30 December 2015

The final fight to the finish line of Race 5, the 71st Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race (RSHYR), is going to be tight and tactical for the Clipper 70s as they battle for the podium and points in forecast light winds on the Derwent.

The last 24 hours have been described as a cruel game of wind-hole snakes and wind-funnel ladders. As at midday local time (0100 UTC) today, Wendy ‘Wendo’ Tuck, our first female Australian Skipper, had a narrow lead of around seven nautical miles aboard Da Nang – Viet Nam over second-placed GREAT Britain and LMAX Exchange, third.

At one point the gap had narrowed to less than 3 nautical miles before Wendo opened up her lead. But as she turns into Storm Bay her speed is dropping and the rest of the fleet is closing in once more. It has been a relentless fight, but the team's overall line honours position of 21st reflects the achievement.

“Not much sleep has been happening on board,” Wendo reported. “After a long light spot last night the fleet has caught up, but we are giving it all we have. We are fighting till the end. Crew morale is awesome, my crew are awesome and I am tired.”

As Wendo leads her team and the fleet into Storm Bay and up the Derwent all bets could be off as forecast light winds will probably see the fleet compress and fortunes left to the mercy of the roll of Mother Nature’s wind dice.

Teams reported improved speeds down the final miles of the Tasmanian east coast with a reasonable north easterly breeze following more fickle conditions over the last 24-hours.

Skipper Darren Ladd described the concentration needed aboard IchorCoal (eleventh position) to keep the boat moving: “The windseeker is up and the same weather-worn creases are still on the faces of the crew but this time from concentration. Every whisper of wind keeps the boat moving that little bit further, movement on deck is kept to a minimum. The soundtrack to this scene is silence, or just the occasional creaking of the rigging.

“Throughout the night, the crew of the good ship IchorCoal concentrated. For many hours we barely moved, but we never stopped. Scratching around for wind, heading up here, endlessly trimming, anything to keep going, we plodded on. The darkness seemingly endless.

“The crew are now trimming, grinding and cheering the bursts of speed. The chatter and the banter return after a good breakfast. Doing all the things that are routine after more than 16000 nautical miles of ocean racing, the team look like any other team, but what a team!”

Similarly aboard ninth-placed Qingdao, Skipper Bob Beggs describes how hard the crew have been working: “It has been a tense night constantly trimming our windseeker and mainsail trying to improve our race position. This is because we had severely damaged two of our spinnakers on the first night.

“The Clipper 70 fleet around us were flying spinnakers most of yesterday whilst the Qingdao crew put in fantastic effort to keep up with them under our Yankee 1 upwind sail.

“Hopefully sometime today we will complete the RSHYR but it will be a fight to the finish,” adds Bob, and how right he is.

Skipper Ash Skett aboard Garmin (fifth) summarises it nicely: “The racing has been the closest, most competitive that I have ever experienced…As we approach the finish of this extraordinary race only one thing is for sure: over the last few days we have certainly been shown the highs and lows of this incredible sport.”

Skipper Daniel Smith says he’ll be keeping his fingers crossed aboard Derry~Londonderry~Doire: “A good move or a bad decision could be the difference between a great result and coming in at the back of the pack. There is still plenty of racing to go and we'll need some luck.”

Pete Thornton, Skipper of GREAT Britain, chasing down Wendo, alongside LMAX Exchange, hopes to be alongside by sunset! “Fingers crossed, looking forward to the ol’ Taste of Tassie! It's been a complicated ol’ race this one and it's not quite over yet!

But Wendo and her crew are determined to hold on. She concludes: “To all our supporters, please keep wishing us good speed. I know it will help, only positive thoughts needed on this boat right now. Love youse all. Wendo.”

However, she should take the Jane Tate Memorial Trophy for the first female Skipper to cross the line. All but one of the other female Skippers have retired. Remaining Lisa Blair, on Climate Action Plus, is a former Clipper 2011-12 Race crew member, currently well behind in the RSHYR Line Honours standings.

Clipper 2013-14 Race skipper Vicky Ellis claimed the trophy when we made our debut in the RSHYR in 2013.

In addition both Clipper 68s are doing very well with Clipper Ventures 10 and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston 48th on overall line honours, and Clipper Ventures 5 51st overall.

For the latest ETAs into Hobart click here.

For the Clipper Race Viewer and standings, click here.

For the overall RSHYR rankings, click here.

All the Skipper reports can be read on each team’s page on our website.

All positions correct as of 1200 AEDT.

* Image credit: Heath Holden. See http://www.heathholdenphotography.com/.

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