Clipper Round the World Yacht Race – In the third day of racing today, things are starting to get interesting as the fleet splits after a fast start in the opening stage of the 2015-16 edition of the longest race around the planet, taking almost a year to cover 40,000 nautical miles.
Race one to Rio, the first in a series of 14 races between six continents, departed London in an emotional farewell to family and friends as hundreds of amateurs, led by professional Skippers, set off in twelve identical 70 foot ocean racing yachts in a spectacular parade from Tower Bridge.
The start off the world’s longest pier at Southend in the mouth of the Thames Estuary was highly competitive, in driving rain and poor visibility, but soon turned into a closely contested fight for an early advantage as the matched fleet fought its way through the busy waters of the English Channel.
Despite jostling for position, the head of the pack was contested by many teams. GREAT Britain, led by Skipper Peter Thornton, and LMAX Exchange, under the command of French Skipper Olivier Cardin, have emerged to duel at the front of the fleet for much of the last two days.
Leaving the white cliffs far behind them now the fleet has covered the first 350 nautical miles of more than 5000 to Brazil in just over 37 hours. An average speed of almost 9.5 knots – which is fast in sailing terms, which the organisers say is down to the Clipper 70 one-design yachts and the competence of their ‘so called’ amateur crew.
After such a fast start the fleet is now being frustrated by very light conditions. This morning seven of the yachts were ‘trapped’ off Ushant, as they learned the significance of tidal gates: They battled against the powerfully strong tides as the contents of the North Atlantic forced their way up into the English Channel before receding this afternoon.
Meanwhile LMAX Exchange and GREAT Britain continue to be neck-and-neck at the front heading into the Bay of Biscay. Meanwhile approximately 30 nautical miles behind, Garmin and Northern Ireland entry Derry~Londonderry~Doire are battling for fourth and fifth positions, with Chinese entry Qingdao close but heading further south east.
The remainder of the fleet is now split from the front runners and are in hot pursuit. Conditions are forecast to improve, but there are still four weeks of racing to Rio ahead of them.
The lighter winds over Biscay are governed by the North Atlantic High. However there are a few squalls embedded in the cloud cover moving towards the fleet with more moderate North Westerlies. Around Cape Finisterre winds will increase and the region west of Gibraltar is becoming more complex with a line of small subtropical lows.
Over the next week the fleet heads south towards the Cape Verde islands where the big decision will be which side to take to avoid being caught in wind shadow.
As at 1400 UTC (1500 UK/BST) the fleet positions were as follows:
1 LMAX Exchange – 4905 nM to finish
2 GREAT Britain
6 Visit Seattle
7 Mission Performance
10 PSP Logistics
12 Da Nang – Viet Nam