As the Times Clipper fleet close with South American coast, London still leads the way over the final 500 miles

The excitement grows as the yachts approach the finish with London showing the way. It is almost as though they can smell the land, almost see the line but this race still has 500 miles to run for the leaders and 600 for the chasing ones. That may seem like nearly home in Clipper terms but all said and done is still the length of the mighty Fastnet race.

There is no such word as ‘procession’ in the ocean-racing dictionary. London’s 31 mile lead is looking safer and safer but the scrap for second place continues to hot up with Jersey, Liverpool and Plymouth all within sight of each other as they tear the waves apart running under their heavy weight spinnakers in the 25 knot wind.

Bristol may be 24 miles further away from the finish but they are now well south of the gang of three and if the wind moves any more to the east will have a much better wind angle for the run up to the finish. This could easily give them an extra half a knot over the next 48 hours and an extra 24 miles on the competition.

Portsmouth has taken this policy further and, knowing they we not going to catch the others by chasing have stayed well south to try and seek an advantage. Leeds and Glasgow remain loyal to the north and are having some great sailing. Glasgow’s run was only two miles less than top dog London’s. The fast conditions have taken a toll with some sails. Although news about sail damage is always unreliable we do know that Bristol is without her 2.2 oz heavy weight spinnaker and that Portsmouth has now had a problem with hers. Any such failure with sails or gear will easily turn the positions around, especially for the fight for second place. The first crew members and supporters are starting to arrive in Salvador. If the fleet maintains their current rate of progress, the leader could finish on Saturday morning.