At 12:15 local time yesterday Commodore José Escrich fired his own private cannon on the beach at Marina Hemingway, marking the start of the third race in the Clipper 2002 series from Cuba to the port of Colon (Panama).
The conditions were ideal and all eight boats had a good start towards Havana before rounding the windward mark and setting off to the west.
Bristol Clipper once again had the best start followed by Liverpool and Jersey, but it was Simon Rowell in Jersey that got to the windward mark first.
The order at the windward mark was:
4. Cape Town
5. New York
8. Hong Kong
The crews will be enjoying some fast sailing in fair wind and bright sunlight. What a way to end a great visit to this friendly country!
On behalf of all the crews and everyone involved in Clipper 2002, race director Colin de Mowbray extended his heartfelt thanks to the Club Nautico International Hemingway, saying that…" Yet again Commodore Escrich and his team have been magnificent hosts and we could not have been received more warmly."
At 0400 GMT today Simon Rowell and his Jersey crew had managed to hold on to the lead they established at the windward mark yesterday. However, Liverpool and London are right up there with them, and Hong Kong who are in 8th place are only 3.3 nm behind. With a distance of 995 nm to the finish it is still anyone's guess as to who will take line honours in Colon.
The racing the fleet are experiencing at the moment is generally regarded as amongst the most stressful and exciting in the race. The skippers and crews are constantly aware of even the slightest change in their boat speed compared with the rest of the fleet. By day watching the other boats is fairly easy, but by night they will be concentrating for differences in the navigational lights of the others to tell them if they are gaining or loosing ground. The Radar is another great racing tool in this situation as accurate changes in distance can be judged easily, and shouts of we have lost 0.25 miles to … , or we have taken 0.5 miles out of … are never ending during the watch. With so many variables affecting the boat speed; sail choice, sail trim, boat course, wind angle, helming, wave pattern etc etc. every member of the crew will be feeling the stress of trying to get that extra 0.1 knot from their boat.
As if boat speed wasn't enough to worry about the skipper and crew will be watching the course the others are taking. Whilst it is so close the leaders will want to copy any tactical course changes (cover) the boats behind so that they stay between the finish line and the boats behind. However the decision to cover also has to be coupled with the yachts own tactics and belief as to which is the fastest route to the finish.
Finally the equally important onboard routine of eating, sleeping, cleaning, safety of navigation and maintenance must continue.