It all looked so straightforward yesterday as the two leading pairs raced each other to the finish of their great battle and the end of the twelfth race in the Clipper 2002 series.
This morning Jersey Clipper reported they had sailed a mere 40 miles over the last 12 hours. What is worse for them is that their Bristolian rivals had struggled along and taken 10 miles out of their 14-mile lead. These two boats are now back within site of one another as they desperately try to beat slowly round the famous Cape Aghulas, the southern most past of Africa.
The result of this is that their expected arrival at midday today in Cape Town is a forgotten dream, along with the time last week when they clocked 155 miles in half a day. The final furlong into Cape Town has proved to be agonisingly long for many a seafarer in the past and Jersey and Bristol look set to join this experience. Is hoped that they will now get in this evening, but nothing is certain.
The drama is not just at the front of the fleet though. Hong Kong Clipper, skippered by Justin TAYLOR, managed to put in an excellent run yesterday and take seventh place. This morning they have done it again and with a run of 97 miles, well over twice the leader's distance, they have moved into sixth place and are within 2 miles of taking another scalp. This has been a tremendous effort as for the last week their position looked desperate after taking a package tour round the eastern coast of Madagascar.
Glasgow Clipper is another winner and, like Hong Kong, appears to have had more current by staying further out. Strangely their tracks are not much different from the Liverpool Clipper yacht, which has lost out and dropped a couple of places.
It seems that Cape Town's route, which was more inshore, has not paid off and after a bad schedule yesterday they have dropped back to the tail end of the fleet - but this will not diminish the welcome that is being prepared for them in this great city.
Only 4 miles separate fourth fifth and sixth places and many more changes can be expected before the race concludes. Meanwhile the battle for third place continues with London and New York locked in combat. This morning sees Ross DANIEL ease a miles ahead of Rory Gillard in London, but this scrap is certain to go all the way to the line.
Richard BUTLER in Bristol is still the Duty Skipper. He reports that after the frustrations of the night where the wind has been all over the place, it has suddenly picked up as the weak front passes through. They have No 2 Yankee up and two reefs as they are now beating into a 25-knot westerly wind. Richard also reminds us of the magic of the ocean by describing the phosphorescence, which has been stunning; making the wake look so bright he thought the stern light was on.
The preparation for the visit in Cape Town continues at a pace. The main public function will be focused at having a spectacular send off from the famous V and A Waterfront Complex on Sunday 29 June from 10am. Top class family entertainment will include Kwaito groups, Pansula dancers, Marimba bands, Praise singers, Minstrels and many other performances.
Meanwhile, we ponder where the smart money is going on the result of this 2,888-mile race from Mauritius. This is an impossible question, but what is certain is that we are going to have some very close finishes and possible changes right up to the line.