Is west best?

An update from the hawaii-bound Clipper round the world race

Wednesday January 15th 2003, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Is West best? There have been a few changes since our last report. The front-runners, closest to Hawaii, remain the same. Obviously determined to stick to the "West is best" strategy.

The rest of the pack, still sticking close together, has made a slight turn North, obviously wanting to keep one eye on Hong Kong Clipper.

Hong Kong has been the first boat to make a drastic turn North. No doubt the rest of the fleet will be pouring over their charts and weather faxes to figure out why Justin Taylor has led his team apparently away from their final goal.

Those of us playing armchair sailing however, may well agree with Justin's tactics. The ever-present ITCZ (more commonly known as the Doldrums) becomes a tactician's best friend during this race. Plotting its moves and predicting what it will do next, at which point it is thinnest etc, is a guessing game that is being played at every chart table in the fleet right now.

Although very risky and at first rather alarming on the 'distance to finish' figures, Hong Kong's Northerly dash could prove the westerly pack wrong. If we imagine the ITCZ as a belt of varying thickness and decreasing winds that is wrapped around the world, the aim is to cross this belt where it is at its thinnest and therefore sail with light winds for as little time as possible. If it pays, Hong Kong Clipper will be able to stay up North in
better breeze all the way to Oahu. The Westerly boats will still have to bite the bullet and gybe North - eventually.

If only each boat was fitted out with a handy sized crystal ball, everyone's jobs would be so much easier! This is ocean racing however, and as we all know by now, the race is never won until someone has crossed the finish line. Looking ahead, we can expect many changes in the running order of this race still to come!

LATEST POSITIONS
04:00, 15 January 2003

Pos Yacht Distance to Finish
1 Jersey 3259.56 (nautical miles)
2 London 3272.86
3 Bristol 3274.94
4 Liverpool 3290.95
5 Glasgow 3297.47
6 Cape Town 3303.37
7 New York 3305.55
8 Hong Kong 3387.66

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