Clipper Race: Start your engines

Published on February 4th, 2018

(February 4, 2018; Day 5) – Key tactical decisions have been made among the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race teams as more predictable Doldrums Corridor conditions of light airs and rain squalls return.

PSP Logistics heads up the leading pack for the first time after overtaking Sanya Serenity Coast, now in second place, and Visit Seattle which takes third.

Skipper of first placed PSP Logistics, Matt Mitchell, reports: “We are well and truly in the doldrums now as we are utilising our motoring option in order to cover the worst of the light airs.”

With strong favourable winds yesterday, the fleet faced a difficult decision as to when, or even if, to utilise the Doldrums Corridor Rule, which allows all yachts to motor-sail for a maximum of 4° of latitude or an elapsed time of 36 hours.

Sanya Serenity Coast Skipper, Wendy Tuck, explains: “We scratched heads, we ran the weather routing, we talked, we scratched heads some more, then decided yes it would be better to motor. It is a gamble, as we only motor at just under 7 knots, so if the breeze stays in we are on a loser.

“So, with baited breath I sent in the declaration saying we would commence motoring in three hours, and would you believe it, last night the breeze completely died out a few hours later, so, so far it has been the correct decision.”

The majority of frontrunners also came to the same conclusion but for fourth placed Garmin, Skipper Gaetan Thomas is keeping his cards close to his chest: “Are we motoring? I guess this is what you guys are thinking! We will give you the answer in a few days.”

Both Nasdaq, currently fifth and Qingdao seventh moved up a place on the leaderboard before turning on their motors and are utilising this section of the race to get some rest and make preparations for the rest of the race to Sanya.

However, it is not all plain sailing in the doldrums as the crews have been experiencing lots of squally activity coinciding with the light patchy airs which are keeping the teams on their toes.

Eighth placed Unicef Skipper Bob Beggs said: “As I type another squall is upon us turning the chart table on its side, the team are scrambling on deck to get the Yankee 1 down. We use our Garmin Radar to good effect, warning us of the approach of rain squalls shown in vivid red on the plotter.”

Currently in sixth place, Dare To Lead halted its progress to aid Liverpool 2018, now in ninth, with the transfer of essential parts for its Watermaker. The transfer of parts and spare water was successfully completed at first light with both teams resuming racing shortly after.

Liverpool 2018 Skipper Lance Shepherd explained: “Myself and Dale came up with the plan of a towed dingy transfer, as it sounds – towing a dingy behind us about 150 yards, Dale dropping the replacement Watermaker and four drums of spare water in the dingy, we then retrieve the dingy back to our yacht and install the new machine.

“We did, of course, pass back the empty drums and a package of goodies by way of thanks to Dale and his team for all their efforts in helping us out, all in all a good job well done…Thanks Dale!”

Hotelplanner.com remains in tenth place and GREAT Britain in eleventh and though trailing the leading pack, both teams have worked hard to reduce the deficit and have entered the Doldrums Corridor. Finally benefitting from stronger winds, both teams are under sail and making good speeds on a northerly course and so have held off from committing to motoring.

GREAT Britain Skipper David Hartshorn said: “At last we have some wind, a nice strong breeze, averaging about 26kts of it, from the South West, so we are on a port tack, reaching, life back on the tilt. Constantly hitting speeds of over 10 knots and at times achieving 14kts, which is very much welcome after the light and challenging airs leading up to the Solomon Sea.”

Adding: “Although still chasing the rest of the fleet, the fact we achieved better distance made good than all the other boats, beside HotelPlanner.com, and reduced our distance to the front boat by 30nm, in the last six hourly scheduled position report, is good for moral with the GREAT Team.”

Simon Rowell, Clipper Race Meteorologist reports that there’s a North Pacific low to the North East of the fleet which looks like it will make progress North of the Solomon Sea quite hard work. He adds that the squalls will continue but the fleet should see a drop in frequency from today onwards.

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Beginning January 30, Race 7 of the 13 stage Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race will see the fleet race 4280nm to Sanya, China. From there teams will race onwards to Qingdao, also in China; across the North Pacific Ocean to Seattle, and through the Panama Canal to New York.

The course to Sanya is expected to take between 23 to 27 days, with the fleet expected to arrive into the Sanya Serenity Marina between February 21 and 25.

Background: Held biennially, the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race got underway August 20 for the fleet of twelve* identical Tony Castro designed Clipper 70s. The 40,000nm course is divided into 13 individual races with the team having the best cumulative score winning the Clipper Race Trophy. The race concludes in Liverpool on July 28.

Each team is led by a professional skipper with an all-amateur crew that signs up for one, some, or all the races. The 2017-18 race, expected to take 11 months, has attracted 712 people representing 41 nationalities, making it the largest to date.

* Twelve teams began the first leg but one yacht (Greenings) ran aground just hours after the start on October 31 of the third leg from Cape Town, South Africa to Fremantle, Australia. The crew was safely evacuated but damage to the boat was deemed too extensive for it to continue in the 2017-18 edition.

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