With less than 150 miles to run the teams will have some interesting navigation tonight as they surf along while converging to pass inside Gunner's Quoin, Carpenter's Rock and Blacksmith Ledge; just some of the many maritime features on this coast that is steeped in naval history. The fleet's ARCS electronic charts and SeaPro navigation software are going to be invaluable for this.
The wind is steady from the ESE and blowing 35 knots or more. These are conditions the Clipper yachts relish and how envious it makes one reading the vivid reports by skippers and crews. Hong Kong Clipper is still out there in front, but Bristol has caught up with a great run of 117 miles in the last 12 hours and is now six miles astern in second place.
We do not know how or why Liverpool Clipper let them through, but their run over this period was 9 miles less. However, they are still going like a rocket ship and in these conditions there are many banana skins out there, so the Scousers are definitely still in with a chance.
There is then an 8 mile gap to Jersey in fourth place but less than 3 miles separates them from New York in fifth and Glasgow in sixth. These three are spread out on a north/south line with London Clipper chasing hard further north.
Glasgow Clipper gets today's Top Dog award with 118 miles over the period - almost a 10knot average. The one exception to the dash westward appears to be Cape Town that has veered off more to the north and has reported some serious spinnaker trouble. This has caused her to lose 15 miles on the leader, which will be a bitter disappointment after their great showing earlier on in this race.
The arrival times at the Race 11 finish could now be as early as 22:00 GMT tonight, Thursday 29 May 2003. This is 02:00 Friday morning local time, which would mean they would be berthing at the traditional time of 03:00! The exciting news is that all the boats will be finishing very close to each other and, if the present conditions continue, they should all be in early Friday morning (local time = GMT+4).
It will not be surprising if the order changes several times on the run in. In these conditions one small error or gear problem can be catastrophic and with the boats this closely grouped it is going to be a near impossible call to know how far to push the gear without risking breakage.
One factor that will be taken into account is a ruling by the Race Committee giving Liverpool 1 minute 52.5 seconds time redress. This might not sound much in a three week ocean race but it represents 0.25 of a mile at 8 knots. I have a feeling that, just as last time, we will have boats finishing that close and both Bristol and Liverpool will be aware of this.
Race 11 Positions 0300 GMT 29 May 2003
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