It’s no plain sailing for Clipper fleet

Geraldton Western Australia and Qingdao battle it out during this year's Clipper Race. Picture: onEdition
Geraldton Western Australia and Qingdao battle it out during this year's Clipper Race. Picture: onEdition
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The Clipper Race fleet has overcome the challenge of light-wind sailing and is now bracing itself for gale force winds right on the nose.

Six days into the 2,580-mile leg from Singapore to Qingdao in China, and Portsmouth skipper Juan Coetzer is again challenging for the lead aboard Geraldton Western Australia – as the frontrunners today closed in on a mid-leg scoring gate.

While conditions have so far been benign, the South China Sea and East China Sea further north have a reputation for brutal conditions

And the forecast is for monsoon-driven north easterly winds of up to 40 knots and steep seas as the fleet approaches Taiwan’s east coast.

Coetzer, meanwhile, is revelling in the aftermath of winning a 24-hour duel with their Singapore competitor.

‘A good friend of mine, Ed Green, a former Clipper Race skipper, gave me some advice before the race,’ recalled South African-born Coetzer.

‘He said ‘‘if you ever find yourself in a wind hole, put the kite up in order to build up the boat speed, no matter which way you point, just to get her moving again’’.

‘So yesterday up went the kite and we made huge gains on Singapore.

‘We even did an outside gybe and once we got out of the wind hole, we peeled back to the Yankee 1.

‘By midnight we had overtaken Singapore.

‘The crew have been extremely focused on helming and trim, trying to squeeze out every little ounce of boat speed.’

Yesterday Geraldton was just 26 miles behind leg and runaway race leader Gold Coast Australia.

Coetzer’s team have put in improved performances on recent legs after a string of disappointing early results, which leaves them in ninth place overall.

On the current leg the opposite is true for Chichester skipper Olly Osborne aboard Visit Finland, who is down in an unaccustomed eighth place.

Osborne and the flying Finns are one of the few yachts to have taken the fight to the all-conquering Gold Coast, being the only other entry to have won a leg to date.

But their second place overall is small consolation amid their current frustration.

Osborne reported: ‘Today sees us on a port tack making good speeds eastward, although there is little north in the course.

‘The crew have been working very hard to gain the extra places.

‘But it is very frustrating to see that we are continuing to fall down the leader board without a reasonable explanation of why.

‘Still the race is young and we will see what the next days have in store for us.’