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Too Close To Call As Clipper Race Fleet Nears Fastnet Mark

25th July 2018
Qingdao keeps a close eye on the competition off Ireland’s West Coast Qingdao keeps a close eye on the competition off Ireland’s West Coast Photo: Clipper Ventures

#ClipperRace - The 13th and final stage of the 2017-18 Clipper Race remains anyone’s, with the fleet still tightly packed as the upwind beat down the western Irish coast continues.

And with now less than 36 hours left until the teams reach Liverpool, the battle for the overall win and illustrious Clipper Race Trophy between Visit Seattle and Sanya Serenity Coast is starting to heat up, with the two boats still virtually neck-and-neck on Day 3 of Race 13 (Wednesday 25 July).

After dropping in the standings yesterday, Visit Seattle worked hard overnight to move back in touch with the main chasing pack. Skipper Nikki Henderson explained this morning: “Life feels brighter today. We have been thinking and trimming and driving this boat like we have never done before and bit by bit yesterday we managed to make up some ground back to the fleet.

“We are now joined by Sanya Serenity Coast, Dare To Lead, and PSP Logistics in the middle pack - so it’s a fight to stay in fifth at the moment.”

While the four leading teams – Liverpool 2018, Qingdao, Unicef and Garmin – are all still in AIS range, Henderson was concerned time is running out to make a move.

“The four up ahead will be hard to catch once we turn the corner of Virtual Mark Fastnet. They will crack off their sails and zoom along at probably 10-12 knots whilst the rest of us slog it out at 7-8 in the wrong direction. So still thinking, trimming, and driving to see if we can make it there first! In the words of Dory: ‘Just keep sailing, just keep sailing, sailing, sailing.’”

Sanya Serenity Coast is also having to put in the hard yards to keep the competition in check. Skipper Wendy Tuck commented: “Again it’s been an up and down day and night. Sometimes we do OK, then sometimes we don’t do so OK. But all is well on the mighty Sanya Serenity Coast.

“Overnight the breeze picked up a little more so it’s back to living on the north edge, good thing the green monster has left the boat.”

Despite veering away from the main pack yesterday after being hit by a wind-shift whilst tacking, Liverpool 2018 is right back in the thick of things leading the pack. But with just 17 nautical miles between the first four boats, skipper Lance Shepherd isn’t getting carried away.

“It is so tight I think the positions will be contently changing right up until the finish line,” he said.

The currently third-placed Unicef is eyeing up a podium position, with skipper Bob Beggs reporting: “We are now about a third of our way between Virtual Mark Siraut and Virtual Mark Fastnet and we are engaged in a great battle out here heading for Liverpool in this, our final race. The fleet is very tight and really any boat may have a chance of winning.

“The weather has been kind in this latter part of the race and after tonight's blow passes through, the weather forecast is promising some great light wind spinnaker action via St Georges Channel and the Irish Sea.”

As the finish line draws closer, realisation is dawning about just what the teams have accomplished over the last eleven months. Dare To Lead skipper Dale Smyth said: “Sailing against the 10 other skippers has been such a pleasure and challenge. Each skipper individually has become a close colleague and friend as we have travelled around the world racing each other.

“Individually, each of us has our own style and personality and although we sail our hearts out against each other, we have really had each other to rely on for the last year. It is comforting to know that any one of the eleven would stop racing instantly to come to your assistance if need be.

“Skippering in a Clipper Race is a lonely role in some respects, carrying the responsibility of these 70-foot machines full of people and their hopes and dreams, in a hugely hostile environment. We have truly had a group of Skippers that have supported and been there for each other and I would like to express my deepest thanks to all of you individually for your friendship, support, and competition this year.”

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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About the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is undoubtedly one of the greatest ocean adventures on the planet, also regarded as one of its toughest endurance challenges. Taking almost a year to complete, it consists of eleven teams competing against each other on the world’s largest matched fleet of 70-foot ocean racing yachts.

The Clipper Race was established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo, non-stop, around the world in 1968-69. His aim was to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience, the chance to embrace the thrill of ocean racing; it is the only event of its kind for amateur sailors. Around 40 per cent of crew are novices and have never sailed before starting a comprehensive training programme ahead of their adventure.

This unique challenge brings together everyone from chief executives to train drivers, nurses and firefighters, farmers, airline pilots and students, from age 18 upwards, to take on Mother Nature’s toughest and most remote conditions. There is no upper age limit, the oldest competitor to date is 76.

Now in its twelfth edition, the Clipper 2019-20 Race started from London, UK, on 02 September 2019.

 

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