Tensions are mounting across the fleet in this penultimate race with every team knowing that positions into Den Helder could prove pivotal in the final race standings.

Until this morning the teams had been battling in fickle winds since rounding the Pentland Firth which has seen the positions change across the fleet on almost an hourly basis. However thanks to the forecast westerlies coming through, the fleet is now making steady progress once more with most of the teams traveling at 8-9 knots.*

Garmin took a gamble in not following the rest of the fleet and is on a more easterly course. Needing to make up six points on GREAT Britain in the last two races in order to get on the podium at Race Finish, the team is currently ninth in the Den Helder Northern Seas Challenge but only 4 nautical miles behind its arch-rival which lies in sixth.

“Well, this weather is certainly keeping us on our toes. A weak low which moved out from the mainland into the North Sea has brought with it a very changeable breeze and one that rarely matched up with the forecast. The light patches have certainly caused us a great deal of frustration, with the few miles remaining ticking by much slower than we anticipated,” writes Garmin Skipper Ash Skett in his daily report.

“Thankfully, the low has now moved on and left us with a perfect 15-20 knots from the west, so progress is now better than is has been for days. Of course, as we are in home waters and subject to the fickle nature of our British summer time, this will not last for long and I expect the wind will lighten imminently and it could be a painful last few miles of this race.”

With only 11NM between LMAX Exchange in fifth and Qingdao in eleventh, the light winds forecast could see a mid-fleet reshuffle once more. Meanwhile at the front, Visit Seattle is only 113NM from the Race 13 finish line, 8.6NM ahead of PSP Logistics in second and 11.9NM ahead of Da Nang – Viet Nam in third.

Derry~Londonderry~Doire, in fourth, is maintaining its aim of finishing ahead of overall race leader LMAX Exchange. Skipper Daniel Smith and his crew started this race nine points behind LMAX Exchange in the Overall Race Standings but with this morning’s announcement from the Race Committee that LMAX Exchange has been allocated two penalty points for the cost of sail repair in Race 12, that gap has now narrowed to seven points. A strong result for Derry~Londonderry~Doire into Den Helder could set up a very exciting finish in London in Race 14 with the top spot on the podium up for grabs.

LMAX Exchange Skipper Olivier Cardin says the trying conditions have taken their toll but the team is not giving up yet with plenty of racing to come in the closing stages.

“The last 24 hours were very tiring and seemed extremely long. Variable winds and a number of squalls imposed a number of evolutions: reefing, un-reefing and headsail changes. We passed very close to the centre of the depression, a nice circle of blue sky. We are now in the back of this depression with a steadier wind. We still have about 150NM to go to get closer to the head of the fleet,” said Olivier.

Unicef is the only other team to have been allocated a penalty point for Race 12 after sustaining equipment damage which pushed it beyond the £500 threshold. To read the full story, click here.

In his daily forecast to the fleet this morning Clipper Race Meteorologist Simon Rowell, a former Race Skipper himself, said: “You all seem to have decent westerlies of some description now, and the satellite image I’ve sent through gives an idea of the clouds circulating around that small low just north of you.

“Looking ahead there should be some anticyclonic rotation which should give a light and slowly increasing north-north-easterly wind on the east side of the developing ridge and a light south, south-south-westerly on the west side of it. When you’re planning your path through this I strongly recommend that you don’t depend on small patches of forecast wind to carry you through – as you know the fine detail drops off very quickly in the light conditions,” Simon advised.

With the majority of the fleet within 150NM of the finish line, can Visit Seattle hold on to claim its first win of the Clipper 2015-16 Race? And will PSP Logistics get its first podium? Can Garmin and Derry~Londonderry~Doire gain ground on GREAT Britain and LMAX Exchange in the overall leaderboard?

With so much still to be decided, stay tuned to the Race Viewer to follow the fleet’s progress.

*Positions correct as of 0900 UTC.

The fleet is expected to cross the finish line off Den Helder on 22 July. See the ETAs into Willemsoord Marina here.

There is a range of activities planned for the fleet’s stay in Den Helder, including a Summer Carnival and Nautical Festival. For more information on some of the events happening, such as live music, DJs and a food truck festival, click here.

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