Clipper Race: When will the music end?

Published on May 15th, 2018

(May 15, 2018; Day 15) – The leading teams in the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race are under pressure, with the light winds off the southern coast of Mexico compressing the fleet and causing some exciting competition on Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge from Seattle to Panama.

The margin between the first seven teams tightened considerably overnight, almost halving to just 18 nautical miles. Qingdao remains in the lead for a tenth consecutive day, but Skipper Chris Kobusch admits it is getting all too close: “We are less than 40nm away from the first mandatory gate and Visit Seattle, Unicef, Dare To Lead, HotelPlanner.com, and Sanya Serenity Coast are all within 10nm. After over 3,000nm of racing, this is pretty amazing.

“We lost quite a few miles to the other boats but had a few good gybes today and managed to stay ahead of Unicef by a mere 2.5nm. And should we make it to the finish, we will have to try to defend the pole position for another 1,239nm…”

After spending 24 hours in Stealth Mode, Visit Seattle returned to public view in third place. Skipper Nikki Henderson is relishing the tight racing, commenting: “Phew – about half an hour ago there were six Clipper 70s all within a 4nm radius after 3,000nm sailing. That is absolutely insane. A matched fleet – and matched ability clearly – with a few wind holes to add to the compression. It’s great fun out here. Super close racing requiring lots of brain power, concentration, and delicate sailing. Awesome.”

Dare To Lead Skipper Dale Smyth is likewise loving the close competition, adding: “What a day of sailing competition! We make and lose marginal gains on each other and it really is keeping us on our toes and focused on boat speed.”

Whilst the top four teams – Qingdao, Unicef, Visit Seattle, and Dare To Lead – are continuing to stay close to the slightly stronger winds along the Mexican coastline, the fifth and sixth placed Sanya Serenity Coast and HotelPlanner.com have opted to gybe west in attempt to make up some ground.

HotelPlanner.com Skipper Conall Morrison reports: “We had a good run last night and had briefly found ourselves in front of Dare To Lead this morning. However, they escaped from our grasp as we held the Windseeker over the Code 1 (Lightweight Spinnaker) a bit too long and they did well in about 6 knots of wind.”

The present finish line for Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge is in an area due south of Isla Jicaron in Panama. However, any of the mandatory gates listed in the Course Instructions and viewable on the Race Viewer, may be used as a finish line.

Much like musical chairs, should the Race Office deem it necessary to conclude the race in interest of the schedule, the music stops and the race ends at the next gate. With that in mind, the teams are working as hard as possible in the lead up to the first of five gates, though some are hoping this gate won’t be the decider.

PSP Logistics Skipper Matt Mitchell says: “We are nearly at the first of the gates and our position isn’t what we would like so let’s hope that the race continues! It looks possible that we can make a few more gates yet before the Clipper Race Office is forced to call the race for our canal transit window.”

As Clipper Race Meteorologist Simon Rowell reports, the wind is not set to increase in the near future, with the fleet in less of a pressure gradient due to The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), or doldrums, creeping north. But with the spine of Central America generating its own semi-permanent trough, into which a localised gradient is flowing, and the arrival of localised winds due to squalls in the coming days, the fleet will keep moving steadily south.

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The 11 teams are now taking part in the US Coast-To-Coast Leg 7, which is made up of two races: Race 10 from Seattle to Panama and Race 11 from Panama to New York. Race 10 started May 1 and is expected to take approximately 23 to 26 days, with the fleet to arrive between May 23 and 27. After transiting the Panama Canal, Race 11 to New York begins June 3.

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

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Source: Clipper Ventures

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