Race 4, Day 4: Life in the Fast Lane Brings Continued Challenges for Fleet

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The past 24 hours have continued to prove eventful for the Clipper Race fleet. Whilst the storm has abated somewhat, the fleet has still been facing gale force winds, gusting 40 - 50 knots, resulting in boat speeds of up to 30 knots, as the fleet continues through into the Southern Ocean towards Albany, Western Australia in Race 4.  

The gusty, fast and wet conditions are continuing to prove extra challenging for crew, requiring everyone to exercise extreme safety cautions. Many skippers continue to praise crew on their bravery and perseverance in the rough weather. 

Vicky Ellis, skipper of Switzerland, explained the conditions crew have been facing: “In gales, the wind whistles through the rig, in storms it screams, but this wind howled a roar that sent a chill right through you. The wind alone physically shifted crew off their seat on the deck so they have been using double clips to anchor themselves in place. 

"It’s just like summer in Scotland," I told the crew cheerfully, but on a serious note, if it wasn't for my faith in these boats, the ingrained safety culture the crew have been given through the Clipper Race training, nurtured by our team ethos, and all my years of heavy weather sailing off Scotland, I would not have been feeling as confident.”

Following yesterday’s reported injuries, Derry~Londonderry~Doire has made the decision to divert to Port Elizabeth to transfer round the world crew member, Michelle Porter as a precautionary measure.

Skipper Sean McCarter explained: “The decision was taken at 1600 UTC yesterday afternoon, to divert to Port Elizabeth to transfer our injured crew member, Michelle. Although she wanted to continue, the thought of running out of pain killers a week from now and having to do a boat-boat transfer with an oil tanker in the Southern Ocean would put Michelle, the boat and all the crew at serious risk.”

Following a successful transfer of their injured crew member, David Griffin, Mission Performance has now resumed racing. 

Commenting on the tough start to Race 4, Clipper Race Director Justin Taylor said: “This leg has historically been a tough one for the Clipper Round the World Race.  As the yachts plunge down into the Southern Ocean and the Roaring Forties they will begin to experience the full force of nature.  Races one, two and three are the best training ground to prepare the crews for Race 4 but of course, in addition to this is the comprehensive training that each of the crew undergoes before they set off.  This, coupled with the focus that the Clipper Race and its highly experienced skippers have for safety, helps to reduce the incidence of crew injuries but alas these are inevitable. 

It would only be the naive to think that we could eliminate all the risk of sailing in the harshest of environments.  In fact it is because we can’t that crew elect to go down into the Southern Ocean in the first place.  To quote Hilaire Belloc, “There, sailing the sea, we play every part of life; control, direction, effort, fate; and there we can test ourselves and know our state.”

Ocean racing can be a case of feast or famine when it comes to the weather, with light conditions expected to take over today.  Despite the challenges of the past 24 hours, skippers will have to start thinking ahead, with those teams diving south to at least 42 degrees likely to catch the better breeze over the next few days.

At 1100 UTC, the current race standings see Qingdao leading the fleet (3871 miles to finish) with Henri Lloyd in second place (3957.3) and OneDLL (3990.3) third.

To read the skipper reports, click here.

For the Race 4 Race Viewer, click here.