​Race 12 Day 5: Could blistering progress slow as fleet prepares to head north?

25 June 2016

It has been another fantastic day’s progress in the North Atlantic. 30 knots of wind from the south-southwest, sun, and current has seen teams blast reaching and reporting record runs of approximately 300NM VMG in the past 24 hours, but that could end today as teams approach the edge of the Ice Box and prepare to head north into the light winds of the Azores High.

Derry~Londonderry~Doire has taken back the lead in its central position, where the current now appears to be strongest, and leads second place ClipperTelemed+ by 8NMs. Garmin is currently in third place though LMAX Exchange’s position has not been updated on the Race Viewer since 0700 UTC due to a technical glitch with their tracker which is hoped will soon be resolved.

In his report today, leading Skipper Dan Smith explains: “It's been a day of fast reaching without spinnakers on board Derry~Londonderry~Doire. This morning winds were high and we pushed hard to keep GREAT Britain behind us. After lunch we shook out a reef and continued under full sail making small gains on the lead boats and putting us back into a strong position.”

Looking ahead at today’s challenge, which lies less than 150NM in front, Dan adds: “Rounding the south-east corner of the ice box will be quite tactical. There will be a wind shift around the time we round it and the wind will be easing. Taking the corner wider means that a longer distance will be sailed but it may get yachts out of adverse current but into lighter winds. From previous positions it looks like Garmin and ClipperTelemed+ are further south, GREAT Britain is on the middle track with us and LMAX Exchange has taken the more northerly route. How current and weather pan out however will decide who rounds the next mark in first place.”

As they round the Ice Box, teams will face a tactical conundrum. Do they cut it closely and make best course to Derry-Londonderry, or will they look to go wider and aim for short term security of banking Scoring Gate bonus points? GREAT Britain is in Stealth Mode until 0600 UTC tomorrow as it decides to keep its tactics under wraps.

Unicef is 31NM behind the leader and has Da Nang – Viet Nam just 7NM behind. Mission Performance is just 4NM behind Da Nang – Viet Nam.

Qingdao Skipper Bob Beggs, currently 59NM behind the lead and heading in search of a more northerly course, identifies another potential challenge facing the teams, which he is hoping could pay off for the back half of the fleet. He says: “We have maintained good progress all day keeping an eye to windward for any squalls on the horizon but thankfully toady has been plain sailing. We are fast approaching the next phase of this race as we prepare to round the Ice Mark later on today and then start to head north-east towards Northern Ireland.

“The problem is that the Azores High is sitting directly in the way so I expect a slowdown of the fleet later today hopefully effecting the front runners first and allowing a little compression and catching up.”

At the back of the fleet, fast progress and record 24 hour runs are also being made, resulting in some understandable frustration that it is not having a better effect on leaderboard positions. PSP Logistics Skipper Max Stunell, whose team are also 59NM behind the leader but on a more southern course than Qingdao, says: “Another day of sunshine with a favourable wind direction, strength and current combined to allow us to make almost 300 nautical miles again. It seems crazy to think that the other boats are performing even better than us and the leaders have stretched an almost 100NM lead over us.”

Huw Fernie, Skipper of eleventh place Visit Seattle, notes that he is locked in battle with PSP Logistics as just 2NMs separate the teams. He reports: “PSP Logistics has been popping up on our screens all day, sometimes ahead and others behind and it looks like we'll be close as we run in towards the south-east corner of our iceberg exclusion zone in the next 24 hours.

“Then it's going to be another light winds lottery so we're all prepared for a potential slow down and plenty of sail changes when we hit the north Atlantic High, maybe now's a good time for a rest.”

Huw also took the chance to welcome IchorCoal back to the race after the successful medevac of Chris Drummond yesterday. He says: “It's nice to have IchorCoal back on the race track, well done team and we wish you fair winds (but not too fair) as you continue on with this race.”

IchorCoal re-joined the race at 0845UTC this morning after motorsailing back to the position it was in when it made the decision to divert. 490 nautical miles behind Visit Seattle, the team will be looking to close this margin as much as possible in the remainder of this race to Derry-Londonderry.

The Clipper Race fleet is due to arrive in Derry Londonderry, Northern Ireland between July 7 to 11.

Click here to find out more about the stopover, which will mark the third and final time the Clipper Race fleet will visit the city.

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