All change again

At Clipper fleet encounters squalls heading south for Panama

Wednesday December 18th 2002, Author: Loretta Spridgeon, Location: Transoceanic
Yesterday it was all change at the front of the Clipper fleet, yet today it is all change at the back with Glasgow and Cape Town gaining at the expense of Bristol and New York.

The weather has been very squally with 180-degree wind shifts and anywhere between 3 and 30 knots of wind. It has also been wet. Very wet and the crews are beginning to fully appreciate the meaning of the term "tropical downpour."

This has come as a surprise to some crew, who no doubt have a very different picture of sailing through the Caribbean. Although, as duty skipper Rupert Parkhouse aboard Glasgow Clipper comments, "At least the decks look lovely and clean!" Such a copious supply of fresh water also ensures that off watch hair-washing is the order of the day.

Mostly the boats are sailing under white sails at the moment rather than spinnakers, as the wind is too far forward to allow much use of the down wind sails. The boats are also experiencing the effects of the adverse North Equatorial Current which is slowing them by around a knot and further increasing their need to sail hard on the wind, as it is pushing them in the wrong direction.

The advantage is that the frequent squalls are less of a problem without spinnakers as the boats are far easier to manoeuvre quickly and there is less danger of sail damage. The disadvantage is that the boats will need to keep their hatches closed and the interiors will soon resemble a sauna on overdrive. In clement down wind conditions, with little likelihood of spray on the decks, the fleet are able to keep some of their hatches open - resulting in far more pleasant conditions on board!

Jersey and Hong Kong appear to have profited from their easterly position and have, in Rupert’s words, "Pulled ahead sharply" with a lead of over 20 miles on third placed Liverpool Clipper.

The remaining boats are much less ‘grouped’ today and it is hard to predict who, if anyone, will have an advantage over the next couple of days. The boats still have to go round another way point some distance to the south east of their current position and this is calculated in the distance to go, explaining the fact that the boats to the west such as Glasgow and New York would seem at first sight to be ahead of London or Cape Town, yet in fact have a greater distance to sail.

Certainly given the localised conditions where being one side of a cloud can leave you wallowing whilst on the other side another boat sails over the horizon, it is still anyone’s race.

We leave you today with a conundrum faced by one of the eight skippers, who shall remain nameless. "If one wears boots when it rains, and shorts when it is hot, how does one stop one’s boots filling with rain when it is hot and raining?"

04:00, 18 December 2002

Pos Yacht Distance to Finish
1 Jersey 482.18 (nautical miles)
2 Hong Kong 487.54
3 Liverpool 510.97
4 London 511.68
5 Glasgow 515.20
6 Bristol 520.66
7 Cape Town 537.92
8 New York 538.93

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