SPORT - Round-the-world crew cross outbound track and 'tie the knot'

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Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race, Race 13: Cork, Ireland to Ijmuiden, Netherlands, Day 4

Monday, July 12: Wind and tide are a powerful combination and both have played their part in slowing the Clipper 09-10 Round the World Yacht Race fleet in the race for the penultimate finish line in the 35,000nm campaign. Nevertheless, another significant milestone has been passed and one that is cause for great celebration as the round-the-world crewmembers crossed their outbound track and 'tied the knot' almost 10 months since leaving the Humber.

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital's skipper Matt Pike describes waiting for the moment onboard, saying, "It's hard to think of a more pleasant way of spending a summer Sunday than racing up the Channel under a ballooning spinnaker.

"That's what we had, back in shorts with a real buzz on deck as to when we would actually cross our outbound track. Tantalisingly close and with a bottle of Benromach 10-year-old Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky to mark the occasion, we watched the plotter.

"Six am was a little early so no problem running a little north parallel to the mark; by lunchtime we were more than ready but still running on a reciprocal course barely half a mile north of the thin red line.

"California was close and gave us a great reason to raise our game, both boats enjoying such a close sail after so many miles. It finally happened just off Dungeness. We had done it ? sailed around the world and opened the Benromach 10-year-old to celebrate the moment," he said.

The last 24 hours have demonstrated clearly the forces of nature at work as the Clipper 09-10 fleet races through the English Channel and into the North Sea towards Ijmuiden in The Netherlands.

"Within an hour we were not feeling the benefit of choosing the inshore route as the wind eased away and we were left to the mercy of the tide," Pike continued.

"There was a feeling of disappointment in the air as we watched the rest of the fleet sail on past Dover, but in true Edinburgh Inspiring Capital spirit morale stayed high and we reflected on our 10-month odyssey whilst trying to keep California behind us; not easy as they were equally determined to wriggle their way out and around the Dover Straits.

"Well the wind did fill in first from the east, then from the west, followed by a bit of a blow from the south (it's currently northerly) so a busy morning on deck as the wind veers and backs, ranging from three to 43kts.

"There is constant activity on deck but even the slickest watch would be hard pushed to keep up with the constant sail changes needed. They do their best and they're good, but it is a reminder that the sea is the boss and, in the words of Sir Robin, 'We're not home yet'," he said.

With fewer than 100nm to the finish of Race 13, never has a statement been so true. The teams are in an extremely busy shipping area at the northerly end of the Dover Traffic Separation Scheme — the equivalent of a six-lane highway where cargo ships, tankers and bulk carriers, some so vast their length shows on AIS in fractions of a mile, plough in and out of the English Channel.

Combined with the close racing and the vagaries of the weather, it means there's not much rest for those on board. Justin Taylor, skipper of Hull & Humber is sparing with his words in his 0600 report to the Race Office.

"Been having a real ding dong with several yachts," Taylor said. "Ran out of wind off Dover. Electrical storm right now. No sleep yet. Lots of traffic.
Zero visibility.
But other than that it's all good in the right direction now."

The Hull & Humber team will be hoping orange is a luckier colour for them than it was for the Dutch football team in South Africa last night. A good result on this race will keep them in contention for a place on the final podium when they return home in five days' time.

Despite blowing their medium-weight spinnaker yesterday Team Finland is currently leading the race to Ijmuiden and there are three disappointed Dutch crewmembers onboard. Consolation for them will be a home-port victory of sorts, if they can maintain their lead and take line honours in the race to Ijmuiden.

The final positions will not be known until all 10 boats have completed the race and the IRC handicap rating is applied to the finishing times. Cork, whose crew are racing the shorter, heavier, Challenge 67 as opposed to the Clipper 68s raced by the other nine teams, are in contention for a place on the podium on corrected time. However, the current light winds they are experiencing, combined with an adverse tide, have forced the Irish boat to anchor near the Thanet wind farm in order to avoid being swept backwards, away from the finish line.

Such occurrences are rare, the last example was on departure from Qingdao in the Clipper 07-08 race when the entire 10-boat fleet had to anchor overnight in zero wind and a tide that was threatening to sweep them back to the Olympic Sailing Centre they had left just hours earlier.

Wind holes were a feature of the last night, Cape Breton Island's skipper Jan Ridd reporting around 2100 GMT that he and his team were in extremely light and fluky winds, which had slowed their charge for the line to a snail's pace.

Pete Rollason, California's skipper, says it's a similar situation on board the American boat, although they are moving again this morning.

"What a race, after a light-wind night, where the fleet was really being pushed around by the tides and going nowhere fast, the wind has filled in and we are now involved in a tacking battle with the first six boats with only about four miles separating us all," said Rollason. "The rain has passed and it looks like it is back to summer. Hopefully, if this wind continues we can make Ijmuiden by early evening."

Spirit of Australia's crew are likely to secure overall victory on this race and are edging closer to it all the time. They need just one point to take the title but are still pushing to add another pennant to their already overflowing forestay, although, says skipper Brendan Hall, it's a fine balancing act.

"Close fleet racing is an exciting but nerve wracking time. Fortunes change with every sched," Hall said.

"Six hours ago we were in the lead, now we are in sixth. It is very good to know that our overall position does not hinge on the outcome of one of these short races, where nine months of hard work can be undone with one breakage, unlucky decision or wrong sail choice," he says.

The wind is due to fill in a little later today and the first yachts are expected in the Ijmuiden Seaport Marina tonight.

Positions at 0900 GMT Monday, July 12

1. Team Finland DTF* 79nm


2. Cape Breton Island DTF 83nm DTL* 5nm
3. Hull & Humber DTF 84nm DTL 5nm
4. Spirit of Australia DTF 88nm DTL 9nm
5. California DTF 88nm DTL 9nm
6. Qingdao DTF 92nm DTL 14nm (at 0700 GMT)
7. Uniquely Singapore DTF 93nm DTL 14nm
8. Edinburgh Inspiring Capital DTF 93nm DTL 15nm
9. Jamaica Lightning Bolt DTF 95nm DTL 16nm
10. Cork DTF 128nm DTL 50nm

*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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