SPORT - Lively start to Clipper 09-10 Race 11

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Clipper 09-10 Round The World Yacht Race, Race 11: New York to Cape Breton Island, Day 2

Monday, June 7: To borrow a footballing cliché, Race 11 looks like being a race of two halves. The conditions for the early part of the 800nm Eagle Spirit Race to Sydney, Cape Breton Island, have produced a fast start and the teams should be able to cover some good mileage. But they'll have to enjoy it while it lasts as the forecast shows much more changeable conditions moving in as a front passes through.

The race got underway at 2045GMT yesterday and the first 12 hours have produced some interesting challenges for the teams.

Second in the race to New York, the crew of Cape Breton Island is supremely focussed on securing victory in this one. Skipper Jan Ridd writes, "The race into the homeport has begun, after eight-and-a-half months the Big Blue Canoe is en route home.

"A lively start to the race it has been. In strong winds gusting to 30kts we opted for our Yankee 3 and a reef in the main. The crew, as has become standard, got us up and running seamlessly and quickly put us in a great position over the line.

"Shortly after crossing the line the wind started to die down and we threw out the reef and changed to the No. 2, so a busy start to the race.
We are currently making good progress east, mid pack, with some ground to make up.
We are gunning for the top spot in our effort to break the homeport curse of Clipper 09-10," he said.

Twelve hours in and they are just 3nm off the pace, with California, Uniquely Singapore, Hull & Humber and Spirit of Australia ahead of them and 650nm.

Spirit of Australia just has the edge over Hull & Humber but not for long, if the skipper of the English boat has any say in the matter. Justin Taylor and his crew are pulling out all the stops in a bid to be on the podium when the fleet sails back up the Humber in a little under six weeks' time.

"After leaving New York and a very busy stopover it was time to psych ourselves up once again for what I'm sure will be another close battle between the fleet," Taylor says.

"However, our struggles started a little prematurely. As we passed under the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge our main halyard parted and we had to replace it. A simple job to rerun it but a nightmare to feed through the wedge shaped jammer when said halyard is too big for it.

"We had a tasty start just east of Ambrose Light off New York, fast reaching with our Yankee 2, staysail and single reefed main.
After half an hour the crew shook out the reef as the wind abated slightly. As some squalls started to come through to the south of us the wind veered, so I decided to have a bit of a gamble and we hoisted our heavyweight spinnaker.

"All the other yachts held off hoisting theirs and we started to pull away from the fleet because of our increased speed. I had the crew ready for an emergency drop just in case one of the squalls got a bit fruity but all seemed okay; three of the other yachts hoisted their kites and all seemed well.

"We were pulling out from the fleet when, bam!
The spinnaker halyard exploded and the kite dropped into the water.
Recovering a piece of rip-stop material the size of a tennis court when it's full of water and travelling at 6kts is definitely a challenge but the crew worked hard and pulled off a good recovery.
In fact, their work rate has been extremely high.

"We are focussed and really want the win.
For me the trophy means little.
It's the yellow pennant and the points that I want.
Our hard earned gains were slowly eroded as Spirit of Australia, still flying their kite, caught us and, as I write, they are 0.2 miles ahead.
We are determined to not let them get away from us.

"We've got a tough one ahead.
I predict plenty of sail changes as we move through the gears and not a lot of sleep as I am constantly woken to be informed of the changes in conditions as per my instructions.
Decisions need to be made and right now we are border line for changing to the Yankee 1. We'll hold off for now but we're primed and ready," said Taylor.

California's had a great start to this race, second across the line in a slick Le Mans start, and pushing hard among the front runners. "The fleet has been greeted by some pretty lively conditions for the start of Race 11 to Cape Breton Island," says skipper Pete Rollason.

"The Le Mans start went very smoothly for us with the crew working as a finely tuned machine, ensuring that our sails were hoisted and California was surging through the swell before her rivals. The wind has been up and down significantly over the eight or so hours since race start, meaning many reefs and headsail changes. However, as we look out we can see the majority of the fleet and feel that we are well placed at this stage," he said.

Also able to see the lights of the other Clipper yachts are the crew of Cork onboard their steel-hulled Challenge 67. The fleet is now racing under the IRC rating system to take account of the differences in the boats which make the Clipper 68s nine per cent faster.

Having struggled in the light airs of the Caribbean, these much tougher conditions will suit the heavier Cork.

Describing the first 12 hours of the race, Cork skipper Hannah Jenner says, "A lively start gave way to a big, wind-consuming cloud and a nasty residual sea state.
We poled out our headsail initially ? although we were underpowered, as Cork is a bit of a beast to steer we wanted to give the sea a chance to calm down.
The heavy kite was at the ready, though, and as soon as the competition hoisted kites we followed suit.

"Sailing downwind with waves coming from ahead is horrible and the heavy kite bounced around, determined to avoid all forms of trim.
After the wind shifted as anticipated we managed to get the gybe in before dark and had a great sail for a while.
The wind gods then decided to throw 32kts at us, which is a little lively on a beam reach under kite.

"With the pole taking a lot of load and regular course changes away from maximum VMG (velocity made good – i.e. speed in the right direction) required to stay upright the kite came down again.
For the crew this is their final fitness training before our charge across the Atlantic and no one is complaining about the workload yet," he said.

Just 4nm ahead, Jamaica Lightning Bolt and Team Finland are once again neck and neck and enjoying some close-quarters racing.

Rob McInally, Team Finland's skipper, says, "The clouds kept on coming from the start and the fleet was split over every east-base heading. It has taken a few hours for the fleet to align to similar headings but the variation in speed is still making the tussle for position incredibly exciting as the sea state dictates the acceleration or deceleration over the waves."

Team Finland has kept to the south of the pack, with Edinburgh Inspiring Capital farther south still, a move that may enable them to keep the favourable breeze for longer, before it lightens.

Qingdao is currently experiencing a technical issue with their GPS tracker, which is used to supply data for the race viewer, so their positions will be updated manually every six hours while repairs are effected.

Positions at 1200 Monday, June 7

1. Spirit of Australia DTF* 628nm

2. Hull & Humber
DTF 631nm DTL* 2nm
3. Uniquely Singapore DTF 631nm DTL
4. California DTF 631nm DTL 3nm
5. Cape Breton Island
DTF 633nm DTL 4nm
6. Team Finland DTF 633nm DTL 5nm
7. Jamaica Lightning Bolt DTF 633nm DTL 5nm
8. Qingdao DTF 635nm DTL 6nm
9. Cork DTF 637nm DTL 9nm
10. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital DTF 653nm DTL 25nm

*DTF = Distance to Finish, *DTL = Distance to Leader

Full positions are updated every three hours and can be found at

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