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Relief For China-Bound Clipper Race Fleet As Trade Winds Bring Gear Shift

11th February 2018
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Santa Serenity Coast’s crew caught in a squall Santa Serenity Coast’s crew caught in a squall Photo: Clipper Ventures

#ClipperRace - Relief is the overriding emotion among the Clipper Race fleet on Day 12 of Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race as the trade winds which continue to boost progress at the front have now also kicked in for the western-positioned teams, bringing a change of gear and mentality boost in this hot, testing race.

PSP Logistics came out of Stealth Mode overnight in the lead position, positioned furthest north in the fleet. Skipper Matt Mitchell explains: “We’ve been making great progress in secret squirrel mode, with speeds in the low teens constantly. Once the squalls were out of the way yesterday we had a brilliant run with clear sky and very stable wind. It definitely made all the light wind and waiting worthwhile!”

“Today has been another fast-paced day although we have just had a squall pass overhead that had a little over 30 knots of wind under it,” he adds. “We kept the Code 3 (heavyweight spinnaker) up and rode the boost that it gave us, an hour of 15 knots plus boat speed to really push us on our way! We are expecting the wind to remain as it is until we get to the Philippines so fingers crossed there will be nothing to slow us down too much.”

Qingdao, positioned in the centre of the fleet is now second, and Sanya Serenity Coast is third. Sanya skipper Wendy Tuck explains that it’s not only the trade winds progress that has brought relief over the past 24 hours.

“Yesterday after the blog was sent off, we started to get into squally land. The first one didn’t bring much, the second one bought a heap of rain, a little increase in wind but rain, glorious rain, the deck was awash with soapy suds and general splashing around, it was truly glorious. It got to the point that I was a little cold, never thought I would say that on this leg, and it was a treat.”

The best progress continues to be made by the teams in the central and eastern positions of the fleet, where boast speeds are currently averaging 11 knots. Unicef is in fourth, Dare to Lead in fifth and Liverpool 2018 in sixth.

However, the three teams that went west to get the Scoring Gate points have now finally joined in the trade winds party.

Visit Seattle in seventh leads the western trio where boat speeds have picked up to almost 9 knots, with skipper Nikki Henderson reporting: “This morning the wind finally filled in. Not from where it was forecast to (we are getting pretty used to that around here) but near enough. And it's been consistent - and it came with no rain!”

Another skipper enjoying the relief that squalls bring, Henderson adds: “Every other wind we have had for the last — what is it — four days has come with torrential downpours. They are absolute bliss. We had one yesterday afternoon just before dinner and dusk. You have no idea how fantastic it feels after baking all day in the sun, and sleeping in pools of sweat, to have 8/8 cloud cover, cool breeze and rain.

“I've got to say though, despite the wind holes and the heat we are all well aware that in a month's time when we are in Qingdao about to cross the Pacific and it's minus something degrees, we will look back at this fondly.”

Garmin skipper Gaëtan Thomas, positioned just behind Visit Seattle in the west, in ninth position, is pleased to be finally making progress.

“Since a few hours ago we are finally moving! I thought our destiny was to stay around here forever! The race isn't finished yet, so we still hoping to get some positions back, a bit of breeze definitely would help. At least we are less suffocated with a bit of air circulating inside the boat.

“I am impressed how well the team is working together in this heat, when sleeping is difficult, when losing positions can affect the morale, my pirates are still joking, still fighting, still smiling and I am proud of them.”

Conall Morrison’s HotelPlanner.com is up one position in eighth place and Nasdaq is 10th, but with their first Clipper Race bonus point from the Scoring Gate. GREAT Britain, meanwhile, is currently in Stealth Mode following a 247-nautical-mile run in the past 24 hours. Skipper David Hartshorn says: “The sailing this end at the moment is GREAT. It’s been worth the wait and the long slog over the last fortnight. Code 3 (heavyweight kite) is up, still a pretty flat sea, squall activity has significantly died off in the last 24 hours.

“The Velocity Made Good (VMG) towards Sanya is at last beginning to start spinning at nearly the same rate as the boat speed. The crew are really working hard at helming and trimming, which is beginning to pay off for us. The development of the crew has been impressive, lots of support between themselves, it’s been exciting to watch their confidence and skills grow.”

With the reefs and islands north of Papua New Guinea now out of the way, teams are aiming for the next waypoint of this race, north of the Philippines, some 1,600nm ahead of the leading team, and will pass over the Mariana Trench — the deepest area of ocean on the planet, greater than the highest mountains in the Himalayas.

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