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28 October 2005, 11:41 am
Race Three Underway, Next Stop Durban
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Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2005-2006

In a brisk twelve knot offshore breeze and glorious sunshine, the ten boat fleet surged across the start line for race three of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race at 1630 hours local time on Tuesday evening. It was a good clean start with the yachts last seen disappearing from Salvador, Brazil to the south, making good speed towards Durban, South Africa some 4,500 miles away.

Jersey was the first to cross, closely followed by Durban, Westernaustralia, New York, Cardiff, Singapore, Qingdao, Liverpool, Victoria and Glasgow.

Making The Right Choice

This race promises to be a very interesting one technically. A major meteorological feature of the South Atlantic is the South Atlantic High, an anti-clockwise rotating high pressure system, broadly positioned in the middle of the South Atlantic, directly on the Great Circle route to the southern tip of Africa. Were the yachts to sail directly into the middle of this they would have to pass through an area of little or no wind, and so they are all going south of it to follow the favourable breezes blowing around it.

This high pressure system also drives the South Atlantic currents, which rotate to follow the wind around the high. The skippers and navigators have spent a good portion of the stopover researching the wind and current conditions, to try and work out a good balance between boatspeed and course distance - going south should, in theory, give you good wind but a longer course.

This is where it gets interesting. Mark TAYLOR and the crew of Jersey have elected to stay at the northern end of the fleet, whereas Conor FOGERTY and Cardiff Clipper are diving south (and, incidentally, covering the most ground since the start). Jersey seem to be trying to skirt as close as possible to the edge of the high to minimize the distance run, whereas Cardiff are heading towards what they think will be the best long term weather conditions. The rest of the fleet are splitting the difference. Who has made the right choice will not become apparent for a good few days at least.

Islands In The Stream

Ahead of the Clipper fleet lie the Ilha da Trinidade and the island group of Ilhas Martin Vaz. The significance of these islands for the fleet is in the effect that the seabed topography will have on the ocean currents. The islands mark the end of the Vitoria-Trinidade Seamount Chain, which effectively form a barrier rising up from over 4,000 m depth right to the surface. This is directly in the path of the Brazil current, and causes all manner of localized swirls along the chain. The net effect of this could be some yachts encountering a one knot countercurrent, with others having the benefit of a one knot current with them. The position of these swirls is impossible to forecast, however, and so the crews and skippers will have to trust to Neptune to give them a favourable direction.

The northern group of yachts, headed by Singapore Clipper who have a two mile advantage over Western Australia, are working on the theory that if they all keep in the same part of the ocean then the current will be the same for all of them. Victoria have moved up to the northern edge, with New York and Durban, level with yesterday's front runner, Jersey. In terms of ocean racing, however, you could throw a blanket over them and cover them all. Liverpool and Glasgow are a little further back, but not much, and Tim MAGEE and Graeme JOHNSTON will be encouraging their crews to narrow the gap.

The two southern yachts, Qingdao and Cardiff, are a significant lateral distance away from the main group, 20 and 30 miles respectively to the south southwest. They may well be experiencing different current effects, and will be hoping that being in a different body of water, and perhaps wind, will allow them to have the benefit of more speed to overcome the factor of taking a slightly longer route.

The fleet as a whole are making very good ground so far.

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Race three gets underway:© Ingrid Abery/Clipper Ventures Plc
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