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Dare To Lead Steals Maiden Victory In Clipper Race To Panama

18th May 2018
Dare to Lead slipped over the revised finish line while in Stealth Mode, hidden from the rest of the fleet Dare to Lead slipped over the revised finish line while in Stealth Mode, hidden from the rest of the fleet Photo: Clipper Ventures

#ClipperRace - One of the closest races so far in the 2017-18 Clipper Race ended in a surprise win for Dare To Lead, after the team pulled off an eleventh-hour victory in Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge from Seattle, USA to Panama.

Race 10 was dominated by light winds, which compressed the fleet and resulted in the teams being in either visual or AIS range for the majority of the race south down the western USA and Mexican coasts.

However, a decision to remain west in the last 24 hours of the race, rather than hug the Mexican coastline with the rest of the Clipper Race fleet, paid off for Dare To Lead — with the team breaking away from the main pack while in Stealth Mode to cross the finish line at 1059 UTC yesterday, Thursday 18 May.

Skipper Dale Smyth said: “We took a gamble in the dark going into Stealth Mode so close to Mandatory Gate 2 and really had to work hard to get ahead of the lead pack.

“After emerging from [Wednesday’s] wind hole, we encountered a strange headwind that blew almost 18 knots. We went to our Yankee 1 and staysail for the first time on this whole race and started beating to weather. The crew worked really hard and managed to leverage some advantage over the lead pack. I’m really proud of everyone on board and they definitely deserve this win.

“It really has been an amazing race, incredible to think that after thousands of miles that the teams remained so close together for most of the race. We made and lost marginal gains on each other and it really kept us on our toes and focussed on boat speed.”

In a result that will delight its home port, Visit Seattle secured second place after holding off a challenge from GREAT Britain.

Despite racing over 3,000 nautical miles and 18 days, less than an hour separated the two boats at the finish.

Skipper Nikki Henderson and her Visit Seattle crew were highly competitive throughout the race down the western USA and Mexican coastlines, with the team never dropping out of the top three. And Visit Seattle kept up the pressure right until the end, following race winner Dare To Lead across the finish line at 0031 UTC this morning, Friday 18 May.

Skipper Nikki Henderson said: “What a finish! The last 24 hours have been such tight racing - and so tense.

“Really testing light-wind conditions that required immense levels of concentration and commitment - on the helm, trimming and tactically. This morning (anyone who has sailed with me will know these moments) I think we did about 10 gybes in an hour - just trying to work out which was the better course for wind and direction.

“To finish so close is testament to the quality of sailing and racing that we have had over the last year, and particularly this race.”

The heat, light and variable winds, especially in the Intertropical Convergence Zone, were a constant challenge for those aboard Visit Seattle throughout Race 10.

“There was definitely luck involved as there always is in sailing, but the crew worked so so hard and they deserve the second place,” Henderson added.

"It really has been an amazing race, incredible to think that after thousands of miles that the teams remained so close together for most of the race"

As well as the 11 points for finishing second, Visit Seattle will also add four bonus points to its Race 10 tally after picking up two points in the Scoring Gate and one point for being third fastest in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.

The 15 points will keep the pressure on the race leaders, Sanya Serenity Coast and Qingdao, as Visit Seattle went into Race 10 in third place in the overall Clipper Race

GREAT Britain pulled of the ultimate comeback by taking the third and final spot on the podium. On the final full day of racing, GREAT Britain was in eighth place but navigated the light winds skilfully to cross the line 53 minutes behind Visit Seattle at 0124 UTC.

GREAT Britain skipper Dave Hartshorn said: “That was a great race and the GREAT Britain team never gave up, even when we were behind in the rankings.

“Racing in such light conditions is a lesson in patience and everyone onboard pulled together and thoroughly deserve this success.”

This is the second podium finish for GREAT Britain, with the team also securing second place in Race 3 from Cape Town, South Africa, to Fremantle, Australia. The ten points for finishing third will be a big boost for GREAT Britain, which went into Race 10 from Seattle to Panama in seventh place in the overall standings.

Half an hour behind GREAT Britain was Garmin (0156 UTC), followed minutes later by Santa Serenity Coast (0203 UTC) in fifth and, skippered by Irish helm Conall Morrison, in sixth at 0215 UTC.

Demonstrating just how tight the fleet was compressed at the end, Qingdao and PSP Logistics crossed the line at the same time at 0217 UTC.

Rounding out the early arrivals, Unicef finished at 0301 UTC, while Nasdaq followed six hours later at 0922 UTC. Liverpool 2018 continue racing to the finish line, with 36nm to go as of 1000 UTC.

Although the original finish line for Race 10 was in an area due south of Isla Jicaron in Panama, the Clipper Race Committee informed all 11 teams that Mandatory Gate 2 would instead signal race end.

As outlined in the Race 10 Course Instructions, any of the mandatory gates could have been used as a potential finish line should the Race Committee deem it necessary to conclude the race in interest of the race and crew.

Clipper Race director Mark Light said: “We had been keeping a close eye on the weather as the fleet moved further south and watching the conditions ahead of. In between Mandatory Gates 2 and 3 we could see a big wind hole opening up with very little breeze for the next two or three days.

“Therefore, the only sensible option was to finish Race 10 at Mandatory Gate 2, rather than have the fleet drifting aimlessly and trying desperately to get to the next gate.

“The race south from Seattle to this point had been really competitive, with close racing all the way, lots of spinnaker work and really good breeze. We didn’t want the race to turn into a massive drift at the end.”

After crossing the finish line, the Clipper Race fleet will motor sail towards a scheduled re-fuel stop in Costa Rica, before continuing on to Flamenco Island Marina on the Pacific Ocean side of the Panama Canal.

After traversing the Panama Canal – one of the real highlights of the circumnavigation – the Clipper Race fleet will regroup to begin the second and final stage of the US Coast-to-Coast Leg 7, a 2,000nm race from Panama to New York, which will begin on Friday 3 June.

Published in Clipper Race
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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