Clipper Round the World Race Heads into “Roaring Forties”

We’re a week into Race Three in the Clipper Round the World race, and the teams are running quickly toward a violent stretch of ocean called the Roaring Forties.

These are the southern latitudes, between 40 and 50 degrees, where ocean currents, the earth’s rotation, and manic barometric readings conspire to create a wind-ravaged environment with monstrous waves that one journalist dubbed “Liquid Himalaya.”

The fleet left Cape Town for Albany, Australia on Halloween, and is now spread out over 500 nautical miles. The roaring forties are dealing out force 4 and force 8 winds, which run between 11 to 40 knots, giving 10 knots of boat speed for the leading seven teams.

LMAX Exchange is out front once again, with Qingdao and Derry-Londonderry-Doire sailing 80 nautical miles behind, clipping along within sight of each other. And it always amplifies the race for any crew when they can see the competitor and even hear their shouts from time to time.

“We always sail faster when we can see who we are chasing or being chased by, and a light or a white sail on the horizon will keep us fast,” said Derry-Londonderry-Doire skipper Dan Smith.

But it’s not all palpable race drama; some in the race are simply out of the ocean, enduring it, as race founder Robin Knox-Jonson would say. The crew aboard PSP Logistics, in ninth place, are doing just that.

“In the past few hours, we’ve gone from blasting along in the utter pitch black and heavy rain at 10 to gusting 50 knot plus wind, a fully reefed mainsail and staysail,” said Skipper max Stunnell. “All quite exciting stuff.”

Stunnell said he did feel for his foredeck crew as they wrestles the headsails while being pounded with spray and waves.

“At least they returned to the cockpit with big grins on their faces,” he said.

At the end of the first week of racing, the teams have covered 1,000 nautical miles. All teams hope the change in conditions signify the advent of big Southern Ocean waves and the companion winds.

Photo credit: Clipper Round the World Rac