​Race 4 Day 8: Tight at the top for front teams

09 December 2015

It’s tight at the top of the Clipper Race fleet as the leading boats have rounded Great Mewstone, south of Tasmania, and entered the Tasman Sea in a quest to be one of the first three teams through the Scoring Gate and onwards to the Race 4 finish in Sydney.

LMAX Exchange continues to lead the way and has opened up a 28 nautical mile lead over its nearest rival. Having already recorded two wins in this year’s race edition, Skipper Olivier Cardin is ensuring his crew do not get complacent: “Yesterday, we began to ease the sheets. Two hours after, the first little surfs were here and since then they are coming in succession, longer and longer.

“At midday, we were alongside Tasmania; the wind blew 50 knots, the sun was shining and the sea was white. It was fantastic! The lead on our little friends had slightly increased but they are still dangerous! The Scoring Gate is 180 nautical miles away. The wind will decrease but we will put more sails up!”

The following three teams of GREAT Britain, Mission Performance and Garmin have just over 5 nautical miles between them. The short distance, and ability to physically each other on deck, and not just on the AIS (Automatic Identification System) has added extra spice to the competitive spirit on board. Peter Thornton, Skipper of GREAT Britain, which is currently less than a mile ahead of third placed Mission Performance says: “Garmin seemed to come out of nowhere yesterday evening, stomping along. There went my quiet night. We have traded positions a couple of times over the past 24 hours and now luckily, only because of her having to gybe away from Great Mewstone, we are ahead again but only marginally. Given the challenging conditions anything can happen.

“In fact, it was due to us battling all night that we converged on Mission Performance this morning. Now all three of us are within AIS range and cruising up the coast in a pleasant sightseeing group."

With the teams covering up to 140 nautical miles in the last twelve hours Skipper Greg Miller emphasises how much Mission Performance is enjoying the exhilarating conditions: “So this has turned out to be a Southern Ocean race proper! We are currently gliding along at 12-13 knots with the wind just forward of our midships (Beam/Close reach) in 25-30 knots of wind. This is quite manageable even with no visual markers. It is an overcast night with no stars or moon to steer by, so it means staring at the compass or trying to pick out different shades of clouds and following them...remembering that they are moving pretty quickly!”

Other positional changes overnight have seen Visit Seattle sail a more northerly route and return to fifth place, closely followed by IchorCoal and Derry~Londonderry~Doire. The Northern Irish entry however is diverting to Hobart after a crew member on board sustained suspected broken ribs. Skipper Daniel Smith and his crew took the decision to divert as a precautionary measure and will resume racing once the crew member has been safely medevaced. More details are available here.

Unicef has dropped to eighth, but remains approximately 33 nautical miles back from fifth placed Visit Seattle in a closely fought mid-fleet battle. Skipper Martin Clough says: “Amazing waves have given the crew some of the most exhilarating downwind sailing of the race so far, with surfs in excess of 20 knots. A mind stunning panorama of ocean power!

“After an accidental gybe last night, we’ve sailed a higher course which after daybreak has given the opportunity to a few more confident helms to lay the first mark in some challenging downwind sailing. A few places lost, yet Unicef’s learning portfolio steadily grows and from what knowledge and quirks I have picked about the yacht, in the varied wind conditions of the current race, and how ready the team have been to commit, learn and have a go, I am confident we can step things up a level in the next two races.”

As the teams continue to battle for position, keep an eye on the Race Viewer to follow their race to 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 1200 UTC.

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