The scorching, calm tropics continue to test the nerves of the Clipper Race fleet, and leaders LMAX Exchange and ClipperTelemed+ are beginning to feel added heat from some of the pursuing teams which have made decent ground on them in the past 24 hours.

Third place Unicef has halved the lead margin since yesterday and is now just 20 nautical miles behind the leaders, which continue to shadow each other approximately 2 NM apart. Derry~Londonderry~Doire, in fourth, has also decreased its margin from the leaders by 10 nautical miles.

The most significant gain of the past 24 hours however has been made by fifth placed Garmin, which has gained two positions and has cut its distance from the leaders by over 40 nautical miles as it continues on the most inshore tack of the fleet. Skipper Ash Skett says: “The inshore route has finally started to come good for us and progress today has been quite decent for a change. We have managed to close the gap a little on the two boats further south and now that we have crossed over the second compulsory gate, the aim is to improve our position by a couple of places before we reach the next, which is 340NM away.”

Further back the good fortune has not extended. IchorCoal has dropped a position, now in sixth place and despite having its windseeker up almost constantly in search of better winds, is continuing to lose ground on the fleet and has dropped 50 NM on the leaders in the past 24 hours. Skipper Rich Gould reports: “Trapped in a windless hell! I checked the temperature earlier today, the thermometer was showing a bajillion degrees in the shade. Below decks there is no respite from the heat now, not even at night time.

“Today has not been a good one for progress, or comfort aboard IchorCoal. Very little breeze has been seen, the wind seeker has been up for almost the whole day. The forecast suggested light winds, but not this light. Despite our best efforts we have lost miles to most of the fleet today.

Here’s hoping the wind fills in soon...”

Qingdao is now less than 10 NM behind IchorCoal in seventh and looking to make a move up the leaderboard, though is facing similar challenges navigating the wind holes in the area.

Qingdao Skipper Bob Beggs explains: “The wind filled in early this morning and backed (moved to left) which gave us good speed and allowed Qingdao to make the second compulsory gate without difficulty. Unfortunately the forecast wind hole was sitting directly in our path and there was no way around.

“We hoped for a short while as we headed north of our intended course that we might skirt around the top but the parking lot opened up on top of us. We have made just 24 nautical miles in the last twelve hours and most of that was in the first three.

“So we are working hard to keep Qingdao pointing in the right direction with the boat speed rarely above 2 knots and often zero. This is sailing and part of game. The wind will return and we are hoping that our competitors are not making huge gains as we inch our way towards Panama.”

GREAT Britain and Mission Performance have entered the secret squirrel Stealth Mode and their positions hidden from the Race Viewer until midday and midnight today respectively.

Some of the toughest sailing takes place in light winds when it is crucial to both keep focus and swap efficiently between the windseeker, Yankee 1 and lightweight kite in order to keep the boat moving as even small gains will prove advantageous in a race like this. That focus is made especially hard when the lack of wind means temperatures on board are soaring to the mid-40s as shade is increasingly difficult to find and the cooling effect of a bucket shower only lasts for five minutes before sweating resumes.

Max Stunell, Skipper of PSP Logistics, currently 270 nautical miles behind the lead, exasperates: “I didn't realise how big Mexico actually is, we seem to have been running down this stretch of coast for a long, long time or perhaps we are going very slowly depending on which way you look at it.

“The big question is a what stage does the race get called and do we still have time to make up the positions, I suppose it all depends on what the weather does over the next few days and if we'll all have enough breeze to make it to the third gate.”

As explained throughout this race, four mandatory gates were originally included in the Course Instructions and all Skippers and crew were fully briefed in Seattle that the Race Committee has the option to conclude the race at any of these four gates. This will occur if the light winds that are a well-known feature in this region jeopardise the fleet’s strict schedule for the Panama Canal transit.

All teams have passed through the Acapulco Gate, the first compulsory gate and the front eight teams have also now passed the second, Angel Gate. The third gate, Remedios, is 160 NM in front of the leader, (500 NM+ in front of twelfth placed Da Nang – Viet Nam).

In the result that the race is called early, the final race positions for the PSP Logistics Panama Cup will be determined from the last gate that the entire fleet has passed through.

Stay tuned to the Race Viewer to see if Garmin's inshore tactics continue to pay off in the PSP Logistics Panama Cup play out

*All positions correct as of 1000 UTC

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