SPORT - Kite repairs for Qingdao and Hull & Humber

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Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race, Race 2: La Rochelle to Rio de Janeiro, Day 16

October 7: Now the leading boats are on the verge of dipping into the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone), more commonly known as the Doldrums, a couple of the teams have decided to go use their Stealth Mode option to try to steal a march on the competition.

Team Finland went undercover at midnight UTC last night and Jamaica Lightning Bolt will disappear from our screens — and from the scheds for the other boats — for 24 hours at midday UTC today.

Ordinarily being mid fleet or at the back of the pack at this stage is something of an advantage as you can see the difficulty — or ease — with which the leaders traverse the Doldrums and adjust tactics accordingly. Team Finland and Jamaica Lightning Bolt's decision to go into Stealth Mode will deny the rest of the fleet the opportunity to see how they fare in their approach to the Doldrums, as Finnish skipper, Eero Lehtinen explains.

"Team Finland has gone into hiding. Why? Well, to start with, we have this exciting tool in our hands and since the race from Equator to Rio is pretty much a drag race reaching in line and pretty much staying in the order we come out of the Doldrums... it's now or never," Lehtinen said.

"We are hitting the Doldrums first and our lead will shrink rapidly. We can only hope that the boats behind us get their fair share of what seems a rather badly timed crossing for us.

"The other boats not being able to track our performance for one day makes it slightly more difficult for them to choose the ideal route through the fluky winds.

"They cannot avoid our mistakes or get some ideas from us. At least in theory," said Lehtinen.

Meanwhile, Jamaica Lightning Bolt is living up to her name. Skipper Peter Stirling said: "Our tactic of sailing to the north of the Cape Verde Islands seems to be paying off.

"Over the course of the last 24 hours we have been the fastest yacht in the fleet and have made significant ground on everyone else. This is largely due to the fact that we have had slightly stronger winds further to the west and north and are not trying to sail dead downwind.

"The dreaded Doldrums are fast approaching and will prove to be very decisive in the final outcome of this race. With that in mind Jamaica Lightning Bolt is entering Stealth Mode at 1200 UTC today. So far we have been the most northerly, easterly and westerly yacht. Our next plan is to be the most southerly.

Piers Dudin, skipper of Hull & Humber said: "It's another big day in the Hull & Humber camp and across the fleet as we received accurate forecasts to take us into and across the ITCZ.

"Anything before now has just been about trends and patterns, but the current forecasts give us clear indications of what to expect.

"Over the past few days the Doldrums belt has been looking really settled compared to its active August and September when hurricanes are born there. But it's obviously heard the Clipper fleet is on its way and decided to throw us a bit of a curve ball as there's a tropical depression starting right where and when we were planning to cross. So it's been action stations to position ourselves for what we hope will be a quick ride across the usually light wind belt," said Dudin.

The light winds of the Doldrums are only one element of the challenges this part of the race brings the teams on board. The sun is almost directly overhead and the searing heat is inescapable. There are 41 nationalities represented in Clipper 09-10 and many of those taking part will be accustomed to temperatures in excess of 30 and 40?C — but out in the Atlantic there is no air-conditioning into which to escape. In fact, below decks it's even hotter than it is on the open deck.

Brendan Hall, skipper of Spirit of Australia, is frank about what that means for those on board.

"During the day, the temperatures are increasing rapidly and the inside of the boat has become a smelly sauna," Hall says. "The Doldrums are looming ever closer and I can foresee an uncomfortable few days drifting in the heat ahead. For the time being, we have more champagne sailing conditions during the evenings, a big moon above us lighting the deck and everyone enjoying the cool breeze."

Trailing the leaders by more than 700nm, California has finally managed to escape the light winds of the Canaries and is picking up speed.

An upbeat Pete Rollason said: "At last we have found some steady northeasterlies which should only build further from the current 12kts and we can enjoy a fast downwind sail in pursuit of the fleet.

"I don't think any of us will have any inclination to visit the Canaries in the future, especially if we are looking for wind. Hopefully, the rest of the fleet will start slowing down as they approach the ITCZ, allowing us to make some big gains and if we can get a better passage through, then it is still all to play for," he said.

Two of the teams have been busy with the sewing machine. The sail repair team on Hull & Humber is spending a second day working on the heavyweight spinnaker, while on Qingdao, the lightweight kite is now the focus of attention for the sail repairers on the Chinese boat. Uniquely Singapore is also currently dealing with a kite wrap.

POSITIONS AT 0900UTC

1. Team Finland



DTF 2334nm (position at 0000UTC -
now in Stealth Mode)
2. Cork



DTF 2373nm
3. Spirit of Australia

DTF 2397nm
4. Jamaica Lightning Bolt
DTF 2420nm
5. Cape Breton Island

DTF 2423nm

6. Hull & Humber


DTF 2455nm
7. Qingdao



DTF 2464nm
8. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital
DTF 2498nm
9. Uniquely Singapore

DTF 2596nm

10. California


DTF 3060nm

(DTF = Distance to Finish)

Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at www.clipperroundtheworld.com.



 


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