Bristol Clipper has rounded the virtual mark at the entrance to the Palawan Passage first, with a three mile lead from Hong Kong. Just over a mile astern Jersey and Glasgow rounded together some six miles ahead of Liverpool Clipper.
The fickle conditions have continued to play tricks on all the boats, but worst hit are the three chasing boats of New York, London and Cape Town. These are now in a tight group approaching the waypoint and are some 30 miles behind the leaders.
Ross Daniel in New York laments that they have managed to find every wind hole in the South China Sea but despite the frustrations reports that his crew are in great shape and know their luck will change.
London Clipper had a worrying moment when their watermaker stopped making water but it is now repaired. They and Liverpool are having problems with their Mini M satellite communications and so cannot send emails; these will be fixed in Singapore.
The wind appears to have a pattern and picks up at night. Bristol Clipper reported speeds in excess of seven knots at times - now distance memories as they are back again at dead slow ahead.
Richard Butler, skippering Bristol, continues to excel with his daily diary reports. These get printed in full on the Bristol Clipper website and are certainly worth a look - whichever boat you are supporting. www.bristolclipper.com
Richard, now universally and affectionately know as Binks, talks about the hazards of this 35 miles wide passage and jokes about what is unofficially known in the business as the P45 rule - the one not found in the Racing Rules for Sailing but applies to all skippers who are employed by the caring company!
On most maps the South China Sea is a big blue patch of water. Only when you study it on a chart do you notice how much of it is foul and restricted water. The course is therefore carefully set to follow the recognised routes and avoid the dangers.
All the previous Clipper races have gone outside the reefs off the coasts of the southern Filipino islands and the coasts of Borneo but this time the fleet are going through the famous Palawan Passage, which takes them inside the Reed Bank and safely down the coastal route.
The various names of the coral pinnacles and reefs give clues to the history of the area; what a wonderful place to study in detail. Examples are: North Danger, Fiery Cross, Mischievous Rock, Coronation Bank, Bombay Shoal and if you are going to come to grief, where better than Sabina Shoal?
Some names conjure up personal memories such as Erica Rock, our Watch Officer in Race Control, and Hopkins Rock, after our avid follower from Southbourne, near Emsworth, who writes misguided emails to the Race Office telling us who will win each race. The list is endless but please don't let Rory know about the one at 08 50N 112 40E. Just because it is called London Reef does not mean the P45 rule is null and void.
And finally as we go to press, Rupert Parkhouse has reported from Glasgow that they are 100 metres away from Hong Kong and 150 metres from Jersey. These Scots certainly travel well...
Clipper 2002 Race 9 Positions
03:00 UTC on 23 April 2003
||Distance to Finish (nautical miles)