Clipper Race: Down to the wire
Published on February 20th, 2018
(February 20, 2018; Day 21) – Less than 30 nautical miles separates the top two teams in the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race, and they are nervously looking over their shoulders at the chasing pack, as a wind hole has once again appeared on the leg to China.
With a tense finish into Sanya now expected, PSP Logistics retains the lead for a second day after the previous race leader, Qingdao, failed to capitalise on being in Stealth Mode. The lead, however, does not look assured.
“The lead that Qingdao and us had no longer looks so certain with how the forecast is developing,” PSP Logistics Skipper Matt Mitchell reports. “If all the stars align we should just keep ahead, although I expect the next group to catch us considerably. With just over 300 miles to go this is going to be right down to the wire.”
After being in the lead for six consecutive days before entering Stealth Mode, Qingdao Skipper Chris
Kobusch is disappointed that the tactic did not work out for the team.
“We sailed into another wind hole and were drifting with the current for most of the night,” said Chris. “The Mainsail was just flopping from side to side and the spinnaker was hanging down like a curtain. Wind speed: 1 knot and decreasing. The rest of the fleet is getting closer and closer with every position report.”
Race finish may only be a couple or so days away but for third-placed Sanya Serenity Coast, arriving into its home port seems like such a long way away right now. “All this slowness will be forgotten as we have a great time during our stopover,” said Skipper Wendy Tuck. “It’s been a great race in regards to things like crew work, and everything has been happening without a hitch and quickly.”
Despite the light wind conditions, a close battle for third place has developed, with Unicef less than 10 nm behind in fourth and Skipper Bob Beggs reporting: “We are not quite stopped and have two Clipper Race yachts [Sanya Serenity Coast and Dare To Lead] on the AIS.”
With Dare To Lead technically in Stealth Mode until 1159am (UTC), it is Liverpool 2018 that occupies fifth place today. The pink boat has stalled in the wind hole and is once again suffering with the heat, trying to find innovative ways to keep cool.
Skipper Lance Shepherd jokily explains: “All the crew are in good spirits even though they’re talking about inciting a mutiny by starting the engine and motoring, not to race finish but to generate a breeze by motoring in circles.”
The teams behind have been catching up over the past 12 hours, with Visit Seattle in sixth and Garmin in seventh, and the latter’s Skipper, Gaëtan Thomas, remains optimistic despite the wind hole: “It was predicted, but shouldn’t take too long before the breeze comes and fills in until Sanya!”
Another obstacle that his team, and eighth-placed HotelPlanner.com are facing right now though is the busy waters that they have entered and he adds: “Last night was again a busy night watching ships and fishing nets. Right now, on AIS, I have a total of more than 34 ships all around us.”
Nasdaq, which was in eighth place yesterday, has entered Stealth Mode until 2359 (UTC) in an attempt to hide from the competition but it is keeping a lookout on the busy traffic that the other teams are also encountering.
Skipper Rob Graham explains: “We didn’t see any of the islands or reefs that dot [the Luzon Strait], but we did see hundreds of ships at this crossroads in the ocean – making it just a bit too stressful to enjoy an otherwise beautiful starry night on a flat sea with favourable wind.”
At the back of the fleet, in ninth place, GREAT Britain has covered the most distance of any of the teams in the last 12 hours, having taken a more northerly route, and Skipper David Hartshorn reports: “We have slipped through the Luzon Strait, experiencing some of the turbulence caused by the Luzon Ridge, briefly leaving the eastern edge of the Pacific behind us as we are now heading into the South China Sea.
“We are also pondering a routing challenge this morning as another weather “transition” passes over the track in front of us, albeit briefly, we do not wish to lose any ground.”
It really will be an exciting finish as Simon Rowell, Clipper Race Meteorologist, reports that the breeze is filling in, but it will reach the teams to the east first before it reaches the leaders to the west of the fleet. Great for us armchair sailors, but more nail biting stuff for the teams involved!
Beginning January 30, Race 7 of the 13 stage Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race has the fleet racing 4280nm from Whitsunday Islands in Australia 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.
Source: Clipper Ventures