Clipper Race: Wet and Wild
Published on April 11th, 2018
(April 11, 2018; Day 19) – The forecast big weather arrived right on schedule with the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race fleet hit by powerful winds and waves on Day 19 of the race across the Mighty Pacific Ocean to Seattle.
Whilst the south-easterly low-pressure system moved through the teams quickly, it definitely left its mark. Bob Beggs, the Skipper of the third placed Unicef, says: “How the world has changed for us over the past 24 hours. We wriggled through the night with increasingly fickle winds, peeling to lighter code sails, a gybe in the night followed by preparations for the new weather to come. And come it did!
“We are now on the wind with three reefs in the mainsail and staysail only and 35-40 knots of apparent wind speed.”
After seeing the forecast earlier in the week, the fourth placed PSP Logistics decided to head south, a decision Skipper Matt Mitchell feels was justified following the conditions overnight. He reports: “Following a period of very light wind, the expected front came on in earnest. Thankfully we had changed early to our Yankee 3 in preparation. Very quickly we were down to three reefs and 40 knots of wind on the nose.
“Spending all that time coming south was worth it though as we were able to bear off as the wind turned to the south. Now the front seems to have passed and the wind has abated somewhat. It looks like we will have a bit of a reprieve for 12 hours or so before the wind really comes back in earnest.”
Despite the gale force winds and wild sea state, the strong safety culture across the fleet ensured all eleven teams remained on track and racing well towards Seattle. The importance of putting safety first was vindicated on board the seventh placed Garmin, as Skipper Gaëtan Thomas explains: “The wind was supposed to turn and it did back on a broad reach facing the waves from the previous gale. The boat jumped in the air and a nasty wave when we were shaking out a reef hit us badly.
“All the team were washed down. All the lifejackets inflated and the cockpit was full of water. Dave West was on the mast to spike the handy billy and he was safely double clipped but he was projected on the mast. Mei Fullerton in the cockpit received James Lawrie on her and her shoulder is quite in pain, but both of them are inside the boat now and nothing major medically is wrong – big scratch on the top of the nose and a couple of bruises but they are smiling and ok.
“Now the chaotic sea state due to the prevailing winds will come down soon and the waves will come more from the back which will be a massive relief for everyone.”
The front is yet to reach the leading teams, Sanya Serenity Coast and Qingdao, which, due to their northerly course, could potentially experience hurricane force gusts of between 70-80 knots. But Sanya Serenity Coast Skipper Wendy Tuck is ready, saying: “We now have three reefs and our storm jib the ginger ninja up. It’s a bit unpleasant as its only slightly off close hauled, in the next couple of hours the breeze should come round to a nicer angle, but the gusts will increase later. The sea state is all over the shop and will get worse.
“We went a bit conservative because of the sea state, we didn’t want to risk kite, boat or people damage.”
The conservative sail plan has had an impact on Sanya Serenity Coast’s lead. Though the team remains in first place for a fifth consecutive day, Qingdao has sliced 45 nautical miles off the gap to move to within 5 nautical miles.
Whilst it is tight racing between first and second, the rest of the fleet has spread out over the last 24 hours. At the back in ninth, Visit Seattle has now crossed the International Date Line and is more than halfway through the mighty 5,600nm race to its home port in Bell Harbor Marina. It will be a tricky day for the team as Skipper Nikki Henderson reports: “Our mast track has suffered a few bumps and bruises and will need repairing as soon as the weather calms down. Looks like it’s reef three for the next 24 hours then.
“Honestly, there is some serious breeze forecasted. I’m less bothered about racing and more about keeping everyone and the boat safe and in one piece. Being confined to reef three isn’t such a bad thing.”
Beginning March 24, the Clipper Race fleet left Qingdao, China for the 5,500 nm leg across the North Pacific Ocean to Seattle, USA. After approximately 24-29 days, the fleet is set to arrive into Seattle’s Bell Harbor Marina between April 14-19. Conditions in the early part of the race means the boats are now expected between April 19-21.
It will be the second consecutive stopover in the West Coast USA city, with the Clipper Race previously visiting during the 2015-16 edition.
Following the Seattle stopover, the fleet will depart again on April 29 to race over 6,000 nm from Seattle to Panama during the first of two races that forms The US Coast-To-Coast Leg 7. From there, the teams will race on to New York, Derry-Londonderry, and then to the finish in Liverpool, UK.
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