Clipper Race: A not very sprinty sprint

Published on January 2nd, 2020

(January 2, 2020; Day 11) – GoToBermuda, Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, and Zhuhai continue the tussle for the lead in Race 5 of the Clipper 2019-20 Round the World Yacht Race.

The light winds off the Australian east coast continue to hamper progress and pose difficult tactical questions for the leading pack. Despite ringing in the New Year, there is no clear new leader on the eleventh day of racing.

Nick Leggatt Skipper of Zhuhai, currently in third place, reported: “An exciting start to the New Year. The position reports of the last 24 hours briefly had us in first place, before dropping us back into third, but we have certainly had a varied and interesting time of it.

“The team wait with bated breath for each position report, as we have gambled on a much more westerly route than GoToBermuda and Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, while the rest of the teams, astern of us, seem to be hedging their bets as a high pressure system ridges across the Tasman Sea. It will be several hours, at least, before we have a really clear idea about which strategy has worked best.”

Lighter winds can open up opportunities and the teams just outside the current top three are hoping to be able to maximize any that arise. Rob Graham, Skipper of fourth placed Imagine your Korea, explains: “In strong winds, anyone can make a boat move, but living becomes harder.

Conversely in light winds the living is easy but to keep on moving requires much more effort: sail changes, constant trimming, course alterations as the breeze backs, veers, fills or eases.

“We were pleased to make up some ground on the boats ahead when they ran into light winds. We were less pleased to have the boats behind make up on us though – this end of the fleet is compressing at the moment, and with more windholes forecast across our path it could be a snakes and ladders situation on the leaderboard.”

Seven of the teams have commenced the Dell Latitude Rugged Ocean Sprint, a time trial between two lines of latitude, the fastest three teams will gain bonus race points. Only once all teams have completed the sprint, will the results be announced and it with the variable winds it is difficult to predict a winner.

Qingdao, currently fifth, is hoping to exploit the light winds from the high pressure system. Skipper Chris Brooks reports: “Following a blocking high, we have managed to claw back half of the mileage lost to the leaders from the first part of the race.

“There is another blocking high in the sprint we are now in and the race leaders are probably already slowing down. If we can reduce the difference in latitude then we may be able to progress out of it in similar time. If not they will slowly work through it and we will face the same just a little later to show a sort of cat and mouse effect.”

Elsewhere in the fleet, it is a landmark day for the 2019-20 circumnavigation as Unicef reaches the south of Tasmania and spends the final hours in the Southern Ocean, the most southerly point of the remaining race route.

Unicef Skipper Ian Wiggins said: “So, the bottom of Tasmania, that never never land where we can turn north away from the cold and rain of the Roaring Forties and start the sunlit road towards the turquoise sea of the Whitsunday Islands, comes inexorably closer.”

Keep track of the fleet to see which of the team can best negotiate the lighter winds.


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Eight of the 11 teams set off on December 22 for the Leg 4/Race 5 of the Clipper 2019-20 Round the World Yacht Race, which takes the fleet 3415nm from Fremantle, Australia to The Whitsundays, Australia. The absence of three teams was due to their delay in Leg 3/Race 4 (see below) with issues requiring them to return to port, finally finishing between December 19 and 20. The three remaining teams will begin Leg 4/Race 5 on December 24. The eleven teams are expected to arrive at the Whitsundays between January 9 and 12.

Delayed: After starting Leg 3/Race 4 from Cape Town, South Africa on November 17, Unicef diverted course on November 22 to Durban for crew member Andrew Toms to disembark and receive medical treatment for a suspected appendicitis, with the team returning to the race on November 27. They finished in Fremantle, Australia on December 20 (12:24 UTC).

Collision: Punta del Este and Visit Sanya, China were in Cape Town, South Africa for repair after an incident at the start of Race 4 on November 17 resulted in significant damage. Their race finally got underway on November 28, finishing in Fremantle, Australia on December 19 (07:50 UTC) and December 20 (03:11 UTC), respectively. A review of the facts found Sanya, China to be at fault after a clear breach of the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) 10 ‘On Opposite Tacks’. Details.

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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