The straight lines of the Clipper 2002 yachts' tracks give little indication of the amount of activity on board. They are in fact purely the line between the 12 hourly positions and the crews may well have slalomed their way across the oceans in between.
Life has certainly been busy on board all eight yachts during the last 24 hours. The wind may have picked up, but it has been very changeable blowing first one side of west then the other resulting in constant gybes as the boats endeavour to maintain the best possible course.
They have also been going through their sail wardrobes as the wind strength varies between 10 to 25 knots true, lightweight spinnakers being peeled to medium weight, to heavy weight and back again. A couple of weak frontal troughs have also passed over the fleet bringing grey skies and rain. In case the crews had forgotten, the weather is doing its best to remind them that they are returning to Northern Europe.
As the Clipper fleet gets closer to the western approaches and the entrance to the English Channel, their tactical options will narrow. As the waters of the Atlantic compress to flow between England and France, producing the tides we know so well, so the fleet will need to select their approach for a gap that is only 20 miles wider than the current north south divide between Bristol and New York.
Although the rest of the fleet are continuing to head more or less towards the north east, Jersey Clipper has aimed almost directly due east.
It is interesting to note that the true course towards the Channel Island of Jersey is about 083 degrees, or just north of east, despite it seeming almost to the south east of the yachts' current positions. This is of course due to the curvature of the earth and the fact that the charts we plot the positions on are Mercator projection, a language harking back to the days of dusty geography textbooks for most, but of daily relevance for the Clipper skippers and crews.
The fleet has now split into three distinct groups. The top three of Bristol, Jersey and Liverpool have less than 10 miles between them. The midfield of London, New York and Hong Kong are between 30 and 90 miles back from the leader, whilst the after-guard of Glasgow and Cape Town are over 100 miles further back.
This almost guarantees a nail-biting finish for the podium positions, with the rest spread out over a longer period. But with over a thousand miles still to go anything could happen over the next few days. Now where have we heard that before?
Clipper 2002 - Race 15 Positions
||Dist To Finish (Nautical Miles)