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Clipper Race: Playing the stream

Published on June 29th, 2018

(June 29, 2018; Day 3) – Conditions out on the North Atlantic have picked up for the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race as teams begin to reap the rewards of ducking south to pick up the Gulf Stream.

One team that decided to take advantage of the Gulf Stream, adding on extra miles to its course as it headed south, was Nasdaq. Skipper Rob Graham reports: “Our speed jumped up around 3 knots this afternoon when we found the favourable current we had been staying south for – thank you Gulf Stream!”

The Visit Seattle team is also in high spirits after reaching the Gulf Stream, with Skipper Nikki Henderson saying: “It was awesome this morning to watch the sea temperature rise from 19 degrees to 28 in an hour, and our speed over the ground go from 9 to 15. Yeeha! It was awesome!

“I was breathing big sighs of relief that this famous 4 knots of current actually existed and our dive south was justified. Now let’s hope it was enough to give us the push in front that we were looking for.”

However, the teams have been made to work to gain the benefit of the current and it is still uncertain as to whether it will provide long-term gains as Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch confirms: “After a long day of sail changes, reefing and beating into apparent winds of 40 knots, we finally found the Gulf Stream and with it, the desired 2 knots of favourable current. But we are not quite sure yet if staying south and sailing the extra miles to get it will pay off or not. Time will tell.”

The most southerly team in the pack is PSP Logistics, which has earnt a reputation for making bold tactical moves early on in races. But the transatlantic Race 12 gamble is yet to play off, as Skipper Matt Mitchell explains: “We’ve found the Gulf Stream and progress has been ok, although more or less as soon as we got into it, the wind shifted on the nose which is a bit annoying as we aren’t going as fast as we should be.

“Looking at some of the position reports some of the boats have been making great speed. Lesson learned from this edition of the round the world race – look at the forecast. The area that looks like will do you the least good you should probably aim for because invariably you’ll end up doing better than the more favourable areas!”

Although there has been some change on the leaderboard again over the last 24 hours, the proximity of the racing remains close and with the teams still very much lined up, positions are likely to change frequently in the next few days.

The northerly teams remain compact and competitive, with Dale Smyth, Skipper of Dare To Lead, reporting: “We are still making good progress east and still close reaching. The competition is fairly tight between us, Unicef,, and Sanya Serenity Coast at the moment and we had a nice chat on the radio this afternoon together speaking our usual nonsense.

“We seem to be struggling to match their boat speed at the moment which is a touch frustrating and Bob (Skipper of Unicef) seems to have a bone in his teeth no doubt because he has played his Joker.”

But whether north or south, all of the teams have experienced a quick change to heavy weather conditions over the last 24 hours. Nasdaq Skipper Rob Graham says: “The gentle introduction to Leg 8 is definitely over now and whilst today’s weather was still at the lower end of what is possible, it is a reminder that there can be no complacency when crossing oceans under sail.”

Whilst the crew of Sanya Serenity Coast remain unscathed by the Green Monster, the turbulent ocean has seen it rear its head on board GREAT Britain. Skipper Dave Hartshorn says: “This will be the pattern across the Atlantic, sail changes, smooth times, rough times, very rough at times. The GREAT Britain team will have to dig deep at times to give that extra one percent watch in, watch out.”

Looking ahead, it will be an interesting watch on the Clipper Race Viewer to see if Gulf Stream gamble pays off for the southerly pack. Weather-wise, Clipper Race Meteorologist Simon Rowell explains that the next low is chasing the fleet now and teams should be able to keep just ahead of it for the next few days in a corridor of wind. Whilst good for breeze, this means that it is likely to get wetter and squallier for the teams.

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The 11 teams began the final Leg 8 which carries the fleet across the North Atlantic from New York, USA, to Liverpool, UK, via Derry-Londonderry in Northern Ireland.

Leg 8 is formed of two races, with the first being the 3000nm Race 12 from USA to IRL that got underway June 26. The fleet is expected to arrive between between July 10 and 14.

Then it will be one final race, Race 13, when the teams depart July 22 to return to the UK almost a year later for the final finish on July 28.

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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