Clipper Race: Playing in the dark
Published on March 13th, 2018
(March 13, 2018; Day 9) – The Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race teams are in the final stage of Race 8: The Sailing City Qingdao Cup which has taken the fleet 1700 nm from Sanya to Qingdao. Stealth Mode has been the order of the day with Skippers using the option, before there is 250 nautical miles to go, to hide their positions from each other in this final approach.
The Scoring Gate points have been announced, with three points awarded to Qingdao, which is currently in Stealth Mode. GREAT Britain re-emerged from its own invisibility cloak having been the second boat to cross the gate so will claim two bonus points.
GREAT Britain Skipper David Hartshorn says: “Did you miss us as we played hide and seek over the last 24 hours? We found the Scoring Gate, and like Captain Scott found someone else had got there before us, well done Chris and the Qingdao crew.”
No other teams opted for the Scoring Gate, choosing instead to focus on race position, and it’s PSP Logistics who once again leads the race to Qingdao for the seventh consecutive day. Skipper Matt Mitchell is enjoying the conditions but not taking anything for granted.
“Well, this is much more like it,” said Mitchell. “Lovely sunshine, a flat boat and much quieter on the fishing boat front. We now have 270 nautical miles to go but with the next pack behind hot on our heels this race is far from over.”
Whilst Qingdao is in Stealth mode, Visit Seattle is less than 30nm behind the leaders. Skipper Nikki Henderson has been reflecting on how far the Clipper Race Skippers have come since starting work a year ago, reflecting on how the conditions on this race have not always been what she imagined.
“When I pictured entering the Yellow Sea I imagined an upwind slog, a grey day, thrashing rain – even greyer sea – instead we have today … bright, bright blue sky with not a cloud in sight, flat as flat sea with downwind sailing under our spinnaker,” said Henderson. “Someone up there who is friends with Mother Nature is clearly on our side.”
Less than 20 nm further behind, Sanya Serenity Coast is in a close fought battle with Liverpool 2018 and Skipper Wendy Tuck is keen to make the most of having played the team’s Joker Card.
“We are still under kite and we sailed with Liverpool 2018 for most of the night,” said Tuck. “It is nice to have someone nearby, even if it is just to chat about how taxing it is to stay on such a lookout all the time. If we were worried I wonder how the captains of the container ships feel as they try and meander through.”
With Qingdao and Garmin currently in Stealth Mode, it is Nasdaq that is leading the chasing pack, around 80 nm further behind. Skipper Rob Graham will have to wait and see if the redress that it was awarded (along with Qingdao) earlier in the race will affect its final position but for now is focussed on the task in hand.
Graham reports: “Progress is good and comfortable. We’re matching course and speed with Dare To Lead, on AIS nearby and we have under 400nm to those Qingdao / Tsingtao beers.”
A further 35 nm behind this pack is Unicef, which is holding off a challenge from HotelPlanner.com, which is less than five nautical miles away. The latter’s Skipper, Conall Morrison, reports: “Early morning saw an un-forecasted wind change and then back to spinnaker weather where we closed the gap to Unicef. They are keeping us honest watching our trim and sailing angles, however they seem to have a slight speed edge and we continue to search for solutions.”
He adds that the crew have been able to successfully navigate fishing waters, explaining: “With good communications from below and using the Liverpool 2018 hailer system installed in Hobart we successfully managed to wriggle through without getting too close to any. The crew performed well identifying lights with the hand-bearing compass and adjusting course and trimming sails as directed by our keen navigation team of Carsten Busk and Tom Parker.”
With less than 48 hours to go before the Clipper Race fleet arrives into Qingdao, there are some local weather differences expected around the large cluster of low cumulus, causing some teams to return to white sails from spinnakers.
Beginning March 4, the final section of the Asia-Pacific Leg 5, officially known as Race 8: The Sailing City Qingdao Cup, will take the fleet from Sanya to Qingdao in China.
The 1700 nm race to Qingdao is expected to take between ten to twelve days, with the fleet expected to arrive into the Wanda Yacht Club between March 13 and 16.
Following the Qingdao Stopover, the Clipper Race fleet will depart again on March 23 for the Mighty Pacific Leg 6, a 5,600 nautical mile race across the world’s biggest and remote ocean to Seattle.
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