Hull & Humber and Cape Breton Island battle for ascendancy

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Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race, Race 6: Singapore to Qingdao, Day 6

Twenty four hours on and the north/east split in the fleet is much less pronounced, although the distances to finish remain similar to yesterday. Cape Breton Island and Hull & Humber are still locked in their battle for ascendancy, matching each other mile for mile in the race to Qingdao.

"The teams have finally managed to get into much steadier easterly winds that will start to increase in strength over the next few days," explains race director, Joff Bailey. "The almost benign conditions that they have experienced since the start of Race 6 will begin to change over the next few days as the wind speed picks up and they make much better progress north towards the scoring gate."

The scoring gate, off the southern tip of Taiwan, is still some distance away, but the three points for reaching it first are highly prized among the fleet.

Team Finland and Spirit of Australia find themselves in an unfamiliar position at the bottom of the current race standings, but the crews know that with much more tacking to come — and therefore many more position changes — they are far from out of the race.

Rob McInally, Team Finland’s skipper, agrees. "The painful tack for us is over for a while and so it’s back to the business of going north and, hopefully, east of north at that. The wind has been almost strong enough for us to change from a Yankee one to a Yankee two for a while now, but it has not been consistently strong enough. This morning the time came and we changed head sails. The sea has changed colour, the cloud base is consistent, and the sailing is more interesting, to say the least. It would seem now the games will almost begin again as we approach the starboard markers. We hope to up our game and arrive there with some company — more than just Spirit of Australia that is!"

Team Finland’s nearby presence has meant just one thing for the overall race leaders: "More furious racing on board Spirit of Australia," according to skipper Brendan Hall.

"Team Finland, who have proved themselves to be one of the fastest boats in the fleet, are right on top of us, the distance between us never more than a few miles," he says.

"It’s nice to have somebody so close to match ourselves against and, as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we are glad they decided to follow us. The angle of heel is slowly starting to increase with the wind strength, giving us more of a taste of things to come as we head further north."

To the north-west of the Australian and Finnish yachts, the Scottish team is covering the United States entry in similar fashion.

"It will swing east, it will, was on the lips of the Edinburgh crew as we headed north and, at last, it seems to have done just that," reports Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s skipper, Matt Pike. "The wind shift has come just in time as Vietnam gets closer, and on the plotter it looked as if we were running out of sea. We now have a course nearer to our rhumb line and the scoring gate, without having to put in a massive losing tack. We had a lucky break for a few hours in the night which allowed us to move east and take up station within sight of California for the sprint north."

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s crew has also had very busy night on radar watch as they passed close by a commercial gas field. "For a time we had 21 ships on the AIS," says Pike. "However, the morning brought ideal conditions and we’re trucking along under full canvas at 7.8kts in the right direction. Long may it continue!"

Meanwhile, Jamaica Lightning Bolt has been leading the teams in the northerly group and skipper, Pete Stirling, is planning to press home the advantage.

"Finally the wind has veered round to the east and we are at last making good speed towards Qingdao. The hard work of the last few days has paid off and we now find ourselves in a good position amongst the fleet," he says. "The next challenge is to get past Uniquely Singapore and regain the third place position. We will then be aiming our sights on Cape Breton Island and Hull & Humber. The two leading boats have pulled out an impressive lead over the rest of the fleet but we still have a long way to go, and they are not out of range yet.

"As always the crew are absolutely focused on getting every bit of available speed out of the boat. Having had a podium finish on the last two races, anything less in this one will be a big disappointment," he said.

On board the first of Jamaica Lightning Bolt’s three targets, Uniquely Singapore, the crew have exactly the same thoughts in mind.

"At the moment we are in quite a solid position and our game plan is to decrease the lead Cape Breton Island and Hull & Humber have over us, and increase our lead over the rest of the fleet," reports skipper Jim Dobie.

"This is no easy task and we all know, with identical boats, it comes down to good helming, good trimming, and making sure we use any wind shifts by tacking early and keeping an eye on our instruments. We are waiting for this easterly trend but with the weather constantly changing, a lot of the race will be about positioning your boat in the right spot. It’s 50 percent skill and 50 percent luck."

Not that Cape Breton Island’s crew are willing to let their taste of victory on Race 5 turn sour. Indeed, they are working hard to gain the upper hand over English rivals, Hull & Humber, says Jan Ridd, skipper of the Canadian entry.

"We have had 24 hours of very good sailing with the boat and the crew performing very well. Yesterday afternoon we were more than ten miles behind Hull & Humber and were a little concerned they might get away from us, but we kept on sailing to the best of our ability and were continuously monitoring the wind to pick the optimum time to tack to the east.

"We started to get headed so decided to take a chance and tacked early. Originally the angle did not look too good but we stuck with it and slowly got lifted and ended up sailing at a very good angle towards our destination. Unfortunately there is an area to our east which is uncharted and is ominously marked on the chart as ‘dangerous grounds’ so we eventually had to tack back to the north again. As we were doing so, the red port light of Hull & Humber appeared as they crossed behind us and tacked onto our line about 1.4nm back, and we have enjoyed close racing ever since. Hull & Humber, opting to sail lower on the wind and faster, is now alongside us but 2.5nm downwind of us, which means at some point they will have to tack and make back the 2.5nm."

Hull & Humber’s skipper, Piers Dudin, says sparring with Jan Ridd’s crew has raised the game for both teams.

"Sure enough, the shift to the east arrived just as we were changing down to the Yankee 2, opening up our course to the north, and at the same moment Cape Breton Island appeared, charging out of the south, the bit between their teeth," he said.

"We tacked on their track and started to chase them down. Knowing we’re not going to sail around the top of them in the lumpy seas, we’ve footed off for a better angle across the waves and more speed to try to make our way around them. We took a favourable shift a few days back which allowed us to open up a lead on them and exactly the same happened in reverse last night, allowing them to snatch the lead back.

"As it is now, we’re level pegging. We’re still hoping for yet more of a shift to appear to open us up further round to the north east. Then it really should be a drag race — at least for the next three days up to the gate!"

Positions at 1200UTC, Sunday February 7, 2010

1 Cape Breton Island DTF 1802nm

2 Hull & Humber DTF 1802nm DTL +0nm

3 Jamaica Lightning Bolt DTF 1838nm DTL +36nm

4 Uniquely Singapore DTF 184nm DTL +39nm

5 Qingdao DTF 1863nm DTL +62nm

6 California DTF 1878nm DTL +76nm

7 Spirit of Australia DTF 1878nm DTL +76nm

8 Edinburgh Inspiring Capital DTF 1881nm DTL +79nm

9 Team Finland DTF 1882nm DTL +80nm

10 Cork Did not start

(DTF = Distance to Finish, DTL = Distance to Leader)
Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at
www.clipperroundtheworld.com.

 


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