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Irish Clipper Skipper Hopes For Building Wind As Race Fleet Nears Taiwan

7th March 2018
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Conall Morrison is three days into the current all-Chinese leg of the 2017-18 Clipper Race Conall Morrison is three days into the current all-Chinese leg of the 2017-18 Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - It’s been a busy 24 hours in the Clipper Race onboard HotelPlanner.com, according to Derry-Londonderry skipper Conall Morrison.

“As the wind has freshened significantly we are now on Yankee 3, staysail and reefs in and out of the mainsail,” said Afloat.ie’s Sailor of the Month for Seamanship in December earlier today, Wednesday 7 March.

“The night also saw quite a bit of commercial traffic as we passed 70 miles south of Hong Kong (hello to sister Ruth, nephew Kieran and brother in-law Simon!). We have also encountered a fair few fishing vessels.

“Today the sun has poked its head out again and we find ourselves the most northerly boat of the fleet. Here’s hoping the wind backs as forecast and helps us make up a few miles to the boats ahead.”

HotelPlanner.com was part of the chasing pack this morning though it was slipped from seventh to ninth place as its northerly bearing puts it further away from destination Qingdao.

Elsewhere, there’s been a reshuffle at the top after the fleet spent another busy night avoiding fishing vessels and dealing with strengthening winds.

PSP Logistics regained the lead on Day 3 of the 1,700 nautical mile Race 8: The Sailing City Qingdao Cup, with Skipper Matt Mitchell enjoying the change in conditions.

“During the day and overnight last night, the wind picked up nicely giving us a little taster of things to come. At one point we were even down to three reefs!

“Our northerly route seems to be paying off, tacking just outside Hong Kong was quite interesting as it was pretty busy up there, however we've had a nice lift and are more or less making the little virtual mark that we have to leave to port, before making our way up to Taiwan.”

Sanya Serenity Coast, which in contrast to PSP Logistics has deviated south of the rhumb line, dropped from first to second place after experiencing an action packed last 24 hours.

Skipper Wendy Tuck explains: “We just used up two more of our get out of jail cards. Eagle eye young Michael Davis just noticed that the top two slides on the main sail had just come off.

“A second get out of jail card was used whilst Michael and I were up sewing and sitting on the main. We saw a fishing boat acting strangely, and before we could do anything, we saw his drift net. Somehow we managed to sail straight over the top of it and not pick it up. Huge sigh of relief by all on deck.”

GREAT Britain made the most of the arrival of the Northeast Trades to cover the most nautical miles overnight Irish time and retake third place, with Liverpool 2018 dropping to fourth.

However, Liverpool 2018 skipper Lance Shepherd is more concerned about the conditions, reporting: “It would seem at present the weather is pretty much doing as forecast if a little breezier than expected at times.

“However, we are heading as planned to waypoint ‘Howard’ then across to the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.”

The leading pack is approximately 100 nautical miles from beginning the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, which will earn the top three fastest teams up to three crucial bonus points.

Nikki Henderson, skipper of the fifth placed Visit Seattle, is feeling good about where her team is at after seeing how the crew handled the building breeze.

“We had our first taste of upwind sailing with gusts of 40 knots - not forecast - and quite a shock. It was good fun - great to have some action after quite a mundane race from the Whitsundays in Australia. Wind has now subsided and we are making good ground to the next waypoint.”

Unicef is in sixth place again today but did make some gains overnight, climbing as high as fourth place at one point. Dare To Lead is just a mile behind in seventh, while Garmin and HotelPlanner.com continue their duel some 25nm behind them.

Qingdao in 10th and Nasdaq in 11th are around 100 nautical miles behind the lead boat. After a day spent battling a confused sea state, Nasdaq skipper Rob Graham comments: “We had originally planned to make a long tack north before heading east, but with more fishing boats the closer we came inshore, we felt we were losing too much hard-earned ground by having to dodge around them.

“So instead we’ve made some shorter tacks further south where there is less fishing activity and the deeper water seems slightly less lumpy.”

The upwind battle is set to continue for some time yet. While the winds are expected to ease over the next 24 hours, Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell is predicting the Northeast Trades to begin building tomorrow afternoon, local time.

As they approach the southern tip of Taiwan, the teams can expect strong gusts of between 40 knots to the low 50s, particularly if they are in the midst of a north-going current.

MacDara Conroy

About The Author

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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