SPORT - Competition fierce as teams race through familiar waters

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CLIPPER 09-10 Round The World Yacht Race, Race 13: Cork, Ireland to Ijmuiden, The Netherlands, Day 3

Sunday, July 11: Day three of Race 13 and the competition is as close as ever as the teams navigate their way through the busy shipping lanes of the English Channel. The Clipper 68s are separated by a mere 8nm and the heavier Challenge 67 of Cork has also been performing well and if their IRC handicap were to be applied now they would most likely have a position at the front of the fleet.

Race director Joff Bailey explains, "It is difficult to judge on handicap right now but the other teams owe Cork approximately 1nm for every hour they have been sailing - they have been sailing about 36 hours or so but Cork are only 19 miles behind."

With the winds beginning to ease, the team onboard the Irish entry will be giving it their all to stay in touch with the rest of the fleet and achieve their first podium result since they took charge of their Challenge 67 in Panama.

"Despite concerns that the wind would disappear after rounding Land's End, so far we have kept moving," says Cork skipper Hannah Jenner.

"We are currently practicing the little known art of 'anti trim' — i.e. doing the exact opposite of what you would normally do to make a sail drive at its maximum potential. For some reason Cork responds well to this.

"Flummoxed? We are too, but hey, right now whatever Cork wants Cork gets
? we just need to stay in touch with the fleet.

"After a trans-Atlantic crossing during which we could count the number of vessels we saw on one hand, last night was a busy old night and only a warm-up to what we can expect as we approach the busy shipping lanes of the Dover TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme)," said Jenner.

Despite the challenges of navigating through busy shipping lanes, Qingdao's skipper Chris Stanmore-Major is relishing being back in familiar waters and this could well be what has led the Chinese entry to draw level with yesterday's race leaders Hull & Humber.

"A fantastic sight met my eyes this morning as I popped my head up the companionway — to port the Isle of Wight; my home and a sign more real than any I have seen yet that we have indeed sailed around the world," said Chris Stanmore-Major.

"To the east, a scarlet sunrise to match any we have seen the world around and away to the north, west and south across the horizon, sail after sail as the entire fleet converges on the narrow passage we must navigate between England and the Dover shipping lanes. I could almost forgive them the miles they have taken out of us through the night for the fantastic sight they granted us," he said.

Understandably, racing along the south coast of England has led many of the skipper's thoughts to turn to the race finish in Hull and for the skipper of Spirit of Australia the distinct possibility of lifting the coveted Clipper Race Trophy.

"At last, we're back in familiar waters," says Spirit of Australia skipper Brendan Hall.

"The friendly blinks of the lighthouses and landmarks we know so well from spending months training in the English Channel. I remember leaving the channel last September, thinking to myself that the next time I would see these familiar sights, I would have sailed every ocean in the world. Well, here we are; 35,000nm later and with a lifetime worth of experiences, new skills, friendships and stories.

"There will be time to dwell on this later - right now we are in a battle with Uniquely Singapore and on a race this short, every boat length is critical," he said.

Appropriately it was English entry Hull & Humber that was the first team to see the English coastline on the horizon, a moment not lost on the team's skipper Justin Taylor.

"First past Land's End and the first to see good old Blighty was a great feeling this morning," Taylor says.

"But the pressure is on. Qingdao who followed our more northerly route has been snapping at our heels all day and as we pass under the Isle of Wight they are less than half a mile behind.

"It also almost went disastrously wrong earlier today as they went ahead for a couple of hours as we went fishing with our heavyweight kite. We were changing the spinnaker from the heavy to the medium-weight when our heaviest spinnaker dropped into the sea.

"Still connected by the halyard at the top of the mast and the sheet to the side of the boat, it filled with water and literally stopped the boat dead, allowing Qingdao to pass us. We have fought back and regained the lead after a couple of hours but with seven sails now in view behind us we can't afford any more mistakes," said Taylor.

Preserving sails at this stage of the race is paramount — losing an optimum sail for the current conditions can potentially have disastrous results. In an email to the race office this morning, Rob McInally reports that they have just blown their medium-weight spinnaker, but the skipper of the Finnish team remains optimistic.

"Day 3 has brought the welcomed sight of familiar sailing grounds as we pass through the English Channel towards Ijmuiden," said McInally.

"Despite the ever present countdown of the homeward leg to Hull, the team still has the competitive focus that gained us glory on the last race.

"It's all too easy to falter at the final hurdle and become preoccupied with what awaits at home after this adventure. Although it seems a short distance to the end, we've still many miles to go and, most importantly, our overall position to protect. It's the latter that pushes us constantly as we chase and are being chased by the fleet," he said.

The Finnish entry is not the only team to be sailing without their mid-weight kite, Uniquely Singapore is without theirs, but this doesn't appear to have affected the team's performance.

"Wow what a difference a night can make," exclaims Uniquely Singapore skipper Jim Dobie.

"We have gone from the back of the fleet to having the leaders to our right. An awesome night’s sailing under spinnaker has seen us claw back lost miles and put us back into this race.

"The crew has been kept on their toes with the busy traffic of ships, fishing boats and the other small craft. Luckily, the wind has been constant and not as light as we initially thought, which means we haven't suffered yet from the lack of our medium-weight kite," he said.

The consistent downwind conditions have come as a welcome change from the start of Race 13, where strong upwind conditions took its toll on the crews - especially their stomachs as seasickness raised its ugly head once more.

Jamaica Lightning Bolt's skipper Pete Stirling says, "After 10 days in port the first 24 hours of the race came as a rude wakeup call to many of the crew, with strong winds on the nose — lots of heel and spray flying across the decks not to mention the odd green wave. Several of the crew succumbed to seasickness and were looking pretty green themselves.

"After a hard beat across the Irish Sea it is now champagne sailing at its best along the south coast of England. The crew onboard all the yachts are now so well matched that 36 hours after the start there is only four or five miles between us," he said.

Cape Breton Island's skipper Jan Ridd is enjoying the close competition - and with the Canadian entry neck-and-neck with Jamaica Lightning Bolt on the overall leaderboard they will be hoping to keep the Caribbean entry behind them if they are to get on the podium in Hull.

"As the sun rose over the Isle of Wight early this morning, we could see nearly all the fleet and as the boats changed from white sails to spinnakers as the wind backed, it made an awesome sight," said Ridd.

"We have been having our own close battle with our nearest rivals Team Finland, and Jamaica Lightning Bolt. Unfortunately, Jamaica Lightning Bolt seems to have the upper hand at the moment after we successfully kept them at bay for the last couple of days. But we are working extra hard to stop them eating away at the lead, and trimming continuously to extract every bit of speed from the light winds. Whatever the result it will a great race and it's nice to be in such a close battle with crews we respect so much," he said.

As Cape Breton Island pushes hared for an overall podium position in Hull, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is pushing equally hard to get their first podium result of the race.

Skipper Matt Pike says, "Back to looking at tides after months of open ocean, this is a different style of racing. Everyone is giving it their all and none more so than the crew of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital.

"With only two chances left to grab one of the converted winning pennants, we're hoping one of them has our name on it. So we planned our passage and are pushing as hard as our now tired spinnakers will allow.

"There is only one small distraction between us and the finish — a small dram as we cross our outbound track. However, sharing a little Benromach whisky aside, we have just over 200 miles to make up the seven miles to take the lead. As always, the team is willing and with a little luck those onboard, along with our friends and supporters, will be celebrating our circumnavigation and a podium finish," he said.

Positions at 0900 UTC, Sunday, July 11

1. Qingdao
DTF* 213nm
2. Hull & Humber
DTF 213nm
DTL* 0nm
3. Spirit of Australia
DTF 214nm
DTL 1nm
4. Cape Breton Island
DTF 216nm
DTL 3nm
5. Uniquely Singapore
DTF 217nm
DTL 4nm
6. Jamaica Lightning Bolt DTF 218nm
DTL 5nm
7. Team Finland
DTF 218nm
DTL 5nm
8. California
DTF 219nm
DTL 6nm
9. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital DTF 220nm
DTL 8nm
10. Cork
DTF 231nm
DTL 18nm

*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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