Clipper Race: Exiting the Doldrums

Published on September 29th, 2019

(September 29, 2019; Race 2, Day 14) – The slow motor-sail through the Doldrums Corridor has become a thing of the past for the majority of the Clipper 2019-20 Round the World Yacht Race fleet, with racing firmly back on the agenda during the long Race 2 leg to Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Visit Sanya, China, remains in the lead for a tenth straight day, with the team timing their exit from the Doldrums Corridor to perfection. However, Qingdao is also making good progress south.

“Over the next 3,000 nautical miles we just have to slowly take in a mile here or there,” said Qingdao Skipper Chris Brooks. “However, the further south we go, the better our wind angle because of the oceanic cycle of wind. This means that boats ahead have a chance to pull away so if we can just hold station with our nemesis up the front, we are doing really well.”

A significant gap has opened up between the leaders, Visit Sanya and Qingdao, and the chasing pack. Unicef Skipper Ian Wiggin comments: “Visit Sanya and Qingdao have done an amazing job of getting south so quickly. As I sit here scratching my head and measuring angle after angle and distance after distance – no matter how I look at it, the lead pair will be tough to catch. Based on the arc of their track, it is looking increasingly likely that they will be able to sail directly down the South American coastline.

“We are hoping for a wind shift in the morning which should allow us to sail further to the south. For now, if you drew a line between Punta Del Este and us, that is where the wind is coming from. Being patient is difficult as we watch the leaders extend to over 250nm. But as we have seen over the last week, big changes in fortune and weather patterns are possible.”

Seattle is the only yacht yet to finish its motor-sail through the Doldrums Corridor, in which the rules allowed the engine to be used for a maximum of six degrees of latitude during a 60 hour period.

The decision to hold off turning the engine on for as long as possible seems to be paying off. Despite being one of the last yachts to enter the Doldrums Corridor, the team is currently in third position on the overall standings.

Skipper Ben Keitch comments: “My first strategy was going to be to sail right through the Doldrums Corridor. It looked like we might get the advantage, use the fickle winds we had, play through the light stuff, then when the wind came (and plenty was forecast), sail fast, overtake, do better than those stuck motoring at 6 knots. Then you run the numbers and you realise you can motor anyway and gain both a tactical advantage (put the boat in the right place) and gain distance. It was a tough call but it seems to be working.”

In good news for the fleet, the Trade Winds should continue to blow the yachts down the east coast of Brazil towards Uruguay. But with almost two weeks of racing remaining, anything could happen.

Race 2 began September 15 and will take the 11 teams along a 5195 nm course from Portimão, Portugal to Punta del Este, Uruguay, with their expected arrival between October 12 and 16.

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About the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race:
The Clipper Race was established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1968-69. His aim was to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience, the chance to embrace the thrill of ocean racing; it is the only event of its kind for amateur sailors.

Held biennially, the Clipper 2019-20 Round the World Yacht Race gets underway September 1 for the fleet of eleven identical Tony Castro designed Clipper 70s. This 12th edition has attracted 688 crew representing 43 nationalities for the 41,000+ nm course. The race finishes on August 8.

The course is divided into 8 legs and 15 individual races, with some of the crew in for the entire circumnavigation while others will do individual legs. The team having the best cumulative score over the entire course will win the Clipper Race Trophy.

The Clipper 2019-20 Race Route:
The fleet departs from London, UK to Portimão, Portugal; across the Atlantic to Punta del Este, Uruguay; the South Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa; across the Southern Ocean’s Roaring Forties to Fremantle, Western Australia; around to the Whitsundays on the east coast of Australia, back into the Northern Hemisphere to China where teams will race to Qingdao, via Sanya and Zhuhai; across the mighty North Pacific to Seattle, USA; to New York via the famous Panama Canal; to Bermuda and then it’s a final Atlantic crossing to Derry-Londonderry in Northern Ireland; before arriving back to London as fully proven ocean racers.

Source: Clipper Round the World Yacht Race


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