Clipper Race: Onward into the Pacific
Published on April 1st, 2018
(April 1, 2018; Day 9) – The Mandatory Gate Haller lies between the Japanese islands of Hachijō and Aogashima, and for the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race fleet, it marks the edge of the open Pacific Ocean. As the teams converge again, on what is the last compulsory gate until the finish line in Seattle, no one team has managed to forge themselves a significant tactical advantage.
PSP Logistics Skipper Matt Mitchell had hoped a more northerly position would be beneficial, but with his team currently second he says: “The advantage we thought we may have gained didn’t occur, however, we haven’t lost anything either with what looks like race start number three approaching the gate. We can see the majority of the fleet on AIS and we are all in a line pointing at the next mark.
“In some ways this is good as no one has broken away from the group, in others it’s quite annoying as having a break away is always a good thing, as long as it’s you that has got the distance that is!”
Less than fifteen nautical miles separates the top nine teams. “It seems all the light wind patches and mandatory waypoints plus gates keep the fleet together,” explains Chris Kobusch, Skipper of third place Qingdao. “By now we have most of the fleet (eight including us) back on AIS and therefore within 15 nm of each other. All heading for the last mandatory gate, Gate Haller, before crossing the mighty Pacific Ocean.
“It is quite amazing how close it is once again after racing over 1100 nm so far. But then again, we are only half way to the Scoring Gate and only a fifth of the way to Seattle.”
Despite how close the racing is, weather conditions have varied within the fleet and the light and variable conditions that have plagued the teams since race start still dominate.
For three-time Clipper Race Skipper Bob Beggs, the conditions are nothing like those from previous editions. With Unicef currently topping the leaderboard, he reports how the 24 hours under spinnaker has been a delight after the beat of the days previously. “Accompanied by unbelievably cloudless skies, warm weather and flat seas, this passage through the Yellow Sea and East of Japan has nothing in common with my two previous Clipper Race circumnavigations,” notes Beggs. “During those times when passing through these waters, gales, storms, grey skies, and mountainous seas were the norm.”
He adds: “As per usual the fleet is condensing at a gate or choke point after several days with a large frontage and many different strategies all now start appearing on AIS.”
Whilst the majority of the fleet is thinking ahead to their tactical choices once through the gate and into the open Pacific Ocean, today has also been a day of reflection for crew on board and the entire Clipper Race family.
Two years since the tragic loss of Sarah Young, some of her friends and crew mates have returned to the Clipper Race, and on board Visit Seattle the team held a minute’s silence. GREAT Britain Skipper David Hartshorn, who was also Sarah’s team mate on IchorCoal in the 2015-16 edition of the race, reflects on this Easter Sunday. “Let’s take a moment to remember absent crew especially Sarah Young, Simon Speirs, Andy Ashman and John Fisher (Volvo Ocean Race). All of whom were lost before their time, achieving something remarkable and pursuing their dreams.”
Skipper David also remembers fondly the Easter treats that Sarah gave out to crew mates a couple of years ago, before her passing, and Easter has not missed the teams despite being out at sea this year either.
Treats, surprises and some April foolery has spread amongst the fleet, along with reports of sunshine, and abating of seasickness, moods have been brightened. On board Nasdaq, Skipper Rob Graham said: “There was some April foolery of our own onboard Nasdaq today – all of Starboard Watch’s treats and snacks disappeared … replaced by the first in a series of rhyming clues to their location in a 70-foot treasure hunt. Well done Port Watch!”
Looking ahead to the weather forecast, Simon Rowell reports that as the fleet nears the open Pacific they are due to receive some decent breeze to get through Gate Haller. After that it’s looking rather encouraging for the following three or four days, with a couple of lows giving favourable breeze.
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.
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