After only a very brief spell in the doldrums, Hong Kong Clipper now seems to have clear wind almost all the way to Hawaii. With 30 knots of wind from the east, they are now able to head straight to the finish.
Hong Kong's northern position will also start to look less extreme as some of the boats in the south begin to head more to the north. Looking at this morning's position chart at www.clipper-ventures.com, we can clearly see that London Clipper for one are beginning to carve northwards and it will be interesting to see how much they converge with Hong Kong over the next few days.
The ideal situation when crossing the variable belt of the ITCZ "doldrums" is to be moving north as it drifts south, thus passing through the belt in the shortest possible space of time. The worst is to get caught as it too drifts northwards. Looking at the weather map on our Raytech Navigator software, it seems that the low pressure associated with the ITCZ is indeed moving south which could prove most beneficial for the boats that do choose to head north today.
As it stands London Clipper would seem to have about 100 miles at most before they break clear to the north and possibly less if the forecast holds good. Jersey, Cape Town and Glasgow will also be worth watching at this point and the daily runs shown on this afternoon's position reports will tell us much about conditions locally.
However, even with the best of forecasts it is easy to be wise from our armchairs! In reality the effects of the ITCZ are so localised that only real time satellite pictures can really tell you what is going on.
Bristol Clipper, steaming along in clear wind to the south of the pack have been very certain of the wisdom of their course and by rights this should have continued until they too chose to head north at the point where skipper Richard Butler thought the ITCZ was at its narrowest. Yet lo and behold at about 03:00 GMT this morning they were struggling to make progress in only 5 knots of breeze. They had still managed a good run, but as the day wore on had slowly increased sail as the breeze died, flopping around under windseeker by the time of the 04:00 radio sched.
Moral should be good on Cape Town Clipper at the moment. Not only are they in a very respectable 5th place but the sun is shining and they have finished the repair to their medium weight spinnaker. With much trepidation they finally re-hoisted it, rivets and all, and flew it successfully for over 7 hours, though their latest report mentions that they have now sensibly changed down to the heavyweight as the wind has increased a little. Sun and a good wind! In fact, the only fly in the ointment seems to be the discovery of a healthy population of maggots around a ruptured tin of fruit. Sailing in the tropics can have its disadvantages!
Our apologies go to former Clipper skipper, Mervyn Wheatley, who was quick to point out that Thermopylae was in fact 4th into Hawaii in the 96 race and not 5th as reported, and that 900 miles was the north south difference in the fleet, not the distance they were behind. And showing that the Clipper bug really is a hard one to get out of the system, a 2000 crew member from Plymouth Clipper emailed to remind us that they too had gone north early and had subsequently won into Hawaii after a nail biting duel to finish with Bristol and London.
It's good to know that many of those involved in past races are following Clipper 2002, eager to find out which of the international Clippers will lift the Ko Olina Cup in Hawaii this time around!
Latest Positions (0400 GMT, 17/01/2003)