Clipper Race: Hot, Sticky, and Fickle

Published on May 24th, 2022

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race continues its effort to finish the 2019-20 edition that got delayed by the pandemic in Asia. After a two year postponement, the 11 boat fleet in March 2022 finally got its restart in the Philippines with a course to Seattle in the USA.

But adversity struck quickly, with damage requiring a diversion for the Qingdao team to Japan for repairs, and then just before its departure, further delay was needed to wait out a typhoon, finally beginning the North Pacific crossing almost two weeks later than the rest of the fleet

Because of their delay, a plan was hatched for the Qingdao team to aim a bit further south toward San Francisco, and as the ten teams set off April 30 from Seattle for the next leg to Panama, the goal was for all eleven team to soon regroup.

Qingdao finished their Pacific Ocean leg on May 7, and after a pit stop to regroup and repack, set off from San Francisco to a restart gate on May 9 to chase down the fleet, now racing their competitors on elapsed time. They would get so far as Cabo San Lucas before adversity found them again.

After incurring an eye injury on May 15, Qingdao crew Diane Morrison would be transferred to a Mexican Navy vessel on May 17. The team had motored to the pick-up location, and after returning to where they engaged the engine, the team began racing again.

A vital variable along the 4000nm distance to Panama is how the fleet must make its designated transit time through the Panama Canal which had to be booked in advance of the fleet’s arrival into Flamenco Bay Marina.

Since the conditions beyond Cabo San Lucas are notoriously hot, sticky, and fickle, this final section of the course to Panama has five Mandatory Finish Gates which the yachts must cross. These virtual gates provide options to shorten the course, and with the fleet’s slow progress, the leg would end at the third gate.

The race results will be based on the crossing times of this gate, with the final results known once Quindío completes the course.

Once crossing this gate, the teams then motor-sail the remaining 934nm to Flamenco Island Marina where they will make their transit to the Caribbean Sea. Once together, it will be race time again with the next finish line in Bermuda.

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The Clipper Round the World Yacht 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 2019-20 Clipper Race got underway September 1 for the fleet of eleven identical Tony Castro designed Clipper 70s. As the most subscribed round the world race, the 12th edition had attracted 688 crew representing 43 nationalities for the 41,000+ nm course.

However, when the fleet arrived in Asia, the COVID-19 pandemic blocked the fleet from the planned routes in China. The 11 Clipper 70s have remained at Subic Bay Yacht Club in the Philippines since March 2020 after organizers and Race Crew were forced to return home due to pandemic restrictions, with the restart taking place in March 2022.

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