Clipper Race: Calm before storm

Published on April 3rd, 2018

(April 3, 2018; Day 11) – A mixed bag of weather conditions has kept each of the eleven teams in the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race busy through the night, and any big tactical moves at bay, as a ridge of high pressure brought any attempts to take advantage of the open Pacific ‘playground’ to a standstill. Skipper Conall Morrison, whose team has held fourth place for three consecutive days in the easterly pack, says: “Last night, all was going well with the Code 1 (lightweight) spinnaker up. We gybed in order to negotiate a ridge of high pressure and fell into an area of light winds where we needed the Windseeker then the Yankee 1 and even the Yankee 2 for a while… and back through the wardrobe we went again.”

Whilst the conditions, which included huge wind shifts, differing wind strengths and some windless zones, affected the entire Clipper Race Fleet, the easterly teams seemed at a slight disadvantage with greater patches of light winds hindering progress, although all teams are benefitting from currents helping them to make good progress.

Explaining just how localised the weather conditions were, third-placed Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch says: “Just before sunset last night we watched [the top two teams] PSP Logistics and Unicef stopping in their tracks and doing U-turn after U-turn.

“Especially with a big black cloud ahead, this is usually not a good sign. So, we prepared for the worst, got the required crew on deck and prepared everyone for a spinnaker drop. The wind shift came, but instead of an increase, the wind dropped completely and left us sitting and drifting around for a while, before it filled in again from the north east.”

Despite this, there has been no change to the structure of the fleet, with yesterday’s three groups still in place, nor has there been any changes to the top half of the leaderboard with the three frontrunners remaining closer than ever, separated by less than four nautical miles, and there less than 30 nm between first and eighth place.

Whilst enjoying the steadier building south westerly breeze, the attention of each of the teams will turn to the upcoming days where they will be looking to finally take advantage of the weather systems.

PSP Logistics Skipper Matt Mitchell explains: “The weather now looks great as far as our forecast reaches and there looks to be a real train route through the classic double high/triple low pattern that is absolutely textbook North Pacific.”

According to Clipper Race Meteorologist Simon Rowell, however, there will be one more hurdle with the upcoming 24-36 hours set to be interesting yet again for the teams as a developing low pressure system over Japan spins up and moves north east over the fleet.

Although with some luck the fleet will encounter the edge of the low, in its path it will bring predicted wind speeds of 40 knots, then an energetic front trailing behind it of up to 50 knots, which is promising to bring some fast, fiery conditions with it.

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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.

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Source: Clipper Ventures

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