Clipper Race: Big Test Comes Early

Published on November 1st, 2015

(November 1, 2015; Day 1) – The start yesterday of the third leg of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race from Cape Town, South Africa, to Albany, Western Australia saw strong south easterly winds of 20 knots and gusts of 35 knots on the start line, before some of the fleet contended with lighter, shifting winds in the shadow of Table Bay.

However, the strongest weather was felt overnight with gusting wind overnight of 45 knots and waves of 3 to 4 metres in places.

The fleet is beating upwind with some teams reporting wind of up to 50 knots and big swells as a low moves quickly along the coast. The teams have taken different courses to ride out the storm, with some yachts heaving to while others are seeking shelter in False Bay.

Those conditions are expected to continue this morning, but should ease later in the day. Mission Performance is currently leading the race, with LMAX Exchange in second and IchorCoal in third.

Ashley Skett, Skipper of Garmin, in sixth, described the mixed conditions:
“Although there was plenty of breeze at the start line, it soon disappeared as we got closer to the coast to round the two marks that had been placed inshore. By the time we rounded the mark we had almost no wind at all and so we hoisted our medium weight spinnaker in an attempt to get going.

“This didn’t work too well and we were towards the back of the fleet as we rounded the second mark. However, as many of the fleet took a westerly course in order to avoid a notorious wind hole, we gambled on the wind being too far south for it to be there and decided to tack and take the shorter route. This seemed to work at first and we were able to under-cut the majority of the fleet, however we subsequently ran into lighter breeze and fell back a bit. Now we are being hammered by 50 knots on the nose with big swells which is making life extremely uncomfortable!”

Darren Ladd, Skipper of IchorCoal, in third, said his team was unphased by the conditions and still smiling:
“It is currently a bit blowy out here. We are battling wind gust of 50 knots – the max I’ve seen was 72 knots – under deep reefed main and staysail, giving us a controllable speed of around 9 knots. We are clawing our way out of False Bay and it’s fair to say the sea state is officially rough. A bit hectic for the first day at sea but the crew are unphased and have a smile so wide it’s hard to see where the tops of their heads are connected.”

Simon Rowell, Clipper Race meteorologist, said a front is expected to pass over the fleet sometime tomorrow, with relatively lighter winds in the mid to late 20s and gusts not much higher than that. Behind that comes the high pressure cell slipping round from the South Atlantic, and this will provide what is probably the first big strategic decision of the race.

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Background: The 40,000 mile Clipper 2015-16 Round the World Yacht Race began in London, UK on August 30 for the fleet of twelve identical Tony Castro designed Clipper 70s. The series is divided into 16 individual races, with the team with the best cumulative score winning the Clipper Race Trophy. Each team is led by a professional skipper with an all-amateur crew.

The third leg began October 31 and takes the fleet 4845 nm from Cape Town, South Africa to Albany, Western Australia. The fleet is estimated to finish between November 22 and 26.

The ports along the race route are Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Cape Town, South Africa; Albany, Sydney, Hobart and Airlie Beach, Australia; Da Nang, Vietnam; Qingdao, China; Seattle, USA; Panama; New York, USA; Derry-Londonderry, Ireland; and Den Helder, Netherlands before returning to London by late July.


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