Since yesterday morning the Clipper fleet have experienced a few changes as they shuffle for position, but the most dramatic has been that experienced by Hong Kong who fell from 2nd to 8th in a 12-hour period.
There were two reasons for this; the wind direction over the past few days has meant that the boats have been hard pressed to round the waypoint on a single tack. When combined with the adverse current pushing them west and generally squally conditions failing to give them steady winds, it seemed likely that several would not make it and would have to tack to the north east to be able to round it.
Justin Taylor, the Hong Kong skipper, decided to take the bull by the horns and tack, in effect sailing away from Panama. This could have been a smart move - however, as it turned out the rest of the fleet were able to make the mark on one tack, or at least a few short ones, thus leaving Hong Kong Clipper out on a wing.
It is interesting to see that Jersey Clipper who had done so well by sticking to the eastern flank, chose to sail more to the south when Hong Kong tacked suggesting that both boats had a wind shift more to the south of east. The following from yesterday's 16:00 report from Glasgow Clipper's skipper, Rupert Parkhouse, backs this up:
"The positions from the sched are interesting - i'll leave the analysis to you but anything could happen really. The wind is fluctuating from NE thru E to ESE every few hrs, so the state of play keeps changing. Seems to go more ESE at night, then NE-ENE by day for some reason"
It certainly seems that this was the more successful tactic, as Simon Rowell and the Jersey Clipper crew have still managed to outflank the rest of the fleet as they approach the waypoint from the south west.
The waypoint is there to keep the yachts clear of a bank of reefs and shoals that stretches out pretty much continuously from the coast of Honduras and Guatemala. It is also doing a good job of bunching the fleet together, with Cape Town and New York jostling neck and neck.
The following from Rupert sums up the situation aboard Glasgow Clipper:
"Currently it is very sunny and hot (sorry to rub that in). It is blowing gently from the NE, about a 2-3. The sea is very flat and occasionally a coconut floats past. The crew have decided that this is a sure sign of a tropical Island paradise approaching, so spirits are high. We are making about 7kts on 130(T). We have london 5nm ahead, liverpool a similar distance abeam and bristol a few miles behind, all in sight. There is a fairly long line of heaped cloud approaching from the east and it looks like liverpool are picking up speed so all may change soon. Way of the world eh? Some more wind would be welcome however. Progress whilst slow is currently bearable..."
- Received yesterday evening, they have since caught London Clipper!
The answer to yesterday's conundrum of how to avoid your boots filling up with rain when wearing shorts was of course to poke holes in the bottoms to let it drain out (suggested by another skipper who will also remain nameless). However a quick thinking Jersey crew member from the Clipper 2000 Race emailed to say that as it was a skipper having this problem, he could always try putting his feet up!
LATEST POSITIONS 04:00, 19 December 2002