Teams round Ushant and head out into open water

03 August 2011:

Today brings with it the onset of true
offshore racing with eight of the teams clearing Ushant overnight and
heading out into open ocean for the first time on this race. New York and Visit Finland are
still battling it out in front but joining them, having gained ground
over the past 24 hours, is Gold Coast Australia as the team works hard
to regain the leading position they established at the start of the

“After a fantastic sail yesterday, and throughout
the night, we are keeping the pressure on the leaders and are slowly
winding them in by metres every mile,” says Gold Coast Australia‘s skipper, Rich Hewson.

had a fantastic rounding of Nividic Lighthouse and managed to hold the
spinnaker up through the light choppy conditions. Once clear of the
island, and with fresher winds, we held the spinnaker up until the early
hours of the morning when we peeled to a windseeker to gain some extra
height and move into the next weather system.

“The game plan has
changed now they yachts are racing in open ocean, different racing
conditions require different strategies – just like changing the gears
in your car as you drive, Gold Coast Australia is changing gears to gain best performance on the race track.”

Trying to keep pace with the east coast Australian entry is Welcome to Yorkshire who, like Gold Coast Australia, made the decision to gybe south in search of stronger winds and a better wind angle to compensate for the tide.

race between Alderney and Ushant yesterday proved to be tactically
interesting,” says the Yorkshire entry’s skipper, Rupert Dean. “All
yachts were flying spinnakers, some sailing the direct route, with Gold Coast Australia
and ourselves gybing south. Our strategy worked quite well and we made
some miles up whilst charging along in flat water and doing our first
peel of the campaign, from light to heavyweight kite.

we were able to take the last of the favourable tide around Ushant to
get into the Bay of Biscay, before the wind backed to the south
west.”Also able to make it round Ushant before the wind and tide changed
direction was the blue-hulled entry of De Lage Landen.

have had some fantastic sailing in the last 24 hours,” says skipper Mat
Booth. “Initially, as the wind filled in, we hoisted the lightweight
spinnaker before peeling later in the day to our medium as the wind
increased, “Last night our sole mission was to make the tidal gate
around Ushant and we made it! So the romp south begins as we enter the
Bay of Biscay.

“The guys are pushing the boat hard and are intent on catching up Geraldton Western Australia and Singapore
who are only a few miles ahead of us. It never fails to amaze how close
these yachts are matched. Here we are after three days racing with four
other yachts in sight!”

As De Lage Landen chases down
the boats ahead and has clearly enjoyed the recent champagne sailing
conditions, things have been a little more tiring on board Singapore
with skipper Ben Bowley beginning his report by saying, “If this
morning’s report makes little sense it is because I have been up all
night playing with spinnakers, frustratingly with very little beneficial

“We were one of the first in the fleet to hoist our
lightweight kite and this set us up well, enabling us to draw away from
the middle of the pack for a while,” continues Ben. “Soon all the yachts
had followed suit and we settled in for some good trimming practice,
trying to ensure we kept the kite pulling in very light conditions. On
seeing Geraldton Western Australia (our nearest rivals that
morning) blow a halyard and drop well back I felt it was time to catch
up on some of the sleep lost during prep week. This may have been a bad
decision as when I returned on deck a few hours later WA team had
overtaken us! More spinnaker trim coaching required it seems…

“As the afternoon wore on we were able to just claw back ahead of Geraldton Western Australia and keep them fractionally astern until we rounded Ushant late last night.”

As Ben points out in his report, things have not been going well on board the Western Australian entry.

“An incident filled day on Geraldton Western Australia
says skipper, Juan Coetzer. “A chafing halyard brought down the
lightweight spinnaker which was recovered, luckily still in one piece,
and quickly replaced with the medium weight. A couple of trips up the
mast were needed to replace the halyard – a reminder that ‘chafing is
the enemy’. The crew learned another lesson later in the day when a
spinnaker pole nearly went overboard during a gybe – it will slip off
the boat if it is not attached!”

Unlike Geraldton Western Australia,
most of the teams enjoyed a great day of sailing yesterday which has
raised spirits following the previous 24 hours of fickle winds and
strong counter currents. However, building winds and a change in wind
direction can bring with it the risk of damage to the team’s precious
spinnaker sails, something skipper Mark Light is all too aware of.

“Blue skies, flat seas, light winds and flying our lightweight spinnaker all day – it was all very tactical,” explains Derry-Londonderry‘s
skipper. “As we approached Ushant the wind built steadily and backed.
As the prospect of employing the bosun to test drive our sewing machine
was not very appealing to me we dropped our kite and returned to white
sails and rounded comfortably. We’re now heading due South at 5 knots
into a light south westerly wind – here’s hoping the Bay of Biscay will
be kind to us!”

The Bay of Biscay has a notorious reputation but
for the last three editions of the Clipper Race it has not barred it’s
teeth nor shown it’s claws as the teams have raced over a stretch of
water resembling more of a mill pond. It appears that Clipper 11-12 will
be no exception according to this morning’s report from New York crew member, John Finney:

“Morale is high on New York as
another dawn lights the eastern sky and we see the Bay of Biscay in
daylight for the first time on this race. Despite its fearsome
reputation, the sea state is slight with a steady breeze helping push us
down the French coast.

“Our Happy Hour yesterday – around noon
when the two day shifts swap over and a chance for crew to air any
stirring grievances – saw Lloyd warn us all of his dislike of teeth
brushing in the galley sink (fair enough) and Roberto, our Bosun, remind
us to put back his tools after any daily repair work. On a boat,
maintenance is daily – a floating Forth Road Bridge, where once you have
finished any job it is pretty much time to start doing it again!”

New York‘s
closest rivals in the race so far have also been enjoying champagne
sailing conditions as they head south, but as the wind turns light again
it’s all about the trimming according to the team’s skipper Olly

“Sunrise sees us striking south towards Cape Finistere with New York
still in our sights. A game of light airs trimming and careful steering
at the moment but it is good to be getting into deeper water.”

Whilst fortune has smiled on the Finnish entry, things haven’t gone so well for the Scottish team on board Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, but this hasn’t stopped the crew giving it their all to keep the boat moving.

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital
continues to do battle with the fickle winds and strong adverse tides
as we make our way south towards Ushant and the Bay of Biscay,” says
skipper Gordon Reid. “Mainsail in, mainsail out, Yankee 1 up and down,
windseekers up and down, peeling to lightweight spinnaker, gybing
spinnaker to port then starboard, it’s all happening in a valiant effort
to keep the good ship Edinburgh moving towards Madeira.”

The crew on board Qingdao
has also been working hard to keep their boat moving, but whilst most
of the teams were able round Ushant before the tide changed, the Chinese
entry wasn’t so fortunate.

“At anchor again!” exclaims skipper
Ian Conchie. “We had our best days sailing of the race yesterday. The
wind finally filled in and we reached south, first under the lightweight
kite and then peeling to the medium as darkness fell. Unfortunately
the wind dropped this morning just 20 miles from Ushant! Another piece
of extreme anchoring this time in 106m of water!

“So we’re waiting for the wind to build and tide to change so we can continue to head south.”


For more information on the Clipper 11/12 race click here.