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Clipper Race Fleet Bids Farewell To Spinnakers As Winds Shift

14th February 2018
The fleet positions as of noon Irish time/UTC on Wednesday 14 February The fleet positions as of noon Irish time/UTC on Wednesday 14 February

#ClipperRace - The two Chinese teams in the 2017-18 Clipper Race continue to lead the race to their home country on Day 15 of Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya.

Shifting winds have meant that many in the fleet have had to take down spinnakers, but the teams are continuing to maintain excellent speeds towards the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.

Qingdao maintains its position on top with some 1,465 nautical miles to go as of noon Irish time/UTC. Skipper Chris Kobusch reports: “The wind has shifted to the north and we are now sailing upwind at our preferred angle of 45 degrees heel.”

While he jokes about what living at an angle means for living conditions below deck, Kobusch adds: “At least we are still sailing into the right direction at good speeds and the on-deck sailing is great fun.”

It has felt like Groundhog Day as opposed to Valentine’s Day for second-placed Sanya Serenity Coast skipper Wendy Tuck, but less than 40nm further back in third, PSP Logistics skipper Matt Mitchell is enjoying changing weather conditions.

“Progress has been great and we are rarely below 12 knots at the moment with white sails up, sailing a slightly higher wind angle as we negotiate the next weather system making its way across the fleet,” he says.

Demonstrating how localised the conditions appear to be, fourth-placed Dare To Lead skipper Dale Smyth is feeling frustrated with his progress, commenting: “We have been caught up in a massive rain squall and it has now left us drifting in a huge windless hole while we can literally feel the competition sailing away from us.”

Further north in the leading pack, sixth-placed Unicef has progressed much better and moved up as high as fifth place earlier today, though with the wind a little far forward and strengthening, the team is proceeding under white sails without spinnakers.

Liverpool 2018, meanwhile, had slipped a position to sixth before reclaiming fifth, and had a strange encounter with a long line buoy, although it did not cause the team any problems.

Visit Seattle is currently leading the chasing pack in seventh place, 200nm behind the lead boat, but skipper Nikki Henderson reports: “Unfortunately we have just slowed right down — the trades are weakening. Doing our best to stay ahead of Garmin [in eighth] which is sailing excellently. It’s feeling less and less likely that we are going to be able to catch the guys ahead but — hey ho — it’s not so bad out here anyway.”

Another team struggling with the weakening winds is ninth-placed, with skipper Conall Morrison explaining: “Last night we got caught in a patch of light winds that does not seem to have affected the rest of the fleet and so have lost some ground. We've been through our suite of spinnakers today and have settled on the Code 3 (heavyweight spinnaker) for now.”

Further back in 10th place is Nasdaq, though skipper Rob Graham is pleased that his team is settling into a well-established routine.

“Just helming and trimming for small fluctuations in the wind, and sail changes according to larger changes. We have safely crossed the Mariana Trench (the world's deepest patch of water) without being gobbled up by any of the weird creatures that live down there.”

Having taken a more easterly route, GREAT Britain is in 11th position and is back on track after retrieving one of its spinnakers from underneath the boat.

Skipper David Hartshorn explains: “After some brilliant team work and some lateral thinking and a good hour and a half’s hard work, the Code 2 (mediumweight spinnaker) was back on board. It will sadly not be joining us for the rest of this race -- the damage is just a bit too much to repair while at sea.

“The best part of this whole event was the debrief, which was really positive with five different learning outcomes and, most importantly of all, the “why” of each outcome was nailed.”

While the veering east-southeast to southeast winds will decrease steadily over the next 24 hours, the good news for the fleet is that the northeast monsoon winds are expected to return around the Luzon Strait in the coming days to help push the teams towards Sanya.

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