As the Clipper yachts leave the Palawan Passage and enter the Palawan Trough, it is all change at the front. Today sees Hong Kong Clipper back in the lead, with Glasgow snapping at her transom.
Their inshore route has paid off, whilst the Bristol crew has moved further out in a predictable move to cover their close rivals on Jersey.
These two pairs have 3 miles between them but the fortunes change regularly with the gusts, squalls and wind holes. Jersey Clipper had nosed ahead of Bristol after she tore her lightweight spinnaker, but then the cider sippers slipped past yet again.
The race has turned into two, four boat races. Liverpool Clipper is 25 miles astern of Jersey and in fifth place but is favouring the outside of the course.
The Liverpudlians now only have a 10-mile margin on New York, Cape Town and London who all have their horns locked together as they run up the inside of the course. Will this be as good for them as it was for Hong Kong and Glasgow? They could easily catch Liverpool.
Rupert Parkhouse is now the duty skipper in Glasgow Clipper. He reports that the heat really is testing now and they have to run the generator much more often to keep the little fans turning below and to make the endless water which seems to pour straight though them.
The leading boats have just over 50 miles to run to the first gate. Thanks to their ARCS electronic charts, displayed by their Euronav seaPro 2000 software, they will clearly be able to see the gate and take their time as they pass through it.
The next gate is off the coast of Brunei, some 168 miles further on. This one, called BBBG (Bloody Big Brunei Gate) is 107 miles wide - probably the biggest gate in the world!
The boats have all done between 55 and 60 miles over the last 12 hours, which is pretty reasonable in the conditions. The racing in the two groups remains incredibly tight and the twice daily position reports show that all bar two of the Clippers have led this race since its start on 17 April.
On a different note, the situation in Asia regarding SARS continues to effect everyone. The authorities in Singapore have taken a very positive approach to containing the virus and as a result the number of cases are very small. There is however a natural and understandable apprehension in the region relating to the virus and, in a vibrant and successful country such as Singapore, this becomes a dominant issue.
After a great deal of thought the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club (RSYC) has asked Clipper to reconsider their planned visit to the Club. The eight Clipper yachts were scheduled to visit the RSYC from 2-8 May 2003 as part of their 11-month Round the World Yacht Race. Clipper Ventures totally accepts that in these difficult times the RSYC must place the interests of its members above all other considerations and has therefore worked with the Club to make alternative plans.
These plans will see the Clipper fleet visit Nongsa Point Marina in Batam, part of the Riau group of islands. The marina is on the northern point of Batam Island, some 12 miles SSE of Singapore, and has regular ferry service taking just 30 minutes. The visit will still be supported by the RSYC and in addition the Riau Yacht Club and Nongsa Resort will both be actively involved.
Although Batam is part of Indonesia, access to and from Singapore is straightforward and the islands are a popular holiday venue for people from Singapore. The Marina, built in 1995, has excellent facilities and is surrounded by the hotels and chalets of the resort. Details can be found at http://www.nongsaresorts.com
This change of plan will not have nearly as much effect on the crews as would first appear. During the last race's visit to Singapore, several crew members decided to slip quietly away from the bright lights and find some idyllic island to enjoy a few days on their own. They chose both Batam and its neighbour Bintan, and found everything except solitude as all their crewmates had come to the same conclusion!
The Prize Giving Reception for this closely fought race from Hong Kong to Batam will be sponsored by the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club and the winner will be presented with the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club's Silver Junk Trophy. It is hoped that several of the members of the RSYC and other yacht clubs in Singapore will bring their boats over to Nongsa Point during the Clippers' visit.
Clipper 2002 Race Positions
03:00 UTC on 25 April 2003
||Distance to Finish (nautical miles)