A mixed bag of conditions has kept the fleet very busy during the second day of racing in Race 6: The Wondrous Whitsundays race but the main focus for each of the eleven teams is the closely matched race to the upcoming Scoring Gate.
With many of the teams choosing to veer off the rhumb line and head for the Scoring Gate, and with the top ten teams separated by just 37 nautical miles (nm), the pressure is on for first placed Garmin, which has played its Joker during this race.
Skipper Gaëtan Thomas explains: “Tactics are quite complicated for us at the moment as it seems quite a few boats are going for the Scoring Gate.
“As Garmin has played its Joker, we have to think more about final result as every position is a gain or a loss of double the points; if we lost a position for heading to the Scoring Gate that will not help, on the other hand with some light winds/wind holes ahead it looks like we will all be packed again for round number two towards the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.”
Sanya Serenity Coast takes second place today and the Scoring Gate is playing heavily on the team’s mind, too, and Skipper Wendy Tuck is looking forward to watching how it all plays out on the approach: “There is about a handful of us that could snatch the points, but it’s not that simple. Just before we get to it, the breeze is due to die out so it will be interesting…”
In yet another shake-up at the top of the leaderboard, Liverpool 2018 takes third place as PSP Logistics made yet another bold tactical move and headed east. Lance Shepherd, Skipper of Liverpool 2018 reports: “We’ve made the call to go for the Scoring Gate (as has most of the fleet it appears) and the race is on. We can see you all on AIS and we’re doing our best to run hell for leather to the Scoring Gate.”
Elsewhere in the fleet, Dare To Lead takes fourth place, with Visit Seattle in fifth and Nasdaq in sixth place. But positions are still very much all to play for and Dare To Lead Skipper Dale Smyth comments: “It’s a very tight tactical race so far with the Race Viewer reflecting us in the top spot briefly this morning.
“In fairness, almost the whole fleet is spread in an east west line and with the upcoming wind holes and general confusion it could quite easily mean leaders to the back and tail enders to the front. I think we are going to see a lot of changes before the end. All we can do is keep sailing consistently and well.”
Qingdao also remains very much up with the frontrunners despite being in the second half of the fleet in seventh place and eighth-placed HotelPlanner.com is hot on its heels, too.
Across the fleet, teams have enjoyed a break from the gruelling upwind and even had some downwind conditions over the last 24 hours. Whilst this has meant teams have needed to make regular sail changes, it has come as welcome respite from living at a 45 degree angle, especially so on ninth placed GREAT Britain and tenth placed Unicef.
GREAT Britain Skipper Andy Burns says: “The wind gradually turned to come from behind the boat this morning and has allowed us to stop beating into 30 plus knots of wind and a building sea state.”
With Bob Beggs, Skipper of Unicef, adding: “Unicef had an interesting night with changeable wind direction and speed, reefs tucked in and shook out, combined with headsail changes has kept us occupied. This was followed by a rapid change from upwind to downwind conditions. The now almost upright angles making moving about down below less akin to living on a climbing frame.”
After taking a bold move to head east of the main pack, PSP Logistics sits in eleventh place on Day 2 but with changeable conditions ahead, the team may reap the reward of the lost leaderboard positions.
Looking ahead, it will be a fascinating race to the upcoming Scoring Gate with wind conditions due to become very light and tricky for teams in the coming 24 hours. The light conditions may also lead to big changes on the leaderboard with teams that can perform well in light winds taking the opportunity to get ahead of the main pack.
Race 6: The Wondrous Whitsundays Race will finish in Abell Point Marina, Airlie Beach and the fleet is expected to arrive between 13 – 15 January ahead of the inaugural Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival.
Keep up to date with the latest hourly position updates, which are changing all the time, via the Clipper Race Viewer and read Skipper blogs in full on the Team Pages.