Southeasterly winds, up and down but mostly around the force 4 to 5 mark, are providing fairly straightforward reaching conditions as the Clipper 2002 fleet sail up the Brazilian coast towards Recife.
With no tactical alternatives, the first few days of the race are a bit of a drag race with all the teams white sail reaching as fast as they can. For the new leg 6 crews who joined in Salvador this is a useful settling in period as they re-find their sea legs and push through any initial sea sickness.
The Glasgow Clipper crew certainly seem to have found their groove. With the highest day's run they have slowly extended their lead since yesterday morning and are already looking ahead to the point at Recife and their eventual strategy for heading up towards New York. This will bring them all back into contact with their old friend the ITCZ and the trick, as always, will be to find the point where this band of fickle wind is narrowest.
But Glasgow Clipper's skipper Rupert PARKHOUSE can't look solely ahead and must watch his back as well. After a disappointing run into Salvador, the Jersey crew are determined to do better this time and have been testing for any weakness in Glasgow's performance, first trying to sail under them, and currently trying to gain a slight windward advantage to overtake on the starboard side. If conditions remain equal this will be hard to achieve with pure boat speed, unless Glasgow make a mistake, and there are few chances of this at present.
The same goes for the rest of the fleet and we may well see the current established running order remain until the field opens up once round the corner.
London Clipper is also a threat to Glasgow's lead and could have quite a commanding position. Although about ten miles down wind, their position closest to the coast could give them an advantage for two reasons. Firstly, one of the pronounced features of this part of the race is the inshore current that runs along the coast to the north. Although not guaranteed it is possible that the closer to the coast one is the more one will benefit. The second, an in some ways more relevant, is that they will be closer to the corner when they come to bear away to the north.
As any track competitor or marching serviceman knows, the inside line has less distance to cover. To avoid measuring distances straight across the land the current distance to finish measurement is calculated via the imaginary point "Recife" shown on the chart as a red mark a few miles off the coast. However this is not a mark of the course and the teams are free to cut the corner as much as seamanship will allow. Once the distances are measured direct to the finish line, we may well see London have a double boost.
Looking further back Hong Kong and Bristol are almost neck and neck for fifth place. Neither will be happy to stay here for long, but for current overall leader Bristol this is particularly irksome. With such a slim margin separating them from Jersey on the overall results page, to be three places behind by New York would not be a good outcome. There will no doubt be several people on a small island just off the French coast for whom this is just fine!
Possibly adding fuel to the inshore current theory, Liverpool and Cape Town who have taken a more offshore track have fared worst, with the slowest 24-hour run and the biggest loss of miles to the leaders. It is early days but they will not want to be left behind so soon into the race. But there is also one big wild card that will be affecting all the boats to a lesser or greater degree - squalls.
Despite the relatively steady winds the occasional squally downpour, some with lots of wind, some with less have still been barrelling through the fleet to help some and hinder others. Skill, hard work and more than a little luck. That's mid latitude ocean racing!
Race 14 Positions at 0300 UCT
||Dist to Finish