Jamaica braves gale force winds

The unseasonable gale force winds buffeting the south coast of the UK this week are proving a challenge for the yachts competing in the RORC Cowes to Madeira Race, among them Jamaica, one of the ten 68-foot yachts of the Clipper 07-08 Round the World Yacht Race fleet.

Jamaica is one of just five yachts still in the race after many of the fleet headed for shelter during yesterday’s strong south westerlies.

Jamaica and skipper Simon Bradley have seen worse though – the beat from Singapore up to the Olympic Sailing Center at Qingdao, China, in freezing conditions in February this year was one of the most gruelling stretches of Clipper 07-08. A total contrast to the light wind conditions the Olympic sailors are experiencing there at the moment. The photo shows the conditions the crew faced during that race from Singapore to Qingdao.

Reporting from Jamaica as the yacht passed to the west of Ushant off the Brittany coast this morning, Simon says, “Our 13 crew members have been working hard, coming to grips with living life at an angle on a Clipper 68. When they signed up with Clipper Events for the August RORC Cowes – Madeira Race did they expect this sort of weather? (20 – 40kts of wind on the nose.)”

The crew have undergone a Clipper Training programme and qualifying passage to prepare them for the race down through the Bay of Biscay and along the west coast of Africa to the sun soaked island of Madeira. They joined Jamaica at Clipper’s base in Royal Clarence Marina on the south coast on Sunday.

Simon takes up the story: “After the crew arrived on Sunday we took Jamaica over to Cowes, where Juan (First Mate) and I went to the RORC race briefing which was held at the Royal Yacht Squadron. It was a very useful and informative session attended by all the race skippers. While we were there Rachel (Second Mate) continued with our own safety and information briefs with our crew on Jamaica.

“Monday morning started at 0530 BST (0430 GMT) to give ourselves plenty of time to get ready for the race start. This preparation included motoring past a RORC boat anchored outside Cowes with our storm sails set, class pennant flying and spray dodger with our sail numbers displayed on it – all part of the rigorous safety procedures that RORC have in place. I wonder if any of the crew expected to see any of those storm sails again before the day was out?

“Race start was on time at 0900 BST (0800 GMT), a beat down the Solent and out through the Needles channel. Ushant was our first goal approx 200 nautical miles away as the crow flies but not as a Clipper 68 beats to windward! Yes, we’ve been hard on the wind pretty much since we started, tacking our way down the English Channel towards Ushant. The wind, sea and the shipping have conspired to make it difficult to round this famous mark and now we have the Bay of Biscay to cross towards Cape Finistere.

“But on the bright side it hasn’t rained…much. And yes, we do have our storm jib set at the moment.”

The four other boats left in the race along with Jamaica are Pen Azen, a J/122 owned by Philippe Delaporte; British Soldier, the Army Sailing Association’s A40 which showed good form during Skandia Cowes Week; Puma Logic, owned by Hamble-based Sailing Logic; and the current leader Norddeutsche Vermoegen, the Andrews 56 owned by Dr D Thomsen and skippered by George Christiansen.