FOUR vessels were last night vying for the lead in the latest stage of the round-the-world Clipper Race.

Old Pulteney, with Southampton sailors Charles Slater and Kate Hepworth on board, is currently in the lead but just three miles separate the top four. Derry-Londonderry-Doire, Henri Lloyd and Great Britain are close on Old Pulteney’s heels.

All of the yachts are battling increased winds in a bid to reach the next scoring gate off the coast of Vietnam, which most are expected to arrive at within two days.

They left Singapore on Wednesday as part of race nine of the 40,000-mile event and are headed for the Chinese city of Qingdao.

They are estimated to arrive at Qingdao, formerly twinned with Southampton, on March 7.

Since leaving London on September 1 the 12 crews – which include 12 people from Hampshire – have already sailed across the Atlantic to Brazil, and then on to South Africa, Australia and South East Asia. Their next task will be crossing the Pacific Ocean en route to San Francisco.