Tactics throughout the Clipper fleet are virtually identical at the moment as the boats zigzag between north and west, each trying to get one up on their nearest competitor.
Hong Kong has made the most dramatic move swinging hard to the north and has lost out on the distance to finish as a result. However skipper Justin Taylor will be playing a longer game and there is a certain logic in doing something different to the rest of the pack. As Bristol skipper Richard Butler says, "What really matters now though is the strength of the wind and the Equatorial current where each of the boats is."
There is little to be gained by just following in another's wake.
At the moment it is certainly Jersey Clipper's wake that leads tantalisingly into the distance. With the highest day's run yet again Simon Rowell and his crew really have that boat in the groove. A few miles behind things remain close, with London, Bristol and New York almost parallel to each other and Glasgow and Liverpool remaining very close friends.
The wind direction has been pretty constant from the south southeast and varying in strength from force 2 to 4. It has apparently been mostly overcast but with a few sunny intervals. In fact it is often a surprise to people with visions of swaying palm trees and bright blue skies that this part of the Pacific can be fairly dull at this time of year. Clouds and associated showers are common and it is surprisingly cool for the Equator, due partly to the band of low pressure associated with the ITCZ and the Equatorial current.
Ocean currents are funny things, pushing large volumes of water from one part of the world to another. The current that surrounds the warm Galapagos is therefore cold water from the Antarctic and, as this then swings to the west driven by the trade winds and the earth's rotation, it forms the Equatorial current that the boats are feeling now.
Running at up to a knot and a half in their favour, this is of great benefit to the Clipper fleet, but its strength does vary and each team will be hoping to benefit more than the rest. There is a certain degree of luck involved in this as it can be quite patchy, but as it is a cold water current, regular readings of the seawater temperature can give a good indication when combined with the speed over the ground reading from the GPS. If the water is cold and the boat is moving faster than its speed through the water would indicate, you have hit the jackpot!
04:00, 13 January 2003