Two distinct plans of action are evident as the Times Clipper fleet remains split, some preferring the northern route over the Grand Banks, while others remain hopeful for better winds in the south
Jersey, currently leading the Clipper fleet, has crossed onto the Grand Banks to the south of Newfoundland and is still making fast progress to the northeast. The weather has closed right in and she is under No 2 Yankee with 2 reefs with the visibility down to less than half a mile. The good news for Jersey is that, as the front is passing, the wind has veered from the SE to the south and increased to 30 knots and so she is now sailing freer and faster. The bad news is that everyone else has been eating away at her lead over the last 36 hours. Liverpool is now 26 miles astern and more significantly Glasgow’s charge has taken 13 miles out of her lead over the last 24 hours.
Glasgow’s chasing pack of Bristol and Portsmouth has moved north and fallen in behind Jersey and Liverpool on a similar latitude. Portsmouth has resisted the temptation to ease sheets and trade latitude for greater speed. She remains the most southerly boat of this chasing group by about 15 miles and this may prove significant over the next 48 hours. Martin Clough, like all the skippers with the exception of Bob Beggs, is about to experience sailing over the Grand Banks for the first time and true to form the clear weather of the last few days has given way to heavy rain, mist and a bumpy sea. Tropical sailing is now a memory and has been stowed with the shorts in the kit bags below.
Basically it is now a ‘two group’ race. Down in the south Stuart Gibson in London is holding onto his belief that he will take advantage of fairer conditions. Matt Baker in Plymouth and Simon Rowell in Leeds are attached to London and believe they will eventually be rewarded by getting a more favourable current and a better wind. The position table does not look good for them at present but with two thirds of the race to run these are early days and they have a lot of people supporting their decision to keep south.
They are due to cross the finish line on Monday 17 September and a highly organised programme has been arranged on this basis. It is hoped that if they get strong winds they could arrive slightly before this but if this happens it will be a bonus. At present they are achieving around 200 miles a day but the conditions have been quite light. As the fronts start their normal progression across the north Atlantic they should have more wind which will keep their speed up.