Day two of the race to Japan and we have already seen some dramatic changes in fortune as the teams readjust to life at sea.
Regular followers of the race may remember that on the approach to the Hawaiian chain we described how the islands were at the junction of two weather systems off to the north that were causing some light and variable winds around the islands, and how the islands themselves caused eddies in the airflow immediately downwind. Well this was what confronted the fleet after their exciting start from Ko Olina Marina on Wednesday afternoon…
It was not long before the wind fell light and swung from the south to the north west. One by one the boats changed from medium to lightweight spinnakers and eventually to "white" sails (standard main and foresail configuration for sailing upwind) as the wind ghosted ahead of them.
After a night described by Bristol Clipper skipper Richard Butler as "painfully slow," dawn found 6 boats still in sight of each other having only made about 20 miles in the last 12 hours. This was not the fast spinnaker run that the crews had hoped for and was a frustrating start for the new crew who had joined their boats at Ko Olina.
However for Hong Kong Clipper the situation was perfect. Justin Taylor and his crew took an early decision to head more to the north and kept the breeze all the way through, producing an immediate lead of over 50 miles. After leaving Galapagos, Hong Kong also made a bold move to the north, however this time it has really paid off!
New York Clipper on the other hand have decided to head to the south west and as the finish line is to the north have lost out on the immediate distance to go stakes losing 4 places to rest in 8th position. This is not however as daft as it first seems. Japan is also a long way to the west and the west going trades are more reliable the further south you go. The theory therefore is to head into the stronger trade winds and favourable current to get a good push west to outflank the slower boats to the north.
Keith Harris, skipper of Antiope (now Liverpool) in the Clipper 98 race stayed south for so long we all thought he was aiming for the Philippines. His distance to go suffered dramatically but when he did eventually turn north he had a cracking run overtaking several others in the process. Current Race Director Colin de Mowbray also stayed south during the Clipper 96 race, but claims that this was purely to stay in the warm weather for as long as possible!
Jersey skipper Simon Rowell and his crew have also gone for the south westerly option. Lying in last place yesterday they have managed to claw back some ground and have overtaken Liverpool to sit in 6th place. The competition between these two boats has really stepped up a gear, after Adam Kyffin and the Liverpool crew nipped in front of Jersey to take 2nd place on the last race.
Although 4 miles behind, Liverpool are in some ways in a stronger position sitting as they are in the geographical middle of the fleet. It is a conservative course, but one that enables them to keep an eye on both sides of the fleet and narrows the likelihood of being left out on a limb if the wind changes dramatically.
Bristol are also following this middle way, a tactic which served them well on the second race to Cuba, and they will wish to prove that their first win into Hawaii was more than a fluke.
The other high rollers at the moment are second placed Glasgow Clipper. Rupert Parkhouse and his crew are well respected throughout the fleet and deserve a good result, but with London, Bristol and Cape Town all close behind they will need to stay on their toes...
The temperature may cool en route to Japan, but with new London skipper Rory Gillard eager to prove himself and Cape Town Clipper desperately seeking a good result that has so far eluded them, the competition promises to be hot!
The wind has now strengthened and returned to the north so the boats are once again flying onwards into the northern Pacific. Cape Town and Liverpool have both reported seeing a pod of humpback whales, whilst Jersey Clipper had a close encounter with a waterspout.
In a race that will see the crews change slowly from shorts and t-shirts to full thermals as they return towards a northern winter, they will have little time for boredom.
03:00 GMT 14 February 2003
||Distance to Finish
||3155.5 (nautical miles)