Clipper Race: California coastal tour

Published on May 5th, 2018

(May 5, 2018; Day 5) – The wind has returned for the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race teams during Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge from Seattle to Panama, but yesterday’s wind hole off the Californian coast has had a big impact, with the fleet more compressed than ever.

For the first time since the 4,100 nautical mile race began, there’s been a change at the top. A well-timed easterly gybe saw Visit Seattle sneak ahead of Qingdao, though things remain exceptionally close, with just 6nm currently separating the top four teams.

On losing the lead, Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch says: “We sailed past the Virtual Mark ‘Read’ but unfortunately, we lost the lead to Visit Seattle who just sailed faster over the past 24 hours and we couldn’t match their speed. Now we are chasing them and have just under 3000nm to get the lead back. But we also have Dare To Lead chasing us and we have to be careful not to lose more ground to them.”​

The top four teams, like the rest of the fleet, remain east of the rhumb line, chasing the stronger inshore winds. Dale Smyth, Skipper of the third placed Dare To Lead, comments: “Eventually we got the boat moving again out of our small wind hole and we actually have had a day of really pleasant sailing in a really flat sea. The forecast for the next few days also looks good, so it going to be a case of incremental gains or losses as we are all under a fairly similar sail plan with our spinnakers up.”

The chasing pack also were able to use the return of the wind to make up some ground, with the now fifth placed just 15nm off the pace. Skipper Conall Morrison reports: “A nice day in the office today. Last night saw us gybing inshore off the California coast, looking for wind further inshore, which we found this afternoon. This wind allowed us and the boats around us to close slightly on race leaders Qingdao. Racing remains tight and at present we have six boats within AIS range.

“The team is working really well together, gybes are becoming very slick, and our last spinnaker change was super smooth.”

Day 5 also saw the majority of the fleet reach a major milestone; most teams have now clocked a 1,000nm since leaving Seattle, meaning approximately 3,000nm remains until Panama. Matt Mitchell, Skipper of the fourth placed PSP Logistics says: “We have passed another mark of the course and are making good progress south with the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint coming up in about 300 nautical miles time. There is still looking to be better wind inshore, so it’s a case of gybing in to get the decent breeze before gybing back out again to get around the course marks. Safe to say we’re getting pretty good at gybing now!”

The Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint should be an enjoyable one for the teams, with the wind expected to build as they carry on down the coast towards Mexico. The Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint will be the first opportunity to pick up points in Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge, with bonus points on offer for the three fastest boats.

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After starting May 1, Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge, which extends from Seattle to Panama, is expected to take approximately 23 to 26 days, with the fleet to arrive between May 23 and 27. The brief stopover will feature one of the highlights of the Clipper 2017-18 Race – the Panama Canal – which see the teams bid farewell to the Pacific Ocean and re-enter the Atlantic Ocean ahead of the final three races of the circumnavigation.​

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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