The weather has been very squally with 180-degree wind shifts and anywhere between 3 and 30 knots of wind. It has also been wet. Very wet and the crews are beginning to fully appreciate the meaning of the term "tropical downpour." This has come as a surprise to some crew, who no doubt have a very different picture of sailing through the Caribbean.
Mostly the boats are sailing under white sails at the moment rather than spinnakers, as the wind is too far forward. The boats are also experiencing the effects of the adverse North Equatorial Current which is slowing them by around a knot and further increasing their need to sail hard on the wind.
The advantage is that the frequent squalls are less of a problem without spinnakers as the boats are far easier to manoeuvre quickly and there is less danger of sail damage. The disadvantage is that the boats will need to keep their hatches closed and the interiors will soon resemble a sauna on overdrive!
Jersey and Hong Kong appear to have profited from their easterly position and have, in Rupert's words, "Pulled ahead sharply" with a lead of over 20 miles on third placed Liverpool Clipper.
The remaining boats are much less bunched today and it is hard to predict who, if anyone, will have an advantage over the next couple of days. The boats still have to go round another way point some distance to the south east of their current position and this is calculated in the distance to go, explaining the fact that the boats to the west such as Glasgow and New York would seem at first sight to be ahead of London or Cape Town, yet in fact have a greater distance to sail.
Given the localised conditions where being one side of a cloud can leave you wallowing whilst on the other side another boat sails over the horizon, it is still anyone's race.
We leave you today with a conundrum faced by one of the eight skippers, who shall remain nameless. "If one wears boots when it rains, and shorts when it is hot, how does one stop one's boots filling with rain when it is hot and raining?"
04:00, 18 December 2002
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