Clipper Race: Choosing the path

Published on October 27th, 2019

(October 27, 2019; Day 4) – The early stages of Race 3 of the 2019-20 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, the Spinlock South Atlantic Showdown, have been dominated by the decision of which route to take to Cape Town; the most direct, via the rhumb line with the risk of being affected by the St Helena High or the southerly route, longer distance but potentially more consistent conditions.

It is no different on the fourth day of racing as two distinct packs have formed. Closest to the rhumb line a group of seven teams, separated by less than 20 nautical miles (nm), is being led by Seattle, Unicef and Punta del Este (at time of writing). Further south WTC Logistics, Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, Dare To Lead and Qingdao have all committed to the southerly routing with a mere 5nm between them.

GoToBermuda Skipper David ‘Wavy’ Immelman reports: “From the sailing point of view, we are still hugging the rhumb line (shortest possible route) seeing our group pass either ahead or behind us from time to time. We have held our Code 2 spinnaker since about 0200 yesterday morning (apart from the one drop for a squall) and have been holding a very nice gybe angle.

“Looking at the forecast we are expecting our nice 15-20 knots of breeze to drop tomorrow, so we might as well enjoy it, or as they say, make hay while the sun shines. Following that we are expecting our first low pressure. Bring it on… Loads of wind rain and speed.”

The consistent wind and close racing means that results are seen in real time. As the teams in the northerly pack converge once again, Mike Surridge, Imagine your Korea Skipper, said: “All through the afternoon we found more and more of the fleet, starting with Punta del Este and growing until we now have four others on AIS and in and out of visual range. After the isolation of Race 2, when we sailed alone down the Atlantic, this proximity is a welcome change. Mistakes show in real time – but so too does good work and good driving.”

The fleet has so far been propelled on the ridge of a dissipating low pressure system with the next South Atlantic low due to arrive in the coming 24-36hrs. Qingdao Skipper Chris Brooks reflects on the race so far: “At race start there was a big high pressure system in the middle of the course that would cause a shutdown and some tactical gains to those who played it well. There were also some areas of lighter pressure in the north forecast. Unfortunately, these have not come into fruition.

“This leaves us having travelled much further than the bulk of the fleet and skirting areas of lighter breeze to the south has been a further hindrance to our progress. The culmination of events leaves us far south looking for a way back to the rhumb line but all this time the breeze just won’t clock round (change direction clockwise) to allow us to gybe back.

“The next two days will be quite a telling story for the race and how it will play out. With increased winds from the north expected it once again would pay at the northern end or left hand side, as we look at it, of the fleet.”

The 11 teams set off on October 23 for the second leg of the Clipper 2019-20 Round the World Yacht Race, referred to as Race 3: Spinlock South Atlantic Showdown, which takes the fleet 3555nm from Punta del Este, Uruguay to Cape Town, South Africa.The fleet is due to arrive in Cape Town between November 7 and 11.

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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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