The only certainty on Race 15 of the Clipper 2002 Round the World Series is that it presently remains wide open. Liverpool Clipper has outflanked the Bristolians in the north and now leads by a small cushion of 3 miles.
These two yachts to the north had the windward advantage until yesterday afternoon. Now Jersey Clipper to the south is the windward boat, but she dropped right back yesterday and at one point trailed the frontrunners by some 39 miles.
In the last 12 hours Jersey supporters can take heart though as, with their freer wind, they have reclaimed 15 of those miles. At 06:00 GMT Liverpool and Bristol had been averaging 7 knots since the 03:00 radio schedule, with Jersey averaging 8.5 and taking another 5 miles out of the lead.
While the excitement may appear to surround these three, there is a joker in the pack who may well have the last laugh. Rory GILLARD and the crew of London Clipper have been making steady progress at each successive 12-hour radio schedule.
The Londoners have taken a middling course between the two northern boats and Jersey in the south. This took them into third place yesterday evening and they continue to lead Jersey as the two groups converge. A four horse race could well be developing...
Of special interest is that neither London nor Liverpool have managed a win in the previous races of this Clipper series, despite being regular frontrunners. Both teams are capable of achieving victory in this strongly competitive race to the Channel Islands. It is a reflection on the spirit within the fleet, that if either did achieve this it would be an enormously popular result.
Positions are changing further back, with Justin TAYLOR'S southerly lunge now paying dividends and enabling Hong Kong Clipper to re-take Glasgow for sixth place - but they still remain 30 miles astern of New York Clipper, presently going well but without any playmates near at hand.
Rupert PARKHOUSE and the Glasgow Clipper crew are now 5 miles directly astern of Hong Kong, but one slip and they could get through. Further back the crew of Cape Town Clipper remain in good heart but the weather has been unkind to them and they have been the last to benefit from the change in the wind direction.
After the big question of "who is going to win this race?"
the next question must be "when will the boats arrive?"
The good news is that the small depression that has caused the fleet to slow over the last 36 hours will now become their friend and the SW winds will speed the boats towards Jersey.
The strong winds will start to die down on Tuesday, but it now appears that they may remain stronger for longer. Race Director, Colin de MOWBRAY, is putting his money on Midnight, Monday 21 September or early Tuesday morning for an estimated arrival for the first boats at St Helier. Traditionally of course the yachts arrive at 03:00!
One certain planning factor is that the yachts will depart the Harbour at about 06:00 BST on Wednesday, 24 September to catch the ebb tide to take them up to Land's End and then north to Holyhead, before the grand homecoming celebrations in Liverpool next Saturday, 27 September.
Clipper 2002 - Race 15 Positions
||Dist To Finish (Nautical Miles)