Today sees little change at the front of the Clipper 2002 fleet, however at the back things are certainly different. A slow night for Glasgow Clipper has seen them drop two places to eighth, benefiting New York and London who have both climbed up a place.
The difference in speed was minimal, with Glasgow averaging only 0.3 of a knot less than London, but when the racing is this close a fraction of a knot can make all the difference. Because you are seldom in sight of your competition, performance can be hard to gauge and your only external measurement is the 12 hourly position report, by which time it is too late.
Constant comparison of the readouts from the instruments, wind speed, boat speed, heading, is essential to make sure the boat is "hitting the numbers." The wind has also been easing, causing the boats to peel up from heavyweight to mediumweight and finally back to lightweight spinnaker as they seek to maintain optimum speed. Even half an hour's delay in changing sails can cause a loss of ground against a competitor who has optimised earlier.
The difficulty is that hindsight is a wonderful thing, and the wind is seldom obliging enough to change in one go. It will drop a little, then pick up again, drop and pick up and so on. If you change sail to early you may regret it later if the lull proves only momentary, then more time is wasted changing back, or worse ripping the lighter weight sail. The successful crew will monitor trends and average wind speeds and base their decisions on that.
The routing decisions at the back are looking interesting as well. Despite being the southern most boat for days, New York Clipper have now decided to cut their losses and head more to the west. They are now the northern most boat with London close behind a few miles to the south.
New York's aim in heading south had been to benefit from the stronger winds they hoped to find there, but instead had dropped behind the rest of the fleet who had taken a more direct route and still found the wind. Faced with following the rest of the fleet or doing something totally different they chose the only viable option and are now aiming to reduce the distance to the finish by putting in miles to the west. It will be interesting to see how they fare.
Bristol Clipper are managing to hang onto their lead, but are aware that with Liverpool only 3 miles behind, Hong Kong and Jersey 5, and Cape Town 8, they cannot afford to be complacent. Although a few places behind, they actually rate Jersey Clipper as the one to watch out for.
Not only do Simon ROWELL and the Jersey crew have good form as overall race leaders, they are also in a different bit of ocean and may benefit from stronger winds further south. Moral is certainly high on Jersey, where Simon reports that the "Boat's trundling along nicely, there's enough wind to keep her moving at 8-10 knots, but not so much that you need more than a reasonable touch on the helm, so great to get everyone back up to speed on driving in trade winds again."
It is this consideration for coaching the crew, and not just relying on the naturally talented, that helps make Jersey Clipper such a potent force.
Clipper 2002 - Race 11 Positions
||Distance to Finish (nautical miles)