Derry’s entry in the Clipper yacht race swept into second place as crews battled driving rain and winds of 30 knots on day five of the round-the-world challenge.
With poor visibility added to the mix, sea-sickness has started to affect some of the crews for the first time on the Southampton to Madeira leg of the race.
‘Derry-Londonderry’ skipper, Mark Light, says: “Biscay hasn’t been too kind to us, but then again she hasn’t released her full fury either.
“I have been here when she has and would rather not see it again! Life is at 35 degrees, visibility is poor and the deck is full of oil-skinned and harnessed crew as we beat into a south south westerly Force 5 to 6, dodging the large shipping common around this area.
“This makes for some fast sailing though, and we have made up lots of ground on the boats ahead of us. We’ve just passed within half a mile of another Clipper yacht as we race south.”
The Derry entry continues to nibble away at Visit Finland’s lead, taking another four miles from them at the 0900 UTC position update.
The wind is forecast to drop later on but Race Director, Joff Bailey, and Assistant Race Director, Justin Taylor, both of them former race skippers, are of the opinion that the teams heading out west in search of a better wind angle, despite the greater distance to the finish line, are the ones that will do better.
Even though all of the crews have gone through a comprehensive and rigorous training regime before the start gun fired in order to prepare them for the challenge ahead, the learning continues on board.
Even seasoned sailors and ocean racers will learn something every day and as each person spends more time on board, so their skills and finesse in disciplines such as helming and trimming will improve.
There are just 18 miles between third and eighth place in the fleet at the moment. Newcomers to the Clipper Race will come to realise that a feature of the highly competitive nature of this contest is how tightly together the yachts race. They are, after all, identical 68-foot boats and the teams are as evenly balanced in terms of age, gender and ability as they can be.
The only difference between the crews is how well they work together as a team and how quickly they fall into that routine. After 4,000 miles at sea, it is not unusual for the yachts to be separated by just minutes - and in some cases, seconds - on the finish line.
Race officials say it will be interesting to watch the teams’ tactics over the next 24 hours as they decide whether to follow the rhumb line - the shortest, most direct route between start and finish lines - or head further west to take advantage of the next weather system.