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Clipper Race: Sneaking through islands

Published on June 8th, 2018

(June 8, 2018; Day 5) – The Atlantic Ocean is beckoning but the crafty Caribbean has thrown up a few final hurdles for the 11 teams in the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race teams on their course from Panama to New York.

With light conditions raising concerns that the Windward Passage, a body of water between Cuba and Haiti, would prove to be a bit of a misnomer, yesterday’s leader PSP Logistics opted to go into Stealth Mode. Skipper Matt Mitchell explains: “We’ve been secret squirrels for the last little while, mainly because when entering an area of light wind, you don’t want the other boats seeing you on AIS. Perhaps you might be stopped and you don’t want anyone to sail around you!

“Progress has been pretty good though as it happens and we only slowed down a little bit earlier on.”

GREAT Britain, which was in third place yesterday, has also opted to hide from public view for 24 hours as it picks its way north through the Caribbean Islands into the Atlantic Ocean proper. However, due to the close proximity of the teams in the leading pack, both PSP Logistics and GREAT Britain haven’t completely gone off the radar, as Unicef Skipper Bob Beggs reports: “We are now racing through the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti and we are in the company of PSP Logistics.

“Not in Stealth Mode and not far away is Sanya Serenity Coast. GREAT Britain looks like it has turned its cloaking device on – it was there one moment then – puff – it was gone.”

It’s also close in the chasing group. Skipper Conall Morrison comments: “Early this morning, we were able to see Qingdao, Garmin, and Nasdaq on the horizon before a wind hole and shift sent us off on opposite tacks. For the second half of the day we have been trading tacks with Qingdao and now they have popped up on AIS again a few miles ahead.”

It has been a busy time aboard Qingdao, as the team not only tries to stay astern of the nearby yachts, but also manage the slight conditions. Skipper Chris Kobusch says: “The day started off with the breeze slowly dying and we had to shake a reef and do a racing headsail change. Shortly after the windseeker went up and since then we had plenty of tacks, gybes, and headsail changes throughout the day in really light and shifty winds.”​

The frustrations continue for those at the back of the fleet, as Dare To Lead Skipper Dale Smyth explains: “We finally rounded Mark Beesley and left Jamaica to port. The wind continued fair until we got into the lee of Haiti where the wind literally shut off. We went from Yankee 2 and first reef to full main and windseeker in 5 minutes. We are now battling with Visit Seattle and Liverpool 2018 to make progress north to the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti.”

Whilst the breeze is light, it has given the teams a brief respite after beating upwind for the past four days. GREAT Britain Skipper Dave Hartshorn says: “There has been an outbreak of morale as people haven’t had to walk along the sides of the walls to move below decks. Richard Smith couldn’t believe his luck that he was Mother and had nearly flat surfaces to deal with.”

The wind is due to veer and increase once the teams are out of the lee of the larger Caribbean Islands, though it will ease again once the fleet enters the Atlantic proper. But in good news from Clipper Race Meteorologist Simon Rowell, there will be no upwind racing in the open ocean.

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Beginning June 3, the 11 teams are competing in Race 11, named the Nasdaq Race, which extends 1,900 nm in the Atlantic from Panama to New York, USA. Race 11 should take 12 days to complete, with an arrival window of June 14-16.

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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