The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race fleet is flying along toward Whitsundays with the front runners just over a thousand nautical miles from the finish line near Airlie Beach with Da Nang – Viet Nam maintaining a narrow lead with only 30 nm separating the top eight teams.
GREAT Britain was first through the Scoring Gate at 18:16 UTC (3 January 2016) followed just 26 minutes later by LMAX Exchange, taking three and two points respectively. The final point went to Derry~Londonderry~Doire.
GREAT Britain Skipper Peter Thornton described the tense battle: “That little race for the gate last night was a bit intense. Thanks LMAX Exchange for my increased number of white hairs, heightened blood pressure and general lack of sleep. The forecast wind shift in the final stages did in fact come through in the nick of time and enabled us to stay ahead which I was delighted with, as the guys were working pretty hard in some challenging helming and trimming conditions – especially at night.”
LMAX Exchange Skipper Olivier Cardin paid tribute to the victor: “We were sailing to the Scoring Gate just behind Great Britain. Unfortunately we were not able to take the lead…Congratulations to Skipper Peter’s crew, well done! Next challenge will be the Ocean Sprint.”
However, the big tactical gamble is whether these teams can still claw back their positions in the fleet having lost ground by taking the Scoring Gate: “They have sacrificed their position in the fleet to get the extra points,” observed Race Director Justin Taylor.
“But even with the inshore teams surging on, it is more likely that these yachts will encounter the East Australian Current which will hamper their progress.”
Derry~Londonderry~Doire Skipper Dan Smith seems to have sacrificed a lot by going for the Scoring Gate and was in twelfth place at 0800 UTC (4 Jan). He reported: “We ended up a lot harder on the wind than we thought we would for this one and we will need to see whether it was worth it because fighting the wind out to the east may have cost us race positions.”
ClipperTelemed+ Skipper Matt Mitchell and his crew conceded they were going to be beaten to the Scoring Gate and aborted the attempt in order to gain a small advantage to effectively undertake the Northern Irish entry.
“We were only a few miles from the Scoring Gate when the wind started becoming shifty making our heading towards the gate a slow course to maintain, so we decided to bear away and start tracking northwards.” So far this decision has paid off and the team is now sitting in eleventh place less than 20 nM closer to the finish than Derry~Londonderry~Doire.
As the inshore/offshore debate continues GREAT Britain is some 150nM east of Garmin which is taking the most westerly inshore route. Garmin Skipper Ash Skett remains optimistic.
“We hope that by staying close in we will keep out of the worst of the East Australian Current…we will experience a bit of current against us most of the time but we are counting on this being cancelled out by the much shorter distance we have to travel compared to going outside of it.”
Interestingly LMAX Exchange immediately tacked west back towards the rhumb line after clearing the Scoring Gate. It appears that skipper Olivier Cardin has Da Nang – Viet Nam Skipper Wendy Tuck firmly in his sights. The Sydney based skipper is very familiar with these waters which potentially gives her the advantage. Having got the taste of victory in the Clipper Race Class in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race she appears determined to lead her crew to another Australian podium.
As at 0800 UTC (4 Jan) Wendy’s DTF (Distance to Finish) was 1035 nM. But remarkably just 19 nM further behind, LMAX Exchange has joined Garmin and GREAT Britain, all with a DTF of 1054 nM.
The next 24 hours will see the fleet pass Sydney and prepare to enter the Ocean Sprint which starts roughly 50 nM north of Newcastle.
Weather is looking lighter as they head for the sprint but more extreme conditions could be in store later in the week. Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell says that a low pressure system is developing which will move over the coast in the next 24 to 48 hours.
“It’s a very tightly formed low, and as such will have quite different wind directions depending where you are in the fleet. As it’s an unstable low the South West quadrant of the system will probably see gusts of 60 knots, particularly on Wednesday 6 January (UTC) as the system gets offshore and starts to pick up more moisture.”
All positions correct as of 0800 UTC.
more info …. clipperroundtheworld.com
by event media.