The start of the Wardan Whip, from Cape Town, South Africa, to Albany, Western Australia, saw strong south easterly winds of 20 knots and gusts of 35 knots on the start line, before some of the fleet contended with lighter, shifting winds in the shadow of Table Bay.

However, the strongest weather was felt overnight with gusting wind of 45 knots and waves of 3 to 4 metres in places.

The fleet is now beating upwind with some teams reporting gusts over 50 knots and big swells as a low moves quickly along the coast. The teams have taken different courses to ride out the storm, with some yachts heaving to while others are seeking shelter in False Bay.

Those conditions are expected to continue this morning, but should ease later in the day.

Mission Performance is currently leading the race, with LMAX Exchange in second and IchorCoal in third as of 0800UTC.

Ashley Skett, Skipper of Garmin, in sixth, described the mixed conditions:

“Although there was plenty of breeze at the start line, it soon disappeared as we got closer to the coast to round the two marks that had been placed inshore. By the time we rounded the mark we had almost no wind at all and so we hoisted our medium weight spinnaker in an attempt to get going.

“This didn't work too well and we were towards the back of the fleet as we rounded the second mark. However, as many of the fleet took a westerly course in order to avoid a notorious wind hole, we gambled on the wind being too far south for it to be there and decided to tack and take the shorter route. This seemed to work at first and we were able to under-cut the majority of the fleet, however we subsequently ran into lighter breeze and fell back a bit. Now we are being hammered by 50 knots on the nose with big swells which is making life extremely uncomfortable!” he added.

Darren Ladd, Skipper of IchorCoal, in third, said his team was unphased by the conditions and still smiling.

“It is currently a bit blowy out here. We are battling wind gust of 50 knots - the max I've seen was 72 knots - under deep reefed main and staysail, giving us a controllable speed of around 9 knots. We are clawing our way out of False Bay and it's fair to say the sea state is officially rough. A bit hectic for the first day at sea but the crew are unphased and have a smile so wide it's hard to see where the tops of their heads are connected,” Darren added.

Simon Rowell, Clipper Race meteorologist, said a front is expected to pass over the fleet sometime tomorrow, with relatively lighter winds in the mid to late 20s and gusts not much higher than that. Behind that comes the high pressure cell slipping round from the South Atlantic, and this will provide what is probably the first big strategic decision of the race.

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