Race 4 day 7: Shifting wind patterns shake up fleet

08 December 2015

The Clipper Race fleet has Tasmania in its sights, as a shift in wind patterns has allowed the majority of teams to head due east, south of the island, where they will turn north in a bid to get to Sydney at the weekend.

Despite this being the closest race yet of the tenth edition, with the boats separated by 200 nautical miles after seven days of racing, the teams are experiencing mixed conditions. The variable weather is allowing some to travel fast towards their destination, while others wait for the wind to pick up and help them on their way.

Clipper Race Meteorologist Simon Rowell explains the weather system: “The fleet has seen the low pressure system move to the south-east behind it, and is now mostly sitting in decent north or north-west winds, which should build and back (move anticlockwise) round to the west over the next day or so. This will massively accelerate progress towards Tasmania.”

ClipperTelemed+, currently in eleventh place, and the most northerly boat in the fleet, is making the most of full sails and a strong breeze after a frustrating start to the race tacking in headwinds. Skipper Matt Mitchell says: “There is something immensely satisfying not only of 100 per cent VMG (Velocity Made Good), but 100 per cent VMG in double figures. Now we can see if our bid to stay further north than everybody will work. At the very least it will gain us some ground, at best we will start shooting up the leaderboard as hopefully the boats further south will still be suffering headwinds or lighter airs for a time.”

In complete contrast, the most southerly team Visit Seattle, has found itself in very light winds. Having been an early leader in the Elliot Brown Timekeeper Cup, it has now dropped to ninth place as Skipper Huw Fernie and his crew wait for the wind to fill in. Huw reports: “The wind has just, sort of, gone...I'm not really sure where as there is nothing much out here and nowhere to hide. I can't decide if I should be happy or just start to panic. We were expecting a little less, but this is now a lot less and it's hard to know how long it will last. Certainly if I make the call to hoist bigger sails then it will surely come back strong, and if I sit here ready for a storm then we'll be watching the fleet sail past in no time. Ah, decisions, decisions.”

The front four boats continue to trade places with LMAX Exchange still at the head, 866 nautical miles from the finish line, Mission Performance in second, GREAT Britain in third and Garmin in fourth.

There has been a reshuffle mid-fleet in the last 24 hours with Unicef moving up to fifth and Derry~Londonderry~Doire sixth, just over one nautical mile ahead of IchorCoal. As a result Qingdao is eighth ahead of Visit Seattle and Da Nang-Viet Nam in tenth. Skipper Wendy Tuck is opting to take Da Nang – Viet Nam slightly further north in a bid to find stronger winds, after a challenging day mentally for those on board. Wendy explains: “You would think that we would be happy not to be bashing around for a change. The problem we faced is/was “What to do now?” If I looked at the GRIB files, they were saying this light breeze would last for around ten hours. But if I looked at the barometer it was saying “hang on to your hat”, it’s going to come back with a bang. Our Meteorologist Simon was also saying the light stuff would pass over quickly and the westerly would come in with a big punch.

“So we waited and waited, went back to a full mainsail with it set up to drop either 1, 2 or 3 reefs in very quickly, talked about what to do if it came in from a different direction and caused an accidental gybe. So you guessed it, nothing has come as yet, so we’re now back to bigger sails, making slow progress.”

As the winds keep the Clipper Race fleet guessing, make sure you keep an eye on the Race Viewer to see whose tactics and route pays off as the teams continue towards Sydney.

DON’T MISS: Your chance to win a limited edition watch as worn by the Clipper Race Skippers in their global endurance challenge in this race’s Elliot Brown Timekeeper Cup Competition.

All positions correct as of 1100 UTC.

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