Clipper Race: Bigger and bigger

Published on April 6th, 2018

(April 6, 2018; Day 14) – Speed records for Race 9 tumbled for a second successive day as the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race fleet made fantastic progress over the last 24 hours in the Race to the Emerald City.

After a challenging weather front hit the fleet, as expected, with a tricky wind shift PSP Logistics retains the lead having opted for the most northerly route rather than a course through the Scoring Gate. “We’ve been going really well all night and day with some big surfing giving us great distance,” reports Skipper Matt Mitchell. “The crew are relishing the first tough conditions that we’ve had this race and although looking forward to it easing a bit, there are smiles all round.”​

The conditions have certainly tested the Skippers and crew who have coped well. Garmin has moved up the leaderboard just over 10 nm behind PSP Logistics as Skipper Gaëtan Thomas reports: “We wanted wind and we definitely have it! Blowing between 45 and 55 knots since this morning. Last night we had the front passing over us with its 90 degrees wind shift.

“We are constantly surfing around 22-26 knots and the sea state is getting bigger and bigger so I’m really busy on deck.”

But for those teams opting for the virtual Scoring Gate, a thrilling match race played out in the midst of the North Pacific overnight as Sanya Serenity Coast, Qingdao and Unicef gave everything in the aim of securing top bonus points in the race. It was almost too close to call but in the end, after a terrific and powerful downwind run, the first two teams were split by an incredible 33 seconds!

Sanya Serenity Coast crossed at 00:05:49 UTC and Qingdao crossed at 00:06:22, followed by Unicef in third place, with the three teams securing the three, two and one bonus points respectively.

Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch said: “Well done team! Now it is straight to the finish line. Well, more or less straight. With 3200 nautical miles of north Pacific Ocean and an Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint in between, it is still a long race and more potential points are at stake. The weather forecast looks good though, the mood on board is great and the spirits are high. We are looking forward to some fast and existing downwind sailing!”

In the overall race lead, it is the three teams furthest north, PSP Logistics, Garmin and Dare To Lead, who continue to lead the race this morning.

Whilst PSP Logistics maintains the lead for the third consecutive day, Skipper Matt Mitchell reports that his team’s progress has been far from plain sailing: “Not long after I wrote my last blog, a huge wave broke over us. The boat got thrown around violently before crash gybing. Thankfully the foreguys held and we got ourselves sorted out with no one hurt.

After detailing damage to the helming cage and one of the compasses, which will be repaired in Seattle but shouldn’t affect the team’s ability to continue this race, he adds: “Safe to say that we were a bit slow yesterday while we were getting ourselves sorted out, meaning we lost a bit of ground and were unable to make the Scoring Gate which is a bit of a shame. The team did a great job and really took it in their stride. Thankfully these things are quite rare but it goes to show the sheer power of the ocean.”

Temperatures continue to plummet and the cold and ever damp conditions on board are getting increasingly challenging, however wind speeds bringing gusts of 40 to 45 knots, high boat surfing speeds and top 24 hour daily runs of around 270 nautical miles yesterday, continue to exhilarate and keep spirits high.

Dale Smyth, Skipper of Dare To Lead, says: “Another cold, rough North Pacific day and I am definitely not complaining because we are clocking off great mileage and these are the conditions these boats were designed for.”

He adds: “We are, however, all wrapped safely up in our composite cocoons of foam and fibreglass as we travel like astronauts through outer space, treading lightly in this ocean we all respect.”, positioned furthest north, has managed to hold on to its sixth-place position despite losing some ground overnight, as Skipper Conall Morrison reports: “We sailed conservatively last night and probably lost a few miles to the competition, however we have the Yankee 1 flying again now and are seeing some fast surfs, with everyone enjoying the helm.

“It has been bitterly cold on deck and there have been a few waves wash across, times are testing and the crew are coping very well, they are a supportive bunch. It seems the grey skies, following winds and big seas are here to stay for the coming week at least, so here’s wishing they push us speedily along toward Seattle.”

Nasdaq is up one position in seventh place and aiming for its positive progress to continue. Skipper Rob Graham reports: “Shortly after breakfast we decided the sea state had decreased enough, and our helms had practiced enough, to swap Yankee for Spinnaker and Nasdaq has been whooosshhhing along ever since.

“Since we weren’t going to make the Scoring Gate in time we’re now heading slightly further north – chasing the little pack of PSP Logistics, Garmin and Dare To Lead. Now we’re waiting for the next ridge of high pressure to pass over us, bringing us a different weather system.

“Clipper Race weather guru Simon Rowell foretells a couple of days decent south-westerly wind to speed us on our way – the crew are hoping that might be a little warmer than our current north-westerly.”

Further back, Visit Seattle Skipper Nikki Henderson is heading further north as the team continues to do everything it can to catch up following a tactical mistake earlier on in the race. She reports: “Sloppy seas and light winds – about every sailor’s worst nightmare. This is what I woke up to this morning … around 8-12 knots of wind shifting from northwest to southwest randomly every five minutes or so. The sea felt like we were swimming in a public swimming baths when the wave machine is on – wachine machine-esk.”

However, she goes on to say: “Still staying optimistic that soon an opportunity will open and we can make some ground on the fleet in front – this is definitely teaching us the art of patience!”

Event detailsRace factsRace viewerFacebook

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.

Race RouteRace Schedule and Miles


Source: Clipper Ventures


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