LAT 33 25.0N
LONG 122 39.3E
ETA 1200 (Local) 22 Feb 2012
WEATHER WIND 097@19kts, Sea Moderate, Swell Confused, Cloud O/C and Foggy with rain, Vis Poor, Baro 1020.4
Under the cover of fog and the camouflage of thousands of Chinese fishing vessels blocking our AIS Gold Coast Australia has
achieved the unimaginable and regained the 40nm needed to overtake Singapore to put us in the running for a podium position.
Yesterday afternoon I was surprised to hear the VHF radio crackle into life as Singapore was trying to call Geraldton. I
got on the radio and had when Ben Bowley the skipper of Singapore heard we were on the war path you could hear the concern
in his voice (either that or he was very tired after being awake for the past week dealing with the pleater of fishing
boats). Shortly after the wind veered another 20 degrees allowing us to hoist our spinnaker for the reach towards the East
China Sea Virtual Mark number 2 (ECS2). It was at this point of time, knowing we now had excellent speed compared to the leading boats we decided to enter into stealth mode and make a silent approach.
We approached ECS2 in the pitch black of night the sea was illuminated by thousands of fishing boats looking like the city
of Vagus. Lights filled the horizon as far as the eye could see, and the radar was basically painted yellow and grey from
all the contacts that were shown on it. Amongst the most densely populated area our virtual mark showed up in the middle of
it all as a skull and cross bones. As the wind backed we changed out the spinnaker for our Y1 to get some more height and manoeuvrability as we commenced our slalom course towards the mark.
As we reached ECS2 the density of fishing boats now occupied the entire 360 degrees of the radar screen out to 24nm. Each
fishing vessel only a few hundred of metres apart it is amazing that any fish could survive such and onslaught. Rounding
the mark we re-hoisted our heavy weight spinnaker and then weaved our way through a series of lights and boats in a situation that can only be described as un-real!
The next morning the density of fishing boats had diminished leaving us with only the pitch black of dawn and the odd rogue
merchant ship to deal with. As the sun rose so did the AIS picture of Singapore from the clutter of thousands of other AIS signals on our radar.
As the wind backed again, the spinnaker went below and the Y1 re-hoisted. To our amazement we were now sailing through a
sea that was yellow – the Yellow Sea. Who would have thought that a sea could be the colour of its name, though not
surprising considering all of the densely populated countries that surround it. With the Y1 up and the traffic density low
it was time for me to finally get some sleep, in preparation for another busy night and the final sprint to the finish in Qingdao.
Provided that we don’t get stuck in a wind hole tonight Gold Coast Australia should be finishing on the podium for Race 8 of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race at midday tomorrow.