Lovely sailing today! Not surprisingly the report from duty skipper Simon ROWELL is upbeat. Not only are the prevailing conditions giving the crews a great race home, but they have also let his Jersey team sneak into first place by seven miles.
As the Clipper 2002 fleet continues to track East and towards the UK, they are really being treated to some sailing to remember. With a West North Westerly breeze varying from 15 to 27 knots, the fleet is spinnaker sailing and enjoying every minute of it with spectacular dolphin displays, moonbows and even some sunshine.
With all of these niceties, we mustn't forget that the fleet is racing under perhaps more pressure than ever before. It has been incredibly close racing since the fleet left Halifax and this is the first time that there has been more than 10 miles between the first and third boat!
As the end of the adventure approaches, however, many skippers know that they are not just a racing for a pennant this time; podium positions hang in the balance.
Fleet positions have remained the same though. Everyone covered good mileage since yesterday's report with, interestingly, the backrunners Hong Kong, Glasgow and Cape Town having the highest 24-hour runs.
Back sailing under spinnaker, the New York crew has suffered a huge blow - quite literally. "Unfortunately our 1.5 kite is no longer with us," was a confession that no skipper wants to make. After an accidental broach of the boat, one clew of the sail ripped and once something this large has gone it is very difficult to save the rest of the sail. Skipper Ross continues, "To cut a long story short, there is a lot of kite with New York clipper on it floating around with a spinnaker halyard attached, but every one stayed unharmed and safe. We are gutted."
The loss of this sail will undoubtedly see New York's fifth position jeopardised. The 'AP' is named so as it really is an all purpose sail and the most frequently used of the spinnakers. At present, they have maintained good speeds as the winds are such that the heavyweight kite would also keep them moving well, however the winds are once again forecast to turn lighter as the low that is currently giving the boats these westerly winds looks like it will move moving to the north east.
This change in the weather will also show how the North-South divide that has developed in the eight-strong fleet will pay off.
Studying the weather faxes aboard Bristol Clipper, skipper Binks sees that his Northerly position in the fleet could prove to be the right place to be. "Once the low has moved North East, there is a trough in which there will be little wind. It looks as though we might hold the wind for 12 hours longer than the boats further south,"
"Then, on Friday, there will be a northerly air stream developing as the isobars get squeezed between a developing high to the west and a low developing in the trough to the south. This low will move up behind us, causing the wind to head us, so we will be hard on the wind. As it comes round further, we will be able to tack and then, by Saturday, gradually get freed as the wind comes to the south west. If I've got this right, our northerly position will do us no harm at all. If I've got it wrong, I'll just regret writing so much down!"
Once again, all we can do as armchair sailors is sit back and wait to see whose tactics are right and which team Neptune is smiling upon this week.
Clipper 2002 - Race 15 Positions
||Dist To Finish (Nautical Miles)