Somewhere out in the southern Atlantic Ocean, the main fleet in the Clipper Round the World Race is crashing through the sea on the Ocean Sprint section of Race II, fighting for position as they close the final 740 nautical miles to Cape Town.
The boats there are recording speeds of 12 knots and all are watching the weather reports, preparing for a high pressure system that is rounding the southern tip of Africa.
For the uninitiated, high pressure means light or no wind. Low pressure is where the wind is. And where the wind is becomes exactly where the other two boats, LMAX Exchange and Qingdao, are running a very different race.
To recap, the two boats had to start late out of Rio due to necessary repairs, and will compete on comparative times when they finish. As a result, they’re sailing in a very different set of conditions, trying to maximize boat speed in the middle of a low pressure system. The gusts are whipping up to 40 and 50 knots, with waves approaching 33 feet.
In such conditions, going fast takes a back seat to simply holding on.
“The crew begin to be tired with these weather conditions,” said LMAX Exchange skipper Oliver Cardin.
Cardin reports surfing speeds of 20 knots, which means the boat will actually slide down the front of a following wave, probably already making 14 or 15 knots, and get a surge of speed on the downhill.
The two boats are making 300 miles a day. Meanwhile, the main fleet continues to work to finesse the weather in their favor.
Team ClipperTelemed is in fifth place, and skipper Diane Reid said her strategy is to adjust based on weather predictions, looking for the path of least resistance and hoping to find the most wind.
A very different plan indeed, compared to LMAX and Qingdao, who’s races can only best be compared to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Photo credit: Clipper Round the World Race