Whilst we in the UK are shivering in yet another cold snap, the 8-boat Clipper fleet are mid Pacific enjoying hot sunny weather and a gentle easterly force 3 to 4. Spinnakers are flying and the boats are making reasonable progress towards Yokohama.
We've seen no major position changes in the last 24 hours, apart from a straight swap between Jersey and New York, 7th and 8th respectively. However, as always, this tells only half the tale!
The big tactical decision has been whether to aim north or south and we have seen both as the fleet split down the middle, almost as if they knew it would make the race more interesting to watch!
Up until now it has made little difference, other than putting the northerners somewhat nearer the finish, however this could all be about to change. In the words of Jersey skipper Simon Rowell, "There is a wind hole approaching the size of Texas!" It is also lying directly in their path. Simon reckons that he will need to be south of 20 degrees north to sail underneath it, which so far fits in with his plan.
This should also suit Bristol and New York, but as for the others, watch this space. Hong Kong have decided to be bold and skipper Justin Taylor looks as if he is trying to sail over the top of the windless area, having made another dramatic move north last night, but life may look less rosy for Glasgow, London, Liverpool and Cape Town.
Of course things are seldom that simple and it is very easy to be an armchair expert. "Why did they go there?" "I would have sailed in that direction." But with sailing one cannot always choose any old direction, governed as one is by the wind blowing at the time. Even Jersey Clipper have been forced to sail slightly north whilst New York have gybed south and lost a place because of it.
Both London and Liverpool also seem to have tried to head more to the south, but have both had their problems. For London though, having suffered a disastrous episode with their heavyweight kite, the light winds will be a blessing! Liverpool Clipper have been less fortunate given the conditions as they nearly dropped their lightweight spinnaker over the side when it filled with wind too early during a hoist. They managed to retrieve it with little damage and had it flying again within a couple of hours.
As for the Cape Town and Glasgow, well perhaps they have just not picked up on what is ahead... Or perhaps they are wiser still. Our Race Office forecast, via Raymarine's Raytech software, shows that the wind will in fact fill in over the course of the day and "Texas" will disappear. Now there's a thought!
03:00 GMT 17 February 2003
||Distance to Finish
||2583.81 (nautical miles)