Head winds have left the Clipper fleet faced with a 500-mile beat
“Cold, damp and lumpy – and that’s not the custard we had for pudding…” Reports back from the boats today all detail similar conditions and they are probably not conditions that we envy this time!
As each boat left the Hawaiian pontoons of Ko Olina, there was tension in the air and not just the usual race start nerves either. These were nerves of what lay ahead and what was to greet them off the Japanese coast. Mainland Japan may be preparing itself for another peaceful, blossom-filled Spring, but 400 nautical miles off the coast there is nothing peaceful about the sailing.
All of the boats have had much lower daily runs than of late and this is not from lack of wind this time. With the wind blowing in from a North-North-Easterly direction it is, as we say, “right on the nose.” Frustrating progress when all you want to do is head North East to Yokohama.
This explains why some of the boat’s tracks look a little strange. As heading directly into wind is not perhaps the most productive sailing, skippers are left with the annoying options of either heading in the direction of the Philippines or Alaska!
London Clipper seems to be in a strong position in the North and skipper Rory is not going to let go of his tight hold on the Northerly flank. Interestingly, New York Clipper seem to have taken the decision to follow suit and we may well see this pay dividends for them as the pack in the middle of the fleet get wrapped up with racing against each other.
This middle pack has gained on the leading yacht, Hong Kong Clipper. Bristol have kept their course slightly more Northerly than the others, perhaps in a quest to join London. Meanwhile, Liverpool and Glasgow Clippers remain locked in battle and are close enough now to be able to talk over VHF radio.
This is indeed a strange phenomenon; after thousands of miles of crackly radio schedules being your only real contact with the outside world, to then have a conversation is a real treat! Skippers Adam and Rupert are currently planning their next holidays, perhaps a nice cruise on a catamaran somewhere!
Continuing on a more westerly course than the others are Cape Town and Jersey. Cape Town Clipper have been sailing in some pretty exciting conditions, with crew member Val Lyness having set the record of highest wind speed whilst helming on board. 49.9 knots was apparently as much as she could take however, so she just turned the screen off on the binnacle!
Jersey Clipper, struggling to head North in the wind conditions they are experiencing, are looking a little vulnerable and now have their own race to get back in with the pack. One thing is for sure though, this determined crew will be eager to continue their impressive run of straight podium finishes!
Sailing in these conditions can be as tiring as it is exhilarating! Yokohama will be a most welcome sight for the crews and another chance to throw their mooring lines ashore. With sail changes and helming being the toughest things above deck in this weather, everything below decks is difficult. Mother watch is a battle, not just to cook food that people are going to want to eat in rough weather but to keep it in the pan!
Polly and Fi aboard Bristol Clipper have been throwing flour and sugar around the galley in an adventurous attempt at making crumble, whilst the boys aboard London Clipper are extolling the virtues of noodles – easily made, by comparison! All character building stuff although rest assured that the sushi, saki and beers will also be a welcome sight in Yokohama…
1 Hong Kong 427.07 (Miles to finish) 2 London 454.34 3 Bristol 459.48 4 Liverpool 467.89 5 Glasgow 483.87 6 Jersey 517.66 7 Cape Town 643.64 8 New York 663.48