Gold Coast Australia opens up lead in high octane conditions

30 August 2011

After conceding some gains in recent position reports, the crew of Gold Coast Australia will be relieved to be powered up again and surfing down the Brazilian coast towards Rio de Janeiro.

Skipper Richard Hewson reports that his crew achieved “fantastic
speeds” in “beautiful conditions” overnight with bright stars and
bioluminescence streaming behind Gold Coast Australia as she planed downwind at speeds over 20 knots.

“On one wave, the boat just took off like a Ferrari. There was a wall
of water on either side of the bow and spray so thick I could not see
the horizon from the helm. The boat surfed down the first wave at about
18 knots, then rode up over the second wave and accelerated again, by
the time we reached the third wave, Gold Coast Australia was
surfing at over 23 knots, so fast that the spinnaker was turning inside
out due to the apparent wind moving forward,” Richard said.

Another crew relieved to finally hoist their spinnaker is Ben Bowley’s on Singapore. After suffering steering failure earlier in the race, the team has been apprehensive but their patience has finally paid off. 

“At 0900 local time we were able to raise our medium kite and a
stunning day of sailing ensued and we were able to make excellent
progress toward the next waypoint at the start of the oil fields,” Ben

Rupert Dean, skipper of Welcome to Yorkshire, still lying in
second place, reports that his team has gybed over to starboard. “When
there are ocean currents involved, you never know exactly what your new
course will be until the evolution is concluded but, fortunately for us,
it has worked out well. We are steering a course of 250 degrees
magnetic, enabling us to clear Cabo Sao Tome and Cabo Frio to starboard
and a busy oil field to port, with the kite up on a broad reach,” Rupert

But with Singapore just 61 miles behind, Welcome to Yorkshire is all too aware that the race is far from over. “Singapore remains a real threat and we hope that the timing of our gybe will enable us to cover them and retain our lead,” Rupert added.

On Gold Coast Australia, the team’s high of logging its
fastest speed to date was soon dampened when a gust of 38 knots tore
their heavyweight kite into two pieces raising the prospect of hours of
sewing in Rio. “These conditions are a fantastic trial bed for the
Southern Ocean as we are learning the limitations of the boat and
sails,” skipper Richard Hewson said. 

On New York, the increased level of shipping continues to
keep the crew on their toes around the clock. Crew member Andrew Priest
reports: “On tonight’s late watch we have noted a massive increase in
traffic, with merchant ships, oil and gas related infrastructure and
fishing vessels, taking advantage of much shallower water 80 miles off
the coast.”

Juan Coetzer on Geraldton Western Australia has also been
avoiding some unusual traffic in the vicinity. He reports spotting a
light on the horizon that turned out to be a tug boat and the AIS system
told him it was restricted in its ability to manoeuvre.

“I called her up on the VHF and was informed that they were towing a
platform and her tow line was over a mile long. The platform looked like
the Eiffel Tower and that was only the beginning of the morning rush
hour traffic, as behind her there were more boats,” Juan said.

As the fleet closes in on Rio, critical decisions are being made as
to how to navigate through the many oil fields in the area, as well as
the dense traffic.

Andrew Priest on New York says the team is mulling the
decision whether to pass onshore or offshore of the major oil and gas
fields which lies to the north east of Cabo Frio, the last waypoint
before the final 70 mile dash to Rio. “With our ambitions for a podium
still undiminished such a call both for us and Singapore may be crucial in deciding the final finishing order,” Andrew said. 

New York will be glad to hear that the crew on Singapore
has been distracted by a large pod of humpback whales. Ben Bowley
reports, “We were treated to seeing them breaching initially at a range
of half a mile then quarter and finally, a little disconcertingly, less
than 100 yards. As they became more used to our presence they grew more
and more intrigued by us; to the extent we had one surface within ten
metres of our starboard side.”

On De Lage Landen skipper Mat Booth reports that his team is engaged in a match race with Qingado, with just one mile separating them at the latest position report.

“It never fails to amaze me that in one design racing after 3,000
nautical miles of racing another Clipper 68 will pop up on the horizon
just a few miles away. Our duel for seventh place began yesterday as Qingdao
popped up on our AIS system and then an hour later her white sails were
spotted to leeward. There’s nothing better than close racing and it’s
really got the crew going. They are working for every inch of ground,
tweaking sails and pushing as hard as they dare. Everyone is all too
aware with one mistake this narrow lead over Qingdao could be lost,” Mat said.

The downwind conditions are enabling the crews to carry out running
repairs as the boats return to a more civilised angle. Tomi Lintonen,
navigator on Visit Finland, said that over the past few days the crew is taking an increasingly active role in work other than trimming and helming.

Tweaks are being made to boost performance and make life on board
more comfortable. “Short strings have been spliced onto the head-sail
hank pistons to help speed up un-hanking the sail as it comes down the
forestay and diesel spills in the bilges have finally stopped after the
crew inspected and tightened all bolts and screws on tank inspection
plates and hose clamps,” Tomi reports.

“This attitude towards preventative work, together with a bit of
luck, has made it possible for us to experience very pleasant sailing
with minimal gear failure so far,” he said.

Lesley Roberts, crew member on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital,
currently lying in ninth place, reports that she has been enjoying
helming the Clipper 68. “It is an amazing feeling driving a large racing
yacht over the open ocean. There’s a huge sense of freedom and power,”
she said. Lesley is one of around 3,000 crew representing 300
professions and 52 nationalities that have taken part in the Clipper
Race over the last 15 years. Around 40 percent of people taking part
have no previous sailing experience before embarking on their
comprehensive Clipper Training ahead of the race.

Mark Light on Derry-Londonderry reports that his team has
had a really good run over the last 24 hours with average speeds of ten
knots. “If only we’d had these conditions earlier in our Ocean Sprint we
could well have been up for the bonus point on offer to the fastest

Despite being at the back of the fleet and enduring intense heat down
below with all the hatches closed, Mark said his team has been enjoying
terrific sailing conditions under a perfectly blue Southern Hemisphere
sky. “It’s great to be out here sailing the world’s oceans, fulfilling a
long-term ambition and enjoying the whole adventure with a fantastic
group of people. Life ain’t so bad really!”

The first boats are expected to arrive in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday.

For more information on the Clipper fleet visit:

Photo: onEdition