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Clipper Race Leading Pack Turns West For Home Stretch To Sanya

18th February 2018
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Concentrating hard on board Sanya Serenity Coast Concentrating hard on board Sanya Serenity Coast Photo: Clipper Ventures

#ClipperRace - For the sixth day in a row, Qingdao maintains its lead over the rest of its competitors at the front of the Clipper Race fleet, as the leading pack turns to the west for the final 700 nautical miles to Sanya.

On Day 19 of Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race, the teams are concentrating on maintaining focus, working hard and holding their spinnakers while navigating the busy waters of the South China Sea.

On board Qingdao, skipper Chris Kobusch reports: “PSP Logistics is hot on our heels though and Sanya Serenity Coast plus Dare To Lead are closing in too. 640nm to the finish and again the racing is incredibly tight. Every little mistake can cost a position, but hopefully we can stay focused and concentrated on the home stretch and, with a little bit of luck, a podium position might be in sight. Fingers crossed!”

PSP Logistics is close behind and less than 50 nautical miles is all that separates the two teams after 19 days of racing.

Despite reporting that the team faced some interesting conditions last night, including a lumpy sea state, skipper Matt Mitchell said: “Progress is good and we are pointing in more or less the right direction. The next few days will tell though as I don't think any of the leading boats can sail directly to Sanya, meaning both gains and losses will be made on the gybe angles that we choose to take.”

Dare To Lead retains third place and a potential podium finish. Skipper Dale Smyth said: “Well a good fast night under spinnaker after the wind came through from the north east. We are currently approaching the north end of the Philippine Islands and nightfall should see us through into the China Sea and around 700 nautical miles left.

“It feels like it’s getting close now but we still need to keep concentrating and keep our focus up for the last few days.”

For Sanya Serenity Coast, currently fourth, the hope for a podium finish into its home port is still within reach. Skipper Wendy Tuck said: “We are now on that final run for the finish. We do have our work cut out for us to catch those boats in front of us, but we never give up and the team is pumped to give it their best shot. Morale is great on board, everyone is working well and the boat is sailing well.”

The steady winds from the north have meant settled conditions for the most northerly yacht, fifth-placed Unicef. Only the next few days will tell whether its positioning pays off for the downwind run to Sanya compared to that of Liverpool 2018 over 100nm to the south but only 17nm behind on the leaderboard in sixth.

The chasing pack is still in the midst of the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint. Visit Seattle, though leading the charge in seventh, is only just breaking free of the wind hole that hampered progress yesterday. Skipper Nikki Henderson said: “Another sprint - aka another driftathon. We have just started edging forwards after 12 hours in a hole.”

Garmin has opted to activate Stealth Mode and so is hidden its position from its competitors until 6am Irish time/UTC tomorrow morning (Monday 19 February) and means Conall Morrison’s HotelPlanner.com moves into eighth on the leaderboard.

For Nasdaq at ninth and GREAT Britain at 10th, however, the later start to the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint has meant that they are experiencing better conditions than some of the fleet.

Nasdaq skipper Rob Graham said: “We’ve been having a good run across our Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint: we started last night under Code 1 (lightweight spinnaker), then the wind filled in from the north east for us and we’re trucking along under the Code 3 (heavyweight spinnaker).”

GREAT Britain skipper Dave Hartshorn is also pleased with his team’s progress and is holding hope to pick up some of the bonus points on offer.

“Now on an athletics track, you would not want to be last out of the blocks for a sprint, however beginning the last boat over the start line on this occasion may have its advantages,” he said. “Time will tell, as the winds look pretty consistent for the next 30 hours or so with good wind speeds and angles.”

Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell reports that the north-easterlies are coming through now and over the next 24 hours they should veer and ease.

For the yachts still east of the Luzon Strait, they will see this affect more so than those to the west. Then as the high-pressure system that is driving the wind goes further east, it will leave less steady breeze for two to three days before the next batch fills in again.

MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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