker to maximise boat speed.
“With each position report we have been looking at the rest of the fleet wishing we had the same wind and finally this morning we have,” Ian said.
However, this morning the team is paying the price for flying the biggest but most delicate of its spinnakers. “During the night we managed to rip our lightweight spinnaker all the way from top to bottom giving Dave, our sail repair crew member, a huge amount of work to do in Cape Town,” Ian said.
With just two miles separating them from Qingdao, New York is keen to hang onto this small lead. At the time, skipper Gareth Glover is aware of the threat posed by Welcome to Yorkshire after posting the fastest time in the Ocean Sprint thanks to their southerly position.
“There is big wind developing in front us and at this point looks like the lead boats might just get through but we’ll to keep up our speed above 10 knots to squeak through,” Gareth said, adding that he hoped he would be able to hold the medium weight spinnaker to the finish.
On Geraldton Western Australia, Juan Coetzer said his team had dealt with a tear on the leading edge of one of their spinnakers. He said he called for an immediate drop and opted for a guy-run drop, keeping the guy attached to prevent flogging, to avoid further damage.
“This was something the crew had never done before but they listened to the orders I gave and we managed to save a really big disaster,” Juan said. Adding that crew member, Pete Phillips, had spent four hours doing a repair. “It’s now up and flying again so happy days,” he said.
On Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, Gordon Reid and his team are alternating between a poled out headsail and the heavyweight spinnaker as they endeavour to make best speed towards Cape Town.
“In the dynamic game of ocean racing, nothing ever stays the same and especially not the wind on the edge of two South Atlantic pressure systems,” Gordon said.
The Edinburgh Inspiring Capital team is taking advantage of the downwind conditions to gets some maintenance done ahead of their arrival in Cape Town.
“Being on a downwind or beamy course means the boat is invariably flatter allowing the crew to crack on with our never ending jobs list. On any yacht your jobs list should never be empty as there is continual ongoing maintenance and there are always improvements and efficiencies to be discovered,” Gordon said.
Singapore is making good progress and along with race leaders, Gold Coast Australia, logged the best 12-hour run overnight. Skipper Ben Bowley said his team had changed down from the heavy weight spinnaker to the medium weight kite as the wind abated giving them an extra 1.5 knots of boat speed.
“As the wind had slowly backed round through the night we are happy with our position for our final run into Cape Town having gybed over this morning. We are still making sure we stay a little south of the rhumb line to ensure that we don’t end up going upwind on the final 100 miles into the finish,” Ben said.
As their second transatlantic race of the two-month series draws to a close, Ben and his team are looking forward to making landfall in Africa.
“As we enjoy a wonderful sunrise just in front of our sponsored spinnaker with fresh coffees in hand, all thoughts are turning to our imminent arrival in Cape Town after what had been a challenging leg. Fingers crossed that this wind holds for just long enough,” Ben said.
The Clipper Race Team has now arrived in Cape Town and is busy preparing for the arrival of the Clipper fleet over the coming days. The ten boats will be berthed in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront until the start of Race 4 to Geraldton in Western Australia. Gold Coast Australia is expected to finish not before 1000 local tomorrow, and further estimated arrival times will be posted in due course.
Positions at 0900 UTC, Monday 26 September:
- Gold Coast Australia – 187nm (Distance top Cape Town)
- De Lage Landen – 279nm (+92nm (DTL – Distance to Leader)
- Derry-Londonderry – 346nm
- Visit Finland – 351nm
- Singapore – 379nm
- New York – 463nm
- Qingdao – 465nm
- Welcome to Yorkshire – 503nm
- Geraldton Western Australia – 570nm
- Edinburgh Inspiring Capital – 834nm