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Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 2: Austria´s Red Bull Sailing Team in lead

April 18, 2012

Thousands of people gathered to the breakwater to cheer on the Extreme 40s in action on the first day of competing of the Act 2 in the Extreme Sailing Series yacht race. The most supported team was China Team making its Extreme 40 debut and with two men-overboard incidents, the action was in full swing.

Extreme Sailing Series 2012, ESS, EX40, Multihull, Qingdao, China

Extreme Sailing Series 2012, ESS, EX40, Multihull, Qingdao, China Credit: Lloyd Images

But it was the Austrian Red Bull Sailing Team skippered by Roman Hagara with his Olympic partner, Hans Peter Steinacher as tactician, who used their knowledge of the Olympic waters to edge ahead and top the leaderboard by the end of play on day 1.

Six open-water races were staged yesterday, which saw four different race winners. Racing took place just outside of the breakwater, close enough for the public to follow the action, during a light breeze day, which required shrewd tactics from the sailors, as Roman Hagara explained: “It was difficult because of the light winds and their was a lot of tide so it was fairly unpredictable out there. If you were in a good position on the start line then you would do well. By the end of the day the wind had picked up and we could get the hull out of the water.”

The Extreme 40 fleet racing in front of the impressive skyline in Fushan Bay, Qingdao Credit: OC Thirdpole

The Extreme 40 fleet racing in front of the impressive skyline in Fushan Bay, Qingdao Credit: OC Thirdpole

The battle at the top of the leaderboard was supremely close between Red Bull Sailing Team, The Wave, Muscat and GAC Pindar. The British crew led by match-racing supremo Ian Williams on GAC Pindar made an early bid for the leaderboard, claiming the first race win of the Act, but Leigh McMillan’s The Wave, Muscat were waiting to pounce, claiming victory in the following two races.

McMillan went on to win an impressive third race in race five of the day, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Hagara’s men: “It was a really good day for us – we are happy with the result,” said McMillan. “Red Bull had an outstanding day and even when we were winning races they were right behind us so it was very difficult for us to get away from them.”

Act 2 Qingdao opening ceromony

Act 2 Qingdao opening ceromony Credit: Lloyd Images

China Team displayed moments of real potential, including a fourth place in the second race of the day, which considering the crew only stepped on to race for the first time today shows the calibre of these professionals. However, two separate incidents show how quickly even the pros can get caught out as skipper Phil Robertson explained, “We loved it! There are a lot of positives we can take out of today and we are very happy with how we ended up – although a couple of us went swimming which wasn’t ideal. We were having our best race and were coming into the last mark when we lost Nick (Catley) our bowman over board. That was a shocker! Second time round…it was me and that was before the race even started,” admitted a rather sheepish Robertson. “I was trying to fix some rudder issues and I fell off the back with a minute to go. So it was a disappointing end but we are happy.”

Oman Air struggled to find their impressive form from Act 1 in Muscat, which saw them claim victory on their home turf just six weeks ago: “We were under no illusion that Qingdao would be easy just because we won the first event,” stated a philosophical Morgan Larson. A late comeback in the final race and a race win leaves the team in fifth place, four points shy of the French team Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, who also had a mixed day on the water. With plenty of races still to come, the teams will be assessing their performance on the water today and planning how to attack or defend as Act 2 goes into stadium race mode from tomorrow. In a similar scenario to Act 1, Muscat, both Hagara and Williams excelled in the early phase only to fade away to the dominance of Larson’s Oman Air team and the Series favourites on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild.

Chinese school children enjoying the racing on the first day in Qingdao

Chinese school children enjoying the racing on the first day in Qingdao Credit: Lloyd Images

The event was officially inaugurated tonight at the grand opening ceremony, hosted by the Qingdao Yachting Association (QDYA). The show began with a stunning light show and music, with local performers enacting traditional Chinese dances. Each crew member bearing their national flag was presented to the crowds, as they presented a gift to their hosts. The ceremony took place at Octagonal Square within the Olympic village, with over 2,000 local guests gathering to witness the spectacle. The show culminated with a spectacular fireworks show.

Today is the first of three public days with even more locals expected to descend on the Olympic village to watch the stadium racing that will be staged inside the breakwater of Fushan Bay. Racing starts at 1300 local time and for the fans not here in Qingdao, a LIVE REPLAY of the race coverage is available on the official event website from 1330 CET.

Pete Greenhalgh and Hashim Al Rashdi in action on board The Wave, Muscat

Pete Greenhalgh and Hashim Al Rashdi in action on board The Wave, Muscat Credit: Lloyd Images

Extreme Magazine available online
The 2012 Extreme Magazine, the official companion to the Series is now available online. One can take a look behind the scenes at the Extreme Sailing Series that has redefined yacht racing, and meet the men behind the machines. The magazine includes insightful and entertaining features by leading sailing and sports journalists including BBC Sport’s Rob Hodgetts, Justin Chisholm editor of Sail Race Magazine, DailySail editor James Boyd and David Fuller from yacht racing combined with fantastic action pix from Mark Lloyd.

Red Bull Sailing Team flying a hull in front of spectators lining the breakwater in Fushan Bay, Qingdao

Red Bull Sailing Team flying a hull in front of spectators lining the breakwater in Fushan Bay, Qingdao Credit: Lloyd Images

Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 2, Qingdao, China standings after Day 1, 6 races (17.4.12)
Position / Team / Points
1st Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Graeme Spence, Pierre Le Clainche 47 points
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Hashim Al Rashdi, Rachel Williamson 44 points
3rd GAC Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams, Mark Ivey, Mark Bulkeley, Adam Piggot, Andrew Walsh 37 points
4th Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) Pierre Pennec, Jean-Christophe Mourniac, Hervé Cunningham, Bernard Labro, Romain Petit 32 points
5th Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson, Will Howden, Charlie Ogletree, Nasser Al Mashari, Max Bulger 28 points
6th Alinghi (SUI), Pierre-Yves Jorand, Tanguy Cariou, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey, Charles Favre 26 points
7th ZouLou (FRA) Loick Peyron, Philippe Mourniac, Jean-Sébastien Ponce, Bruno Jeanjean, Patrick Aucour 24 points
8th China Team (CHN) Phil Robertson, Garth Ellingham, Kit Cheng, Nick Catley, Xiaqun Song 18 points
9th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Kostner, Pete Cumming, Christian Kamp, Jonas Hviid 14 points

Xiaqun Song on board China Team

Xiaqun Song on board China Team Credit: Lloyd Images

Quotes from sailors:
Morgan Larson, Oman Air skipper
“We were under no illusion that Qingdao would be easy just because we won the first event. We have to go back to our original goals and if we can end on the podium then that is fantastic but we are certainly aiming for top half of the fleet.”

Loick Peyron, ZouLou skipper
“I have come straight from Naples (AC45) and it is very interesting to be back in the Extreme 40 – it is a different game and it is good to fight against these guys. We have a lot to improve on the starts especially. It could have been a better day for us, it could have been worse. We are in the middle of the pack and looking for better.”

Roman Hagara, Red Bull Sailing Team skipper

“It was really close against The Wave, Muscat and GAC Pindar. In the first few races the three teams were always top three and it was really important to be consistent. We had no race worse then third and I think the others they may have had one bad race so in the end its what counted. We are very happy at the end of today.”

Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg begins the 2012 campaign for the Swan 60 sailing yacht Bronenosec

April 17, 2012

The Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg in Russia, has initiated a new and extensive global campaign for their recently launched Swan 60 sailing yacht Bronenosec.

Vladimir Liubomirov Chairman of the Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg  with Skipper Tomasso Chieffi © Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg 2012

Vladimir Liubomirov Chairman of the Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg with Skipper Tomasso Chieffi © Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg 2012

Due to its continued worldwide fleet growth the Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg selected the Swan 60 yacht model for its racing dimension.  This Nautor’s Swan model uses the latest technology, design and construction methods to provide easy handling for consistent racing performance.

The Swan 60 team is a cosmopolitan mix of some of yacht racing’s most esteemed names, dominated by Russian and Italian sailors.  Tomasso Chieffi, previously tactician aboard the Italian America’s Cup entry Azzurra, with Francesco Bruni, will play a vital role on board Bronenosec yacht for the entire season.  Chieffi will be backed up by Lorenzo Mazza also a seasoned pro on the America’s Cup circuit having raced with Alinghi and being part of the 1997 EF Language team for the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race.

Tomasso Chieffi, Skipper, Swan 60 Bronenosec, commented on his new collaboration with the Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg:

“2012 will be a fulfilling year for the Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg.  The sponsorship by Gazprom has enabled us to build a clear path into elite international yacht racing with a committed and pro-active crew who will all work together with the aim of securing podium placing around the world”.

Final preparations are finishing for the first event on the regatta rostra, with April dominated by Palma Vela in Mallorca from the 18th through to the 22nd, which will also be the Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg’s official entry into the competitive world of Swan yacht racing.

Vladimir Liubomirov, Commodore, Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg, is keen for the presentation event during April to commence:

“We have chosen Palma Vela as the staging event to present our new Swan 60 for 2012.  With the support of our sponsor Gazprom, the Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg team will be racing against some of the world’s most elite big  boat racers and we are delighted to have such an international team for our inaugural year on the Swan 60”.

The campaign will run from April to September culminating in the 2012 Rolex Swan Cup held biannually by Nautor’s Swan in Porto Cervo, Italy.

Yacht Club of Saint-Petersburg, Swan 60, 2012 Event Agenda:

Palma Vela 18-22 April

Rolex Volcano Race      24-28 May

Giraglia Rolex Cup 9-16 June

Copa del Rey                16-21 July

Mini Maxi Worlds 3-8 September

Rolex Swan Cup 10-16 September

Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race: Day 4 – One of the best racing days

April 17, 2012

Not only the Singapore skipper Ben Bowley is of the opinion that the fourth day of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race was one of the best racing days the teams have passed in a long period of time.

Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race

Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race Credit: Abner Kingman/onEdition

“We have had a spectacular day of near perfect sailing conditions today with steady winds and clear blue skies. The temperature was perfect and the sea state ideal allowing all to be reminded of how wonderful a day can be at sea when Mother Nature is not conspiring to make life tricky!” he adds.

Rupert Dean, Welcome to Yorkshire’s skipper, concurs: “All this seems such an incredible difference from the hard-core cold, wet, windy and rough conditions of Leg 6,” he says. “Then we were focussed on survival, with the safety of the crew and the vessel taking as high a priority as the racing itself.”

Gold Coast Australia’s skipper, Richard Hewson, says simply, “Today has truly been a magnificent day on the water.”

As layers are shed and bodies and souls warmed by the sun, the lack of energy sapping, cold, wet weather and pounding seas means the crews can focus fully on the racing which remains remarkably close as the yachts head south past Mexico.

For Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, whose crew is pushing hard and determined to show they have what it takes, it may well be a case of less haste, more speed.

“Unfortunately this morning we’ve had a massive wrap of the kite,” explains skipper, Flavio Zamboni. “In fact the thing managed to wrap around itself, the forestay, the inner forestay and the pole up-haul! It took us a while to sort out the mess but in the end we managed to take it down with only minor damage. At that stage I tried to be smart and asked the crew to put the heavy one up in the meantime without hoisting the headsail first. As a result, we nearly wrapped that, too. Because of all of the above we ended up sailing under main only for a few hours which, of course, has benefited the competition.

“The crew of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is trying really hard, anyway, and we’re looking forward to the days to come!” he concludes.

The yachts are so close there is only six miles between Qingdao in fifth and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital in eighth place. The team representing Scotland’s capital city has been racing the furthest offshore and is the most southerly of the yachts.

Visit Finland emerged from Stealth Mode at the midnight position update and there’s an edge of disappointment in Olly Osborne’s report this morning.

“Our time in Stealth Mode proved to be very varied with the breezes being light in the most part, although towards the end of the period we have had some great speeds. Clearly emerging in third is disappointing but, with such small distances between the boats, the leaders are still far from being out of reach,” he comments.

“We worked very hard to put the boat in the right place tactically during the last 24 hours and headed towards a more inshore position, although the combination of gybe angles led us to pursue a course that was not necessarily the shortest. As always the least miles sailed is often best, and I think we covered a few more than we really needed to.

“However there is a great sense of focus on board and we are making great speeds. The quality of the sailing is second to none, and the leaders are well within our sights. So for the meantime the vibe is good on board, and we will continue to hunt down the lost miles.”

Now ten miles behind leader, De Lage Landen, Visit Finland has slipped to fourth as they gybe offshore again.

Stuart Jackson and his team have been able to keep their rivals in visual range, saying, “We were joined in company by Visit Finland today who have been just astern of us for most of the day.

“What a great couple of days’ sailing we have been having. Luckily the wind has stayed with us and has not been quite as light as the weather forecasts seemed to show. With the weather that is forecast it looks like we will continue to gybe our way down the Mexican coast.”

One of the rules of the Clipper Race prohibits the teams from receiving outside help with their weather routing. As the yachts are identical, carry the same sail wardrobe and the crews are as evenly matched as possible, this makes for a level playing field and thrilling match racing. So every day meteorologist, Simon Rowell, winning skipper in Clipper 2002, sends the latest wind and weather data to the yachts. The big question on every boat is, how long will the wind last as we get further south?

At least another week, is today’s forecast as Simon explains, “You’re firmly in the flow off the east Pacific high. As you get further south there are a few areas of more consistent breeze, and in the longer term, in about five to seven days’ time, a fairly large low is forecast to move through the Gulf of Mexico, which may well give you decent northerlies funnelling across the Central American isthmus east of about 100 degrees west.”

“This race is how people dream ocean racing could be, blue sky, pleasant winds, dolphins and whales,” says Richard Hewson as his team moves into second place.

“Yesterday evening we gybed away from the rest of the fleet to make some ground to the south with the aim of staying in the belt of wind that is funnelling offshore. Around breakfast time we gybed back towards the shore and it was a nice surprise to see another yacht on the horizon at breakfast and I spoke to Sparky [Mark Light] on Derry-Londonderry who had come in from the offshore group of yachts and was ten miles behind, an indication of how close the fleet is at this point of time.

“The wind eased throughout the day and we changed to our lightweight spinnaker and appeared to make some good ground on the rest of the fleet. It was light wind sailing at its best as the crew made the most of the sunshine and nature, enjoying the performance of dolphins swimming past.

“At sunset the wind picked back up and we are now sailing along on port gybe towards the rhumb line and the island of Guadalupe with the rest of the fleet to our north.  We now have some fantastic wind which should stay with us throughout the night and hopefully give us some more miles on the rest of the fleet.”

Welcome to Yorkshire is sticking like glue to the Australian yacht, Rupert remarking on the difference between this and the last race.

“How times have changed! These days the focus is on constant and careful trimming of the spinnaker and measured movements of the helm, in order to keep our racing home moving as fast as possible. With the wind from the north north west pushing us exactly in the direction we wish to go, focus is on which gybe is the best to be on. There’s little to choose between them, explaining the wide longitudinal spread of the fleet at present.”

Racing under medium weight spinnaker, Rupert adds, “Sea conditions are slight and predictable, making moving around above and below decks easy.”

Qingdao, maintaining their fifth position, have crossed paths again with Singapore and now have another team in their sights.

Ian Conchie says, “We headed towards the coast last night before gybing out this morning and heading south again. The crew are now getting used to flying the kite and we have been making good progress all day.

“This race looks like it will be a close one as the fleet is still close together as we run down the coast, with both inshore and offshore routes seeming to offer the same speed at the moment.  The interesting part will come when we get further south and the wind drops. In the mean time we continue to chase our old friends Welcome to Yorkshire who have been sailing very deep downwind all race so far.”

Meanwhile, the crew of Singapore – lack of champagne and G&T aside – have been having a near-perfect day in the Pacific Ocean.

“Our evolutions today have been near textbook and the crew have been doing a fine job of keeping the boat moving in the right direction and speed all day long. I am almost holding my breath waiting for Lady Luck to throw a spanner in the works and ruin what has been a stunning race so far. I’m sure it shall come in about 48 hours’ time when the wind starts to leave us as we approach the tropics once again. Fingers crossed that we have made it through the Scoring Gate by then!

“It’s good to see the fleet still so tight as we cross gybes back and forth. There are definitely times when inshore is seeing a little better pressure and others when those who have stayed a bit further out are making good gains. Our tactic of striving down the middle of the fleet seems to be working out well, giving us options to hedge our bets depending how the rest of the fleet is getting on. Our only problem now is that someone seems to have placed the island of Guadalupe directly where we want to go. Presently we have not decided which side to pass but I’m sure over the next few hours the wind will shift slightly making the decision for us.

“Today has been one of our best at sea for a long time and we hope to have a couple more the same before the sweatiness starts!”

The Scoring Gate is still 600 miles away. In this race the gate is narrow at just 50 miles wide, which means the yachts will have to come close together to funnel through it. But it is not compulsory, so the teams can choose to go for the bonus points or bypass it altogether in favour of attempting to achieve a higher finishing position in the race.

In the meantime the decisions are which kite to fly, which gybe to be on and whether to leave the island of Guadalupe to port or starboard. But, while the temptation might be to relax into the fabulous conditions, concentration is absolutely key to not falling behind in this race.

“We have made good progress over the last 24 hours flying our faithful medium weight spinnaker ‘Jack’ (the Ripper). Conditions have been superb; we have had between 12 to 15 knots of true wind coming from the north north west,” reports Mark Light from on board Derry-Londonderry.

“This, together with a favourable Californian current of about three-quarters of a knot, has given us a perfectly flat sea and therefore great downwind spinnaker sailing conditions. Everybody on the boat has had the chance to helm and received coaching to stand us in good stead for the future. For some it is the very first time helming under spinnaker, so, different from our first dark night at sea, the crew are now motivated, slightly more experienced and feeling more confident about downwind sailing.

“Given the fact that this is going to be a very close fought race and any small lapse of concentration can cause a major hassle there is a certain amount of pressure associated with helming a Clipper 68 under spinnaker. All the crew have done exceptionally well and shown great levels of concentration which in turn has shown in our race position.

“We initially ignored the temptation to head inshore with most of the fleet and are now sailing in a constant band of pressure, therefore giving us a good steady flow of wind pushing us down towards Mexico. I am happy that we are in a fairly good position to make the most of our conditions knowing full well that before long the wind will begin to desert us in the coming days.”

Juan Coetzer, skipper of Geraldton Western Australia, just ahead of Derry-Londonderry, is also happy with the progress of the crew who joined the boat in Oakland for the USA coast to coast leg of the race.

He says, “Perfect sailing conditions today: downwind, sunshine, dolphins and the crew are beginning to peel off the thermal layers. The new crew have experienced their first kite peel, from the medium to the lightweight kite, and completed a successful gybe. The good news is that we have picked up Singapore on AIS, and this morning they were 19 miles away, and now, just ten miles. The maintenance regime still carries on with daily checks and services. Just before the medium kite drop, we spotted a small rip in the medium, so now it’s repaired again ready to go.”

They are trucking along nicely on New York, too, after the sail repair team got to work on an old rip in one of the spinnakers yesterday, quickly getting it back into service.

“We are heading south under full mail and have been peeling from one kite to the next most of the day as the wind came and went,” reports Gareth Glover, whose crew have dug out shorts and t-shirts from the bottom of their bags as the weather warms up.

“We have Singapore on our starboard and Qingdao on our port and Gold Coast Australia around 10nm in front of us so we still have a group of yachts together racing offshore. We did not take the gamble of heading into shore too much and hope our middle of the road tactic will pay off for us until we get further to the south where going inshore may pay.”

The first teams are expected to reach Panama between 9 and 10 May.

Act 2 of the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series™ in China to start today

April 17, 2012

Act 2 of the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series™ hosted by the city of Qingdao in China starts today. There is expected to be a grand-scale public opening ceremony tonight with grandstand seating for 2,000 people and a fantastic fireworks display.

The Wave, Muscat's Leigh McMillan meeting local Qingdao children

The Wave, Muscat's Leigh McMillan meeting local Qingdao children Credit: QDYA

Nine teams including the local boat China Team and the newly announced SAP Extreme Sailing Team, were out training yesterday before they go head-to-head over the next four days as they battle for the Act 2 win and the ‘Double Star Cup’. With some crew changes announced last week, the lines are redrawn for Act 2 as 2012 favourites Groupe Edmond de Rothschild seek revenge over Act 1 champions, Oman Air.

Four days of racing are scheduled on Fushan Bay, with one day of open-water racing today followed by three days of public-facing ‘stadium’ style close-combat. Race Director Phil Lawrence gave a low-down on the weather outlook for the event. “We have a good forecast for the week. We should have around 12-14 knots of wind tomorrow and maybe slightly less towards the end of the week but generally good sailing conditions.”

At a press conference held yesterday morning by host venue partners Qingdao Yachting Association, China Team sailors Kit Cheng and Xiaqun Song were presented to the local Qingdao media. Noelle Smulders, Vice President of China Team spoke positively about the team’s involvement in the Series, and the future of Chinese sailing.

Press conference with China Team and SAP Extreme Sailing Team

Press conference with China Team and SAP Extreme Sailing Team Credit: Dong Chen/QDYA

“The Extreme Sailing Series is one of the most reputable sailing events along with the America’s Cup and we feel it can allow us to compete against the best sailors in the world, and it is important for us to be part of that. China Team is a new team and we are ready to expand our competitive fielding across other races, so for us the Extreme Sailing Series and Qingdao was a natural fit. Our desire in the future is to be part of more events in the Extreme Sailing Series.”

Also during the press conference, the Danish Team Extreme Challenger officially announced a new title sponsor and revealed a new name for the boat – SAP Extreme Sailing Team, formally Team Trifork. For SAP, the market and technology leader in business management software, the sponsorship further cements their place at the forefront of international sailing and the sponsorship helps SAP to continue on its course in assisting the development of sailing around the world.

SAP Extreme Sailing Team co-skippers Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Kostner were both present and Jes spoke about the unique development of the team. “It is an honour to be here and racing in the Extreme Sailing Series. One year ago Ras (Rasmus) and me together with Ole (Ole Egeblad, team manager) set an ambitious goal to create an Extreme 40 sailing team, and we are very proud that today we can announce a partnership with SAP. We are looking forward to working with SAP and creating a strong Extreme 40 sailing team for the future.”

SAP Extreme Sailing Team

SAP Extreme Sailing Team Credit: SAP Extreme Sailing Team

As part of the Series’ commitment to engaging the local community in each of the venues it visits, local schools will join the teams every morning this week, to meet the skippers and the crews, and to have a tour of the Extreme 40 catamarans. Up to 360 local children are expected over the course of the week, and this morning, The Wave, Muscat’s skipper Leigh McMillan welcomed 40 children to the Qingdao Olympic Museum in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games village before introducing them to the rest of the crew.

Zhiwei Lin, Chairman of Qingdao Sports Federation spoke of the city of Qingdao’s excitement at hosting the Extreme Sailing Series for the second consecutive year. “Qingdao Municipal Government attaches great importance to the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series Qingdao ‘Double Star Cup’. The friendly Qingdao residents have been prepared to welcome all sailors from all over the world. We firmly believe that the event in Qingdao will be an exceptional international sailing gathering, which will contribute to building the cultural brand of the Sailing City of China.”

4th Les Voiles de St Barth dates: 8-13 April, 2013

April 16, 2012

An extraordinary week of racing was seen at St Barths, during the event held for the third consecutive year in the French Indies. It has taken only three years for the Les Voiles de St Barth to become ‘The Event’ on the Caribbean race calendar, with the organisers announcing the dates for the 4th edition to be held from April 8th to 13th, 2013.

Sailing yachts racing at Les Voiles de St Barth 2012 -  Credit Christophe Jouany

Sailing yachts racing at Les Voiles de St Barth 2012 - Credit Christophe Jouany

By looking at the number of entrants in the first three editions of Les Voiles de St. Barth – 28 in 2010, 48 in 2011, and 58 this year – one can see the trend of positive growth. Race organizers François Tolède, Luc Poupon, and Annelisa Gee, have worked carefully to ensure that the event expands carefully, seeking input from competitors. Gee said, “At the end of the day we talk to everyone. We appreciate constructive criticism that helps us grow the event. People have been very forthcoming; they really appreciate that we are not fixed in our ways. That’s the beauty of a new event — we are completely open-minded to change.”

Competitors enjoyed four days of racing in an extremely wide range of conditions, from five to 25 knots, on different courses, each of them highly tactical and spectacular. The Maxi class, which numbered nine boats, attempted in vain to chase George David’s sailing yacht Rambler 90, the winner of a second trophy after her success in 2010 (Rambler 100 won in 2011).

Each of the seven classes competing saw some bitter-fought, yet friendly struggles. The quality of the international crews many of them professionals from the America’s Cup, Olympics, and other grand-prix events meant that this event in St Barth had an excellent line-up, which included Bouwe Bekking (Nilaya), Scott Vogel, Shannon Falcone, Jerry Kirby (Rambler 90), Steve Benjamin and Dee Smith (Decision), Gavin Brady (Vesper), Cam Lewis (Paradox), Charlie McKee and Ross MacDonald (Mayhem), Tony Rey, Jeff Madrigali and Nacho Postigo (PowerPlay), as well as the French sailors Jean-Paul Mouren (Med Spirit), Lionel Péan and Jacques Vincent (Sojana). All the sailors enjoyed an amazing week of racing on the waters around St. Barth.

The event enjoys the continued support of watchmaker Richard Mille and sportswear brand Gaastra. Other event partners included leading St. Barth villa rental agencies WIMCO and Sibarth. Both companies offer a gorgeous portfolio of private villas for rent on St. Barth, and their sponsorships included presenting five Les Voiles class winners – Classic, Spinnaker I & II, Non-Spinnaker, and Multi-hull – with a complimentary week in one of their top villas, with their own concierge ready to attend to every request, a prize that provided significant motivation to skippers and crews.

While race organizers are extremely pleased at the continued success of the Les Voiles event, their team is already looking forward to the 2013 event. Said Francois Tolède, “The harbor in Gustavia cannot grow in size, and we shall soon be reaching the limit on number of yachts we can accommodate, around the 80 – 90 mark. Management will become an even greater issue and we want to maintain a stress-free, easy-going way of organizing things. We reach for a high-class event with a French touch!”

Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race: Day 3 – Teams enjoy best racing conditions

April 16, 2012

The drama of the race starts to unfold, as the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet arrived in Los Angeles. The race today looks quite different to its appearance 24 hours ago as the sailors enjoy competing with the winds along the California coast to their best advantage.

Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet enjoy best racing conditions

Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet enjoy best racing conditions Credit: Abner Kingman/onEdition

Yesterday the 68-foot yachts were largely grouped together on an offshore track with the exception of New York, who had chosen to play the local breezes and currents close inshore, and Geraldton Western Australia, who were the furthest offshore to the west. Those two have rejoined the main pack, while Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and Derry-Londonderry are enjoying their own Celtic duel about 50 miles to the west of the rest of the teams, and Visit Finland went into Stealth Mode at the midnight position update.

“Race 10 is off to a flying start for Visit Finland as we enjoy some great downwind sailing conditions along the Californian coast,” reports skipper Olly Osborne. “Today has been a good warm up for the crew as we slowly re-adjust to the watch system and get into some good spinnaker work. This race has a completely different feel to it after our last experience of the Pacific, and we are enjoying the chance to compete again with all minds focused on the course and trim.

“The fact that we will not be too far offshore on the way down the coast brings another dimension to the tactics of the race, with coastal winds and currents to consider, and the thought that the worst of this ocean is behind us is also heartening.

“We have decided to use one of our Stealth Mode periods early in this race to give us the best chance to maintain our position while the winds are favourable, and will be working hard during the next 24 hours to make the most of it. So for the meantime all is looking good on board, and we have our sights set on re-gaining our second overall place.”

As well as the ten points on offer for the winner of Race 10 there are three, two and one bonus points available to the first teams through the Scoring Gate, just off the bottom of the Baja California peninsula, and a further point to the fastest to cover the time trial distance in the Ocean Sprint.

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital’s crew are going all out to get as many of those points as they can, and skipper, Flavio Zamboni, is prepared to go out on a limb to do it.

“The last 24 hours have been pretty busy and great fun on board,” he says. “After the sea state eased off last night, since we were losing too much ground to Singapore, I thought it was time to stop being conservative.

“In fact, after a start that had seen us OCS (On Course Side) – I mean, you’ve got to try, haven’t you? – we had been still very much in the hunt after all. However, through the night we were losing too much ground to the boats in front so I asked the crew to get set for a spinnaker hoist.

“The call was for the medium weight which was quickly brought onto the foredeck only to find out that, as it happens, it had come back from the loft bricked and it wasn’t ready to hoist. So we decided to put another one up instead. We sent the heavyweight aloft for a bit of a training session and politely asked the other watch, who were starting their shift, to pack the medium – thanks guys!

“So they did, in the early hours of this morning, and after that it was time to peel. After much preparation and briefing, Georg Schille was all geared up to go onto the outboard end of the pole and do all sorts of thing with his gear – a man on a mission! I’m not entirely sure how many cameras and video recording devices there were on deck, what I know is that Georg and the rest of the crew did a really good job, the medium kite went up, the heavy one came down and the boat started going, on average, half a knot faster!

“Since then we have been matching the speed of the boats in front. Now it’s a matter of where we think we’re gonna get more breeze and whether it’s gonna be advantageous to go there to get it. My line of thinking is that we wouldn’t make up any ground by simply following the rest of the fleet so we’re taking a bit of a gamble here…”

Trailing Edinburgh Inspiring Capital by just a few miles on the western side of the course, Derry-Londonderry’s medium weight spinnaker didn’t appear quite as the crew had expected it to either, but a gamble of their own on some speedy teamwork did the trick, reports skipper, Mark Light.

“We are racing along well, heading due south en route to Panama. At first light this morning we hoisted our medium weight spinnaker. The spinnaker hadn’t been packed properly in the bag since it was last removed for sail repair; it had been folded neatly but not secured with wool to prevent it filling with wind and opening prior to the full hoist. With the fairly light conditions we took a gamble and prepared everything before executing a very rapid sweat and successful hoist of the spinnaker without re-packing.

“We have since had the spinnaker flying all day, making good progress, while we periodically wind on and release the halyard to protect against our Public Enemy Number One: chafe.

“The wind has been progressively increasing in strength and is now allowing us some very good speeds running very deep downwind. I think with every boat in the fleet probably flying the same sail plan this is going to be a very tight and close-fought race to the finish.”

With Visit Finland in Stealth Mode, De Lage Landen is now the front runner on the leader board, just a mile ahead of Welcome to Yorkshire, and the team, in common with the rest of the fleet, is enjoying the marked difference in conditions between this race and the previous one across the Pacific.

“We have had some beautiful sailing conditions on board De Lage Landen as we head down the Californian coast,” says Stuart Jackson, the skipper. “I think we saw more sun today than we did on our entire Pacific crossing so the remaining crew are enjoying being dry. The new crew have been given an immediate introduction to spinnaker work and reacted very well to a broken strop this morning. We have had Clipper 68s on either side of us since race start and all seem to be making good progress south.

“During the crew briefing Joff Bailey, the Race Director, mentioned the amount of wildlife on this stretch of coast and it was our resident Australian, Heather Reed, who was the first to spot the circling shark in the clear blue water. We have also seen dolphins and seals.”

Welcome to Yorkshire is too far away from De Lage Landen for the crew to spot them, although there is just one mile difference between their distances to finish.

Rupert Dean, skipper of the English yacht, reports, “A great day had by all on Welcome to Yorkshire today as we sail downwind in moderate conditions towards Panama. With the few crew affected by seasickness recovered from yesterday, the team is settling in to our new three watch system, which is radically different to the one employed to date.

“The new crew are settling in well with the established team and today has been very busy as we alternate between the medium weight heavyweight kites in order to effect some repairs to the former. Whales have already been seen and the VHF radio has been alive with chit-chat between skippers about the great start in San Francisco Bay and the tactical options open to us as we sail along the North American eastern seaboard. It’s great to be racing again in close company. Long may this continue!”

Qingdao and Singapore are in even closer company with the crews working hard to keep their yacht moving as fast as they can.

“We’ve had a fantastic 24 hours of continual kite flying on the big red bus. All three of our spinnakers have had a thorough airing in a bid to keep us moving at maximum pace,” explains Ben Bowley on Singapore. “Sadly, though, we have not seen our position within the fleet change much as the central part of the fleet is still sailing in a rather tight pack together.

“It’s great to have a large number of boats in VHF and therefore AIS range for us to keep an eye on how we are doing versus the competition. We gybed over this morning to start heading back inshore when things started to go a little lighter and have spent the day on port gybe making excellent ground to the south east. We would have liked to gybe a little earlier this morning but with a few crew still down with sea sickness and darkness enveloping us, the smart money was to wait till the dawn watch change.”

Like Stuart, Ben is happy with the way his team is handling the massive spinnakers which are about one and a half times the size of a tennis court and immensely powerful.

He continues, “I have been very impressed how well the evolutions have gone today considering (bar one brief period at the start of the last race) we have not flown a kite in anger for nearly two months! Here’s hoping this is a sign of things to come on this race and that we will be able to keep the boat driving hard with no mistakes. Tonight sees us charging along with Mabel (our medium) up and Qingdao in visual range. We hope to be past them by sunrise if all goes well.”

“The lovely sailing conditions that greeted us as we cleared San Francisco Bay have continued all day,” comments Ian Conchie, Ben’s opposite number on Qingdao. “This has involved lots of kite work as we have had to gybe and change kites as we press south.

“This has been a baptism of fire for the new crew as we push hard to maintain and improve our position. We know that the wind will drop off at some point so it is important to try and get a good position before it does.”

As half the teams head south east Gold Coast Australia is among the other half of the fleet on a southerly course but the team doesn’t appear to have quite found their racing groove yet.

Skipper, Richard Hewson, tells the Race Office, “Throughout the night Gold Coast Australia could not compete with the speed of the other yachts up the front of the pack and unfortunately lost a few miles on the leaders, Visit Finland. In the early hours of the morning conditions favoured a gybe, however with some of the crew still down with seasickness and others tired after the first day at sea and the adjustment of body clocks to watch times I decided to postpone the gybe until the morning and kept with the central pack of the fleet.

“At the first watch change in the light of the morning we peeled from the heavyweight spinnaker to the heavily repaired medium weight and then put in a gybe to the east to place ourselves in better wind over the next few days. It was hoped the other yachts in our pack would continue south, however they were soon to follow our tactic and also gybed to the east.”

Unhappy with the speed of the yacht, Richard dropped a video camera over the side to check for fishing line or seaweed that might be fouling the hull.

Finding nothing, he says, “With some more fine-tuning we managed to get the boat back up to speed. For the remainder of the day we were running in beautiful sunny conditions at similar speeds to the boats around us and also managed to make a couple of miles on the leader, Visit Finland.”

Keen to avoid any more damage to the team’s precious spinnakers Gold Coast Australia switched down to their heavyweight kite before dusk, “A wise choice for dark nights with a random following sea,” explains the Tasmanian yachtsman.

“The other yachts around us appeared to be flying their medium weight spinnakers before sunset and may have a small speed advantage, but looking at the speeds at the time of writing there is not much difference and at this stage of the race it pays to play it safe as the medium weight spinnaker will be extremely valuable in the later half of this race when conditions become lighter and we cannot afford to rip it again.”

New York’s sail repair team has already been at work on their medium weight spinnaker after gybing back out to sea to rejoin the main group of yachts.

“In the last 24 hours we have had all three kites up and down, poled out head sails and almost a reef in the main, making life very busy for the crew of New York,” says skipper, Gareth Glover.

“Whilst our medium weight kite was up an old rip opened so after we dropped it a small team has been working in the saloon to stick it back together.

Maintenance, too, on board Geraldton Western Australia, where they quickly got to grips with the situation.

“Just before night we discovered stands five strands in our steering cable had broken,” recounts Juan Coetzer. “So we sailed conservatively through the night and at first light began stripping the steering apart. All done now, the medium kite has been hoisted, and it’s gonna be pedal to the metal from here on in. As you may already know our motto is, ‘Harder, Faster and Quicker’.”

The 3,300-mile race from Oakland to Panama is expected to take a little over three weeks with the first yachts due to arrive in the Central American country on 9 or 10 May.

2012 PalmaVela yacht regatta to welcome 110 entrants

April 16, 2012

The 2012 edition of the PalmaVela yacht regatta will take place in Palma di Mallorca, from April 18 to 22, hosted by one of the most prominent European yacht clubs, the Real Club Nautico de Palma. With the first edition in 2004, this popular regatta has quickly started to attract sailors from all over the world.

Luxury sailing yacht Swan 80

Luxury sailing yacht Swan 80

The 2012 edition is due to see 110 entrants, representing in excess of 15 countries, reinforcing itself as a spectacular opening to the Mediterranean season. With the aim to bring sailing closer to the public in general, this regatta has gathered all kinds of keeled yachts, several one design classes and the beautiful classic and vintage yachts.

The Swan entries, competing under IRC ratings, will enjoy exhilarating racing in the waters of Palma in the Maxi Racer, Mini Maxi and ORC classes.

PalmaVela is the event chosen year after year by many yacht owners or event organisers to present their new yacht. Such is the case of the new Swan 60 sailing yacht Bronenosec entered by St. Petersburg Yacht Club and sponsored by Gazprom. Other Swan entries include:

Alpina, Swan 80, Alpina by Finimmo
Bronenosec, Swan 60, Alpenberg S.A
Emma, Swan 60, Dr. Johann Killinger
Rats on Fire, Swan 45, Rafael Carbonell Pujol

Team Luna Rossa wins the Naples AC World Series

April 16, 2012

Team Luna Rossa, led by Chris Draper, has won the final fleet race in Naples, Italy, collecting 50 points. This fantastic victory was followed by celebrations among the tens of thousands of Italian America’s Cup fans present at the Naples waterfront to see their heroes.

Team Luna Rossa wins the Naples AC World Series

Team Luna Rossa wins the Naples AC World Series © ACEA 2012/ Photo Gilles Martin-Raget

“We’re very pleased with the event, with the team effort,” an excited Draper said afterwards. “We didn’t have huge expectations, but to come away with a first (in the fleet racing) and a second (in the match racing) is awesome.”

Conditions were light, tricky and testing on Sunday, but Draper and his crew were up to the challenge. As was James Spithill and his ORACLE Racing crew, who appeared to be dead and buried in last place early in the race, only to recover and claim an impressive second place.

“The key thing was hanging in there and looking for the opportunities, and there were plenty out there,” Spithill said. “JK (tactician John Kostecki) and the guys did a very nice job… In those sorts of conditions you can go from hero to zero in a matter of seconds. We knew we just had to hang tough and wait for the opportunities. The guys found some good ways back and got us up there.”

The tens of thousands of Italian America’s Cup fans to greet their heroes

The tens of thousands of Italian America’s Cup fans gathered to greet their heroes © ACEA 2012/ Photo Gilles Martin-Raget

Earlier in the afternoon, the Match Racing Championship was decided when Terry Hutchinson and his Artemis Racing team took advantage of a pre-start mistake by Chris Draper’s team to sail away with a win in the sudden-death Final. The victory was a vindication of sorts for Artemis, who had capsized in the first race of the regatta, damaging their wing and being shut out of the points on Wednesday.

“I can’t say enough about the effort from the guys on the boat and on the shore,” Hutchinson said. “After Wednesday, we’d have taken today’s result, that’s for sure. Our team trainer says it’s not how you fall down, but how you get up. Now we have to come back in a few weeks in Venice and work on our consistency.”

No records were set in this edition of the AC500 Speed Trials, as the light winds meant the fastest runs came at the end, during a brief period of stronger conditions. ORACLE Racing Bundock was able to fend off Artemis Racing by a microscopic .02 seconds to post the fastest time.

ORACLE Racing Spithill and Luna Rossa

ORACLE Racing Spithill and Luna Rossa © ACEA 2012/ Photo Gilles Martin-Raget

A major story in Naples has been the enthusiasm of the city as shown by the size of the crowds in the event village. Sunday was no exception, with the crowds lined deep along the waterfront to watch the action. Much of the support, unsurprisingly, was for Luna Rossa.

“We sailed along the shore after the finish and it’s insane to see how many people are here,” said Luna Rossa’s Draper. “As a sailor you’d never imagine having so many people watching. It’s great for the sport, and great to be part of an Italian team in front of all these people. We’re very proud.”

The America’s Cup World Series now packs up and moves north to Venice, for the fifth stop on the circuit in May.

Team ARTEMIS Racing

Team ARTEMIS Racing © ACEA 2012/ Photo Gilles Martin-Raget

The results from Naples mean there is a new leader on the overall AC World Series Championship leaderboard. ORACLE Racing Spithill has overhauled Emirates Team New Zealand to lead by a slender one point after four events. The 2011-2012 AC World Series concludes in Newport, Rhode Island on July 1, where it appears the Championship will be decided.

Fleet Racing Championship – Standings (seven races):

1. Luna Rossa – Piranha (Helmsman: Chris Draper); 92 points
2. ORACLE Racing – Spithill (Skipper: James Spithill); 77 points
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (Skipper: Dean Barker); 60 points
4. Energy Team (Skipper: Yann Guichard); 54 points
5. Team Korea (Skipper: Nathan Outteridge); 49 points
6. Luna Rossa – Swordfish (Helmsman: Paul Campbell-James); 41 points
7. Artemis Racing (Skipper: Terry Hutchinson); 40 points
8. ORACLE Racing – Bundock (Skipper: Darren Bundock); 37 points
9. China Team (Skipper: Fred Le Peutrec); 15 points

Match Racing Championship – Sunday’s races

Final – Artemis Racing beat Luna Rossa Piranha
SF1 – Artemis Racing beat Luna Rossa Swordfish
SF2 – Luna Rossa Piranha beat ORACLE Racing Bundock

Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race: Day 2 – First night at sea

April 16, 2012

Following two weeks ashore in Oakland, some of the crew competing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, after being settled into first night at sea, have been laid low by sea sickness.

Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet

Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race fleet Credit: Abner Kingman/onEdition

It can affect new joiners and hardened round the worlders alike but soon passes – although at the time it might feel like it will never end – and the crews will be back up to full strength for the race from Oakland, California, to Panama.

A close-fought and lively start under the Golden Gate Bridge saw three of the yachts cross the start line ahead of the gun and, judged to be OCS (On Course Side) were told to round the end of the line and cross the start line again to exonerate themselves.

Since their departure from San Francisco Bay two distinct sets of tactics have opened up with New York hugging the Californian coast line while the other nine teams head offshore. New York’s tactic of staying close to the coast of North Africa in Race 2, way back at the start of Clipper 11-12, earned them third place in that stage. Will the coastal strategy pay off a second time?

“After our best start to a race, hitting the pin end of the line at full speed with full main, stay sail and Yankee 2, we ran into the shore line and tacked for the Golden Gate Bridge and just managed to pass in front of Qingdao before we tacked over. They just got under the bridge before us by half a boat length but as we raced out into the bay we took the lead. But this was not for too long; as the wind lightened and began to come from the stern we dropped back behind De Lage Landen and Qingdao,” reports skipper, Gareth Glover.

Gareth also explains that after their strong start an error when they were getting the heavyweight kite ready to hoist saw the sail go overboard. Fortunately it was recovered and in the meantime the team poled out the Yankee 2 – but not before the rest of the fleet had sped by, taking a good five miles from them.

By contrast, on one of the three yachts deemed OCS, skipper Flavio Zamboni, who took command of Edinburgh Inspiring Capital in Oakland, reports, “The situation on board is really good. We’re currently sailing under poled out headsail and enjoying it! After a pretty lively start, the crew is settling in the watch system again. The other boats are all around so the on-watch crew is keeping focused to match their speed.”

With the exception of New York, the other nine yachts are very tightly packed  as they race south, enjoying the north westerly winds that should be with them for the next three days, according to fleet meteorologist, Simon Rowell.

Visit Finland, furthest to the east, is currently leading Welcome to Yorkshire, De Lage Landen and Qingdao who are progressively further west, with just six miles between them at this very early stage of what is likely to be a highly tactical race to Panama.

Rupert Dean, leading the English entry which is currently in second place, says, “Welcome to Yorkshire had a great start, timing the run to the line perfectly. All 17 crew played important roles in this, with Chris Leivers (helm) and Jim Stamp (mainsheet) putting great input into the tactical decision making. With winds gusting up to 30 knots apparent, our ‘Pink Lady’ was well and truly powered up, flying full main, staysail and Yankee2.

“Racing, therefore, required slick teamwork as we tacked swiftly onto port, then starboard on approaching the northern leg of the Golden Gate Bridge. From there the challenge was to clear the tower at Mile Rocks without tacking again, which was pretty close, but fully achieved.

“Since exiting San Francisco Bay, the fleet has been power-reaching south east on starboard tack, making good speed. We elected to bear away south first to hoist the heavyweight spinnaker, a strategy later adopted by competitors to the east.”

De Lage Landen’s skipper, Stuart Jackson, echoes many of the skippers’ comments this morning, saying, “We would like to extend our thanks to all those involved in giving us a great reception and hosting us so well in Oakland.”

Stuart continues, “After a great break ashore we are under way again heading down the west coast of the US to Panama. With the crew fully rested we enjoyed perfect conditions for the race start, so swiftly made our way out under the Golden Gate Bridge. We were given a rousing send off from a large boat full of De Lage Landen members who came down to support us.

“Everyone has quickly adjusted back in to life at sea and the watch system. Thankfully the weather is looking like it may be kind to us for a few days as we are already enjoying a spinnaker run in around 20 knots of wind and enough swell to enjoy a little surfing.”

Qingdao’s crew are also enjoying the surfing and few more canvas than the other yachts at the race start, before being among the first teams to hoist their spinnaker shortly after the start, and skipper Ian Conchie thinks it paid off.

“We decided to take a gamble with our sail selection and go with the Yankee 1 and were the only boat to risk it,” he says, adding, “The start was great fun with all ten boats close as we approached the line. We tacked soon after the line and headed for the bridge in close company with De Lage Landen and Welcome to Yorkshire.

“The beat up to the bridge and out of the bay was interesting as our sail selection meant we were slightly over powered. But once we started to bear away it came into its own and we started to make some gains. As we reached down the coast the wind continued to veer, allowing us to hoist the kite and we powered south.”

The other two teams who were OCS at the start, Singapore and Gold Coast Australia, recovered and are neck and neck in the middle order.

“If anyone thought that the start of this leg would be an easy cruise down the coast then they had another think coming!” comments Ben Bowley, skipper of Singapore. “Having started a few seconds early (if one is not occasionally OCS then one is not trying hard enough, so I hear) we had to round the only available end of the line to exonerate our little transgression. This still did not have much of a detrimental effect on our performance as by the time the rest fleet passed under the bridge we were back with the pack. The whole Bay Area looked picture postcard stunning in the crisp clean air and bright sunshine. I was sad to be leaving California and all her welcoming residents so soon (although, it does feel fantastic to be back on the water!).

“Once under the bridge the conditions became really rather lumpy and confused with a large amount of residual swell that was threatening to turn into big surf even a couple of miles offshore.  With all the extra weight of over 50 days’ food and an extra five crew and associated kit, the boat took to her new classification of submarine very well.  We punched straight through several waves that swept the boat from stem to stern with a ruthless, bubbling efficiency, leaving some of the new crew a little wide eyed.

“We have now lost a few members to sea-sickness but with conditions due to abate over the next few days, I’m sure we shall be up to full strength before too long. For now though, we are straight back into it with Vicky [spinnaker] up, no moon, big swell, no Windex and new crew to contend with.  I am happy with our current position within the fleet and hope that if we can keep everything together for this first 24 hours under spinnaker then we shall see ourselves well placed by daybreak.”

Gold Coast Australia has a few crew down with sea sickness as well and opted not to take the spinnaker option straight away.

“At the first change of watch more of the team were feeling fit and we were able to hoist our heavyweight spinnaker and sail a more southerly course,” reports Richard Hewson, the skipper. “There is a bit of a swell running in from the north west making helming difficult but the boat feels a lot more stable with the kite up.  The wind has already started to moderate, though there is the occasional gust of 30 knots which makes life a bit more exciting. Hopefully this wind will stay with us for the next few days so we can make some good ground to the south.

“The fleet remains relatively close and at the moment we are battling it out for first place amongst a number of other yachts. It is fantastic to be in eyesight and VHF range as we all charge down the coast towards Panama. This race has some interesting tactics ahead, and it will be interesting to see who plays the shore and who heads to sea as the information from local sailors shows advantages at different times to support each theory. At this stage I will keep the tactics of Gold Coast Australia under wraps, so keep checking the race viewer for regular updates!”

While Richard wonders which of the two options will be more favourable in the sprint south, New York is occupying the inside lane while Geraldton Western Australia has opted for the outside and is currently the back marker.

Neck and neck with the fleet approximately half way between San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles, Derry-Londonderry and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital are matching each other and, says Mark Light, skipper of the Northern Ireland entry, “It’s good to be racing again.”

He adds, “At the start there were some tremendous swells heading into the bay as the mass of water was squeezed up and over Four Fathom Bank and thrown into the bay. At times our boat was more like a submarine than a racing yacht! We made good speeds and once clear of the land found that the conditions settled and the wind moved aft.

“We are pretty deep downwind right now, flying our full mainsail and poled out Yankee 2 with 20 knots of wind coming from the north west. Unfortunately we have the usual few crew partially down with mal de mer and so the sensible choice through this first night at sea has to be a poled out headsail instead of spinnaker. It is a pretty dark night, without moon and, as normal, the temperatures are still rather chilly so layers are still the order of the day. We know this will not last and expect things to change fairly quickly as we head ever further south.”

From a northern California spring the teams will find the temperatures rapidly warming up and the winds becoming flukier the closer they get to Panama, a few degrees north of the Equator, during the course of the next few weeks.

Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race: Day 1 – Fleet in San Francisco Bay for the start line

April 16, 2012

Hundreds of fans cheered the ten powerful fleet racing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race as they were leaving Jack London Square in Oakland on Sunday, April 14, in the warm spring sunshine, before leaving for San Francisco Bay for the start line escorted by US Coast Guard cutter Sockeye.

the ten powerful fleet racing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in San Francisco Bay

The ten strong fleet racing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in San Francisco Bay Credit: Abner Kingman/onEdition

The Clipper Race is the world’s longest at 40,000 miles. This stage is the tenth of 15 races. Ahead lies a 5,500 mile leg from California on the US West Coast to New York on the East Coast via the Panama Canal.

Friends, family members and supporters gathered to watch from the Golden Gate Yacht Club, home of the 34th America’s Cup, which kindly provided facilities to start the race from their deck at 1400 local time (2100 UTC).

There was a highly charged competitive atmosphere out on the water in the shadow of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. So much so that Gold Coast Australia, Singapore and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital crossed the line prematurely and were ordered to circle back to cross it again to avoid a time penalty.

This gave Visit Finland an early lead, crossing the start line first. Before departing skipper Olly Osborne said, “We need to do our best to push ourselves as hard as we can. The earlier part of the race will be quite exciting with a real sleigh ride down the west coast and then beyond that we will see. It will be a coastal race which is interesting will all the currents and then we of course hope that we can keep racing until that finish line and we don’t see too dramatic a wind drop.

“It is always easier to start in the lead and maintaining it, which is what we are hoping for rather than constantly playing catch-up. Some of racing is down to the luck of the draw and some of it is down to some good sailing, so we are aiming to do the latter.

“Going through the Panama Canal they are really looking forward to, as it’s quite a big landmark and quite big part of the journey. It is certainly more home-bound once you are back into the Atlantic before shaping up for the home run from New York.”

Second over the starting line was New York, the only US entry who are on route to their home port, as Leg 7 has begun. Skipper Gareth Glover said, “It is going to quite a tough leg, especially when we get to the lighter breezes when we get further south. Weight is a key component on how we do well in this race, as it has a huge effect in light wind conditions.

“The next leg for us is all about the gate points. We have such a short leg ahead and it is definitely the thing to concentrate on. We have to make sure that we finish in the top three in these legs ahead, but it’s a tough challenge, as we also historically don’t do that well in light winds on the New York entry.

“There are more than 60 points for grabs between here and the UK, so there is no way that this race is over. We will be pushing very hard to at least get a top three finish overall.”

Also in the competitive spirit is Qingdao who started Race 10 in third place over the start line. Ahead of leaving, skipper Ian Conchie said, “After the chills of the Pacific Ocean and no sunlight for weeks, it will be nice to sail in some sunshine. It’s fun and amazing to be sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and then we turn left, head south and follow the smell the mojitos!

“The Panama Canal is listed as one of the seven industrial wonders of the world, so it will be an amazing experience just seeing the size of the locks, as we could go in alone, along with some of the other yachts or end up going through with a super tanker, which will be very interesting and something most people will never do again.”

The race down to Panama is quite a contrast to the challenges faced in the North Pacific. Race Director, Joff Bailey explains, “The Californian current flows south but the helping hand this gives the fleet can be counteracted by heating effects from the North American land mass which might change the winds unfavourably. This race down to Panama starts of fast and furious but as the temperature rises the wind start to drop as changeable conditions along the coast of Central America and as the fleet near the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone or Doldrums) take effect. The last thousand miles will be sailed in light and fickle winds potentially requiring a shortened course as the Clipper Race fleet head towards a date with the Panama Canal.”

Welcome to Yorkshire skipper Rupert Dean reflects this, saying, “This will be a very different race with lots of different winds. We are still going to be influenced by the lows sweeping across the North Pacific at the moment and the first 72 hours we should have plenty of breeze and then they will start tailing off. We just have to see how much we can keep the wind and how far inshore we have to race to keep the breeze, once winds start to drop. I’ve been through to the canal two times before, and it’s an interesting journey that I’m sure the crew will very much enjoy.”

Back on the water today was Geraldton Western Australia crossing the start line in seventh place. After being hit by a large rogue wave just 400 nautical miles from the finish in San Francisco Bay two weeks ago, the Australian entry was pleased to have his boat repaired and be back racing.

Before leaving the marina skipper Juan Coetzer said, “The sail is back on the boom, we have our steerage back in and we are all ready to go. The whole crew are very excited to get back to sea and focus on racing again.

“The next few days I’m expecting some nice downwind sailing. It is a race of two halves and we are going to try to be at the top of the runnings, definitely on the downwind part, and then try and get any points we can get.”

Singapore reached their highest position ever in the previous race and is keen to continue their climb of the leader board, as Race 10 gets underway. Skipper, Ben Bowley said, “It is going to be quite a contrast to the last race that we’ve had crossing the Pacific. We are expecting a few good days of breeze to keep us moving down the American coast and then try and keep the boat moving in whatever winds we can get, once we ITCZ again for the third time since we started the race in July last year.”

And as the overall leader board is close, Ben continued, “We had an excellent result in the last race and we hope to keep up the drive and keep everyone moving and motivated especially when the wind starts to go light then we should be good. We are feeling confident and are going to keep on pushing.

“We only have three points between us and Visit Finland, so we need to keep the consistency going and keep putting in the good results, so we can remain at the top of the leader board.”

Fourth over the start line was Derry-Londonderry. The Northern Irish entry is keen to ensure they can a podium on this race, after being beaten to it by New York coming into Oakland, San Francisco Bay.

Skipper, Mark Light said, “This leg will be quite a contrast to the rough Pacific. We are expecting a fair bit of wind when we leave San Francisco Bay, but then it will get hotter and lighter winds.

“We’ve improved massively in the second half on this race and we are turning our noses towards our home port and the team are coming together will and I’m expecting another good result. It’s very exciting and things are building up – there are a lot of points on offer and we need to get ourselves onto that podium a few more times. We will do what we can and hopefully won’t let anyone down.”

De Lage Landen, currently in second place on the overall leader board, crossed the start line by the Golden Gate Yacht Club in sixth place. Ahead of leaving, skipper Stuart Jackson said, “It is going to be very much an inshore race, hugging the coast on the way down and trying to stay in the current and hopefully not run out of the wind too early. Everyone is very excited to go through the Panama Canal, which is a huge piece of engineering with a lot of history. I’ve been to it before, so it should be one of those great experiences.

“We are very happy with how we have been performing so  far, but it it’s all very close between second, third and fourth, so we have to keep driving really hard and hopefully get a few more decent results under our belts.”

Meanwhile on Edinburgh Inspiring Capital after crossing the starting line early, the Scottish entry ended up starting Race 10 in last position. New interim skipper, Flavio Zamboni is excited about taking his new team said, “It’s really exciting to be here and I think that that the guys are really willing to work and sail the boat, so I will try and make the most of the potential on board. We hope to be able to lead in the strong breezes and be in the top half of the fleet. I am very excited to be part of the team and it’s great to be on board.”

Gold Coast Australia was in the same position as Edinburgh Inspiring Capital and Singapore, but still managed to cross the start line in eighth place. Ahead of leaving, skipper Richard Hewson said, “It’s going to be quite interesting at the start, as San Francisco Bay is renowned for gusty winds coming through the hills and pretty extreme tides, so everyone is going to be playing a pretty conservative start and once we get outside the bay we will be heading south.

“I think this race will be won in the first couple of days with the stronger breezes, but saying that you never knows who can catch up on you, once you start hitting lighter winds.

“It is going to be an interesting race with filled with spinnakers, high wind, low wind and a lot of drifting and the Panama Canal is just an unbelievable experience, so I’m sure the crew will have a fantastic time.”

The first yachts are expected to arrive in Panama around 7 May after which they will transit the Panama Canal before commencing Race 11, for the final 2,100 miles to New York.