Ian Cullen’s Clipper Diary - Day Five - Sailing‘s ‘lottery effect’ strikes as Derry Clipper falls back

Journal man Ian Cullen and Dave Ferris on the coffee grinder during a sail hoist. (2207BM01)
Journal man Ian Cullen and Dave Ferris on the coffee grinder during a sail hoist. (2207BM01)

Disaster at sea - well at least for the Legenderry crew.

From sitting pretty in first place with a lead of more than two miles, the Derry~Londonderry slipped to sixth in the fleet as it sailed off the coast of Brighton towards the Southampton finish line on Friday night.

Skipper Mark Light and his crew had fallen victim, not for the first time, to what they called sailing’s “lottery effect”.

Late on Friday evening, as we rounded the remote coastal site of the bleak and imposing Dungeness power station, progress came to a complete halt. The wind had died but - critically for our dwindling lead - the yachts a few hundred metres off our port side just sailed past. It seemed amazing that we were so close yet our wind conditions were so different, “but that’s the lottery effect for you”, said the skipper.

Throughout Friday night it was neck and neck between the boats at the head of the fleet, with the Derry boat climbing to third, then slipping back as far as seventh at one stage. The crew had gone from being gripped by elation and excitement to feeling deflated and almost resigned to defeat in the space of a few hours.

Having their hopes of a podium finish in Southampton on Sunday all but dashed, the crew could at least seek solace in the fact that overall points rivals Qingdao needed a minor miracle to leap frog them into eighth place.

“That was our aim initially, as well as improving on our previous race result,” said the skipper.

He explained the remarkable turn of events endured by the crew since leaving Den Helder in the Netherlands. “After a bad start on Thursday we had a fantastic first night and clawed back to fourth place. The next day we climbed to second and then to first and we were going really well. Then our whole attitude changed from just wanting to beat Qingdao to beating everybody, but as soon as we got to Dover our luck changed. That’s when Gold Coast, Edinburgh and Geraldton took a gamble and sailed really close inshore, and they benefited from a little wind shift and the tide.

“We were fourth coming past Dungeness Power Station when the whole fleet got caught in a wind hole. At that time nearby De Lage Landen and Singapore gained on us and we were pushed back to sixth.” At the time of filing this copy that’s where the yachts stood with racing expected to last well into the early hours of Sunday, ahead of the official race finish in Southampton at 12.30pm.

But there’s still plenty of racing to be enjoyed by the crew and they’re determined to regain some ground in the final race of the global challenge.(See www.derryjournal.com for progress reports).