SPORT - Deep low-pressure system speeds the fleet
Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race, Race 12: Cape Breton Island to Kinsale, Ireland, Day 6
Thursday, June 24: The strong winds of a low-pressure system tracking its way across the North Atlantic are helping to speed the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race fleet towards Kinsale in County Cork, Ireland.
The home team, Cork, is maintaining its lead over the fleet, although the pack, led by Jamaica Lightning Bolt, is slowly closing down the miles to their target.
The brakes were very nearly applied to shred the Jamaican team's sprint, reports skipper Pete Stirling. "The Lightning Bolt's charge was nearly brought to a grinding halt yesterday when, for no apparent reason, a two-foot long vertical rip appeared in the foot of the mainsail," he said.
"Fortunately, it stopped at a seam before it could advance further up the sail. Immediately, the crew leapt into action and put the first reef in the mainsail then, by disconnecting the bottom of the sail from the boom, we managed to get enough sail down to deck level to start making repairs. Charles (Hyatt - retired banker), our bosun and his watch immediately applied patches to both sides of the sail and a long sewing job commenced.
"Having the first reef in slowed us down a little and by the time the repair was finished the wind had increased so there was no need to shake it out. Despite this, we managed to hold onto our lead over the rest of the pack but after over a thousand miles of racing it is still very close and it could still be any one of the teams that takes the coveted yellow winning pennant," he said.
Cork's crew are hoping that it will be them. With 850nm to go they need to hold off the other nine teams if they are to step on the podium when the fleet sails into the city of Cork from Kinsale on July 7.
Hannah Jenner, Cork's skipper says, "We've had a lively day fast-reaching under full main, staysail and number 1 yankee.
"We are now waiting for the stronger winds of the low to arrive and hoping that the rest of the fleet, who will get the new wind first, do not make too many miles on us.
"It is funny how at the beginning of the race, having 1000 miles to go, seemed like an eternity for the crews and yet now that Cork has sailed within the 1000-mile mark we all feel as if the finish line is just around the corner.
Still we are the fox and the hounds are chasing hard, there will be a lot of hard work involved in these final 1000 miles if we are to keep them at bay," she said.
The unknown quantity at this stage is Spirit of Australia. "Well, we have cashed in what will be our last Stealth Mode token of Clipper 09-10," reports skipper Brendan Hall. "Will we emerge from Stealth having made a bold and inspired tactical move or emerge exactly where you would expect us to be? Avid race-viewer fans can probably guess the answer, but check back at 1200 GMT to see if you are right."
Whether there are many tactical options open to Hall and his crew is a matter for debate. The bottom of the low-pressure system is running along the rhumb line and all 10 yachts are taking advantage of it.
"We are achieving some great speeds with lots of surfing," says Hull & Humber's skipper Justin Taylor.
"Despite the weather, this is turning out to be a fitting swan song for many of the crew," said Taylor.
"One final downwind blast for the final ocean crossing, as we have latched onto the bottom of a depression and hopefully, will carry these strong winds right to Ireland.
Unfortunately, this will make it difficult to catch Cork Clipper but we are slowly eating into their lead."
Taylor’s comments are echoed by Cape Breton Island skipper Jan Ridd, who says, "What a great sail this race is turning out to be, I can hear the excited shouts coming down from the watch on deck as the Big Blue Canoe launches itself down the face of another wave with the associated high speeds!
"The wind has built nicely to a force seven (28 to 33kts) gusting well into a gale eight (34 to 40kts) and has come nicely behind the beam.
"The weather routing decision to stay close to the Great Circle Route and head north does not seem to have paid off so far as the boats further south have managed to put in some very impressive six-hour runs whilst we were struggling with some very changeable winds yesterday.
"This saw us lose more than 15 miles to our nearest competitor in the overall standings but the race is far from over and we are driving Cape Breton Island as fast as we dare whilst we have this wind.
"Irrespective of the result of this race from Cape Breton Island to Ireland we have all enjoyed some great downwind sailing and it is a great way to enjoy our last ocean crossing," Ridd said.
Cape Breton Island is in a pack of three to the north of the fleet with Qingdao and California.
Skipper of the US entry, Pete Rollason says "The latest low-pressure system has hit with a vengeance and has given us some fast downwind sailing with strong winds and choppy seas. It's something we have not experienced since the North Pacific but the crew have been equal to the challenge and continue to drive the boat hard.
"We currently only have one other boat in view, Cape Breton Island six miles astern of us but this is all we need to focus and ensure that we keep that gap or pull away further. Any gains are hard fought, as has already been mentioned, after over 30,000 miles of racing these boats and crews are so evenly matched.
"This weather is due to hold and increase over the next 24 to 36 hours so we are expecting to continue this very fast pace towards Cork and, if we were to maintain this speed, then we could well complete the passage within 10 days," he said.
With just over 50nm separating the front and back of the chasing pack, the competitions for podium positions is as fierce as ever and Team Finland is not letting the bug circulating through the crew get in the way of their challenge.
"There is a cough and cold going around that I am sure will stay circulating until we reach Cork at least," says skipper Rob McInally.
"It is the belief of the crew that the black stuff is the only cure.
"The night has brought cloud after menacing-looking cloud, although only the front and back edges have really produced a big blow. Sunlight should bring a more consistent blow and indeed a much higher boat speed. Fingers crossed," he said.
Due to the excellent progress the fleet has made, if the current conditions persist the first yachts are expected to arrive earlier than first estimated. The majority of the fleet is now anticipated to reach Kinsale on Tuesday, June 29, with the possibility of earliest arrivals on Monday, June 28.
Positions at 0900 GMT Thursday, June 24
1. Cork DTF* 818nm
2. Jamaica Lightning Bolt
3. Hull & Humber
4. Team Finland
7. Cape Breton Island
8. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital
9. Uniquely Singapore
10. Spirit of Australia
(Stealth Mode: at 1200GMT 23 June 2010)
*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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