Jersey Clipper still leads by 16 miles but this is half the advantage they had 24 hours ago. Bristol's track is slightly further south than Jersey's and, although she has maintained the gap on the leader, she has seen both London and Liverpool slip past.
As all the boats are enjoying ideal sailing conditions with their heavyweight spinnakers working overtime, the indications are that London and Liverpool are getting more help from the friendly North Equatorial Current. A mere half-knot a day equates to 12 miles over the period and looked at this way is a massive boost.
Cape Town and New York are following Liverpool's track but clearly have not yet got the same optimum conditions. Glasgow is well positioned to the north and has cut the deficit between her and Cape Town from 17 to 5 miles, again probably helped by the current. Their 24 hour run of 234 miles was the second highest and we can expect to see them move up the rankings soon.
Hong Kong Clipper remains the outrider guarding the northern flank. They are currently in 5th place some 90 miles behind the leader. A mere 4 days ago they were 280 behind the leader so Justin Taylor will be half happy with his brave strategy - it's just a pity the others followed so soon and most did not get stuck in the ITCZ.
Interestingly on 14 January, Hong Kong was in last place and some 70 miles astern of 4th placed New York, and on the same latitude. What a difference a week makes and how lucky the others have been not to have suffered like New York in the ITCZ.
Will Hong Kong ever tell us that it was always their intention to go north early? Would it be unfair to suggest this was a do or die move from the back of the fleet? Whatever the answers they have done exactly the right thing and all credit to them. Justin Taylor, who swears by all the information he gets from his UK Hydrographic Office publications, states that he thinks he has now discovered the Equatorial Counter Counter Current.
The present conditions will mean that the equipment on all boats is experiencing massive loads. Additionally, and unlike coastal sailing, the wear and tear accumulates and after weeks sailing in these conditions, the skippers will be acutely aware of monitoring trouble spots. Often a second person will be standing by to put their weight on the helm as the gusts and the rolling seas try to bring the bow round into the wind. Anticipation is everything, as once a helmsman is behind the game all sorts of interesting things happen!
To appreciate the forces you must imagine a 24-ton boat being pulled through the water at speeds of over 15 knots by three pieces of rope. Occasionally bits will break but again anticipation and training come into play.
Yesterday Bristol Clipper's spinnaker halyard parted, which could have led to a good horror story although we suspect it was not just luck when the second, 'lazy' halyard took the strain and saved the day. Maybe a measurement of success should be the ability to change potential disasters into mere incidents. Isn't that planning and training?
LATEST POSITIONS, 21/03/2002 0400 GMT