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27 March 2003, 10:23 am
Slow Motion up the China Coast
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Clipper 2002/2003 Round the World Race
Shanghai - Hong Kong

The Clipper yachts have covered little over 20 miles in the last 12 hours, making the 24-hour runs as low as 60 miles.

They are running down the Chinese coast like a snake, expanding at one time and then contracting depending if the wind is being kind to those in front or those at the back.

After a frustrating night in poor visibility we see that Bristol Clipper have retained their lead of 3 miles over Jersey. Their strategy is just to keep between Jersey and the next waypoint; this is not a time for self expression.

London Clipper retains third place, but Liverpool has edged out some space over Hong Kong and Glasgow.

Although the inner edge of the course is a series of straight lines between the way points, Justin Taylor, skipper of Hong Kong Clipper, has been true to form and decided to look for better conditions further to the east. Never one to follow in another man's wake, Justin has been accused by his fellow skippers of heading off to Taiwan.

New York and Cape Town are still at battle stations, but at one time Sam Fuller said she ended up hove to with her spinnaker backed as a trawler on passage home ploughed close down their side without altering course one jot.

This is a trying time for the crews who have only had a short break in Japan since leaving Hawaii on 2 Feb, a distance well over 5,000 miles. Their thoughts are clearly now on the visit to Hong Kong and they are longing for the end of this race. Although the crews are passed the important news items, once ashore they will find that a great deal has changed since the beginning of February.

First there is the war in Iraq and the extent that this is taking over everyone's lives, the general concern for all those involved and for the final outcome.

Next there is the 'flu outbreak, known as SARS. There is widespread advice on this and its seriousness. It is of course a concern to everyone here and for other visitors, or for those with family out in Asia.

The advice can be summarised by saying that although there is a danger, this issue must be kept in true perspective. The WHO and UK FCO have not advised against visiting any parts of Asia but it is clearly best to heed the local guidelines. Some people now wear face masks in public places and there is a general awareness of the problem, heightened by some schools shutting.

The Rolling Stones have just cancelled their Hong Kong concert which will be a bitter blow to the Clipper crews, but obviously done on advice with regard to risk of SARS being passed in crowds. It will be interesting to see if Mick and the boys make it to Shanghai for their concert there on 1 April...

It is certainly not all doom and gloom; how could it be in this colourful, vibrant and wonderful city? The crews will find they are based at one of the world's top yacht clubs, the food everywhere is the best you can get and the city is an example of efficiency.

Whether it is communications, transport or anything else, things in Hong Kong work. To cap it all, the Clipper crews will still arrive in time for the Rugby 7s and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club has two giant screens rigged for the rugby internationals at the weekend. The crews are set to enjoy their return to civilization!

Race Positions 03:00, 27 March 2003

Pos. Yacht - Distance to Finish (nautical miles)

1 . Bristol - 185.19

2. Jersey - 188.51

3. London - 224.32

4. Liverpool - 234.87

5. Glasgow - 241.30

6. Hong Kong - 241.49

7. New York - 251.30

8. Cape Town - 255.87

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