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#ClipperRace - After days of speculation and carefully monitoring the looming wind hole off the coast of Mexico last week, it seems the Clipper Race fleet was let off lightly by the wind gods, with many teams experiencing a shorter time than first predicted in the windless zone.

On Sunday 13 May, Day 13 of Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge, most of the pack is back into breeze and making good headway south towards the first mandatory gate.

Bob Beggs, skipper of Unicef, reports: “The wind hole and light winds of yesterday have been replaced by an almost perfect wind direction and strength. We are making great progress to the south in company with the Clipper Race fleet and the racing is good.”

As the fleet remains compressed, with less than 28 nautical miles separating the top eight teams, there has been change on the leaderboard with the biggest jump coming from Unicef, which is up into second place from fifth, while Conall Morrison’s HotelPlanner.com is right in the thick of it in seventh position.

Dale Smyth — skipper of Dare To Lead, which now sits in third place — says: “Well, we finally got caught by the bulk of the fleet today as we drifted around on a windless sea. It is essentially a race restart as we are all within close proximity of one another now.”

Despite growing pressure from the rest of the fleet, Qingdao has maintained its lead, which it has only lost for one day so far during the Garmin American Challenge.

Skipper Chris Kobusch reports: “We managed to put some miles between us and Visit Seattle and Dare To Lead, but then Unicef caught up and is now less than 10 nautical miles behind us. It must be great to watch on the race viewer, but for us on the boats it is nerve-wracking.

“Every time we lose the wind and the other boats get closer we fear for our lead, and every time we catch some breeze and pull away again the hopes of keeping the lead are back again. As it looks, we will have this light wind lottery until the end of the race. Hopefully we will be lucky.”

Over on Liverpool 2018, which scooped the final bonus point for crossing the Scoring Gate in third place yesterday, tactics seem to have paid off, at least in the short term.

Skipper Lance Shepherd explains: “The crew is in high spirits as our plan to come south on the western side of the wind hole gave us a 50nm or so gain on the lead pack, but still a long way to go and work our way east.

“It looks like the wind is filling in for the others now so our catch-up rate will reduce but were battling on in hope.”

As the breeze continues to fill in, the questions of whether or not to stick with the inshore tactic will be at the forefront for skippers and their crews.

PSP Logistics skipper Matt Mitchell is remaining quietly confident about his team’s position further offshore and says: “It will be interesting to see what happens here as the guys closer inshore now may have to gybe early which could put them at a disadvantage.

“It's going to be a painful few days as this breeze we have isn't set to last too long. Fingers crossed we can still make good progress!”

Over the coming days, Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell is expecting the conditions to remain largely the same with light patches, though a reasonable overall flow will help the teams proceed south.

Published in Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - The forecasted light wind has arrived and is slowing the progress of the Clipper Race fleet as it races past San Francisco on Friday 4 May, Day 4 of the 4,100-nautical-mile Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge from Seattle to Panama.

While the wind hole didn’t spare any of the teams, Qingdao’s lead remains uncontested for a fourth consecutive day.

However, it was a frustrating one for the frontrunners, as skipper Chris Kobusch explains: “It has been a long 24 hours with the wind dropping off almost completely, resulting in us standing still for a while. We then tried the different sails, one by one, to get us moving again.

“Unfortunately, the rest of the fleet had more success than us and kept catching up over the course of the day. Luckily, we got the breeze back just after dinnertime and we are now sailing under spinnaker in more or less the right direction again.”

In order to keep moving, the entire fleet has gybed as far east as possible in an attempt to benefit from any inshore gusts off the Californian coastline. Dare To Lead has moved into second place, but is neck-and-neck with Visit Seattle in third.

Dare To Lead skipper Dale Smyth comments: “We are currently pushing through a light patch but hopefully as we gain some southing the wind will increase some more. We are still very bunched up as a fleet at the moment, so all is still to play for.”

Visit Seattle skipper Nikki Henderson has been enjoying the cat-and-mouse game with Dare To Lead and is also thrilled with how her team has been handling the tough conditions.

“The crew has been sailing absolutely brilliantly. There is nowhere to hide in light wind sailing; the standard of helming and trimming on board is really great which is reflected in how well the boat is moving.”

With fewer than 74 nautical miles separating first from 11th, Dare To Lead and Visit Seattle aren’t the only teams which are literally in sight of each other.

Conall Morrison, skipper of HotelPlanner.com which is currently in sixth place, reports: “We were down to less than 5 knots which required the breaking out of the Windseeker for a few hours. We have three other Clipper 70 boats in visual range, and the racing remains tight.”

The light and variable winds have had one positive, with the slower pace giving those onboard time to appreciate the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.

Garmin skipper Gaetan Thomas says: “Now it is pitch black night, no moon (yet), no stars, it is beautiful. You can just see the boat and the spinnaker which is illuminated by our steaming light in the darkness, especially when it is flat sea and you are just moving after few hours drifting along. You have the breeze, but not many waves, and when the spinnaker is well trimmed and stable, you just hear the water going through the hull and nothing else!”

In good news for the fleet, the teams will continue to keep picking up speed as they travel down the Californian coast. Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell reports that when the deep low currently pushing the high hits land in a few days’ time, it will create some good southerlies and some long swell to keep the fleet moving south.

Published in Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - There’s been an early win for the Clipper Race teams that opted to stay inshore after the Le Mans start to the 4,100-nautical-mile Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge from Seattle to Panama.

After choosing to head south down the rhumb line under spinnaker, Qingdao remains in first place as of Wednesday afternoon (2 May) and skipper Chris Kobusch reports: “So far we’ve had a good run and it seems staying inshore was the right decision, though the whole fleet is still pretty close together and the race has just started.

“We just have to hope that the northerly breeze stays with us for long enough to sail away from the light winds that follow.”

Less than 50 nautical miles separates the fleet after 48 hours of racing. Third placed Visit Seattle is making the most of the close proximity of other teams, as skipper Nikki Henderson explains: “It got dark a few hours ago and we have seven lights around us with Qingdao providing us with a good helming target right up in front (thanks Chris and team). We are trying to catch them, but as per usual, they are sailing brilliantly.

“There is a lot of miles to cover, so right now we are just soaking up the fact that we have decent wind in anticipation of the looming wind hole in a few days’ time.

The majority of the teams that chose to head offshore gybed closer to the rhumb line overnight, with Sanya Serenity Coast, Dare To Lead, and HotelPlanner.com all climbing in the rankings as a result. 

HotelPlanner.com skipper Conall Morrison comments: “Last night, we were close to Nasdaq gaining a bit, then they pulled away and then gained a bit. However, they gybed inshore later than us and possibly did well. Now we find ourselves close to Sanya Serenity Coast. The breeze is building and we are hoping for fast surfs overnight.”

Nasdaq, Unicef, and GREAT Britain remain the most easterly placed teams and are making the most of the good winds while they last. Nasdaq skipper Rob Graham says: “Our favourable winds continue - the kite is still flying and with a couple of gybes, we are getting south quickly. Nasdaq has already left Washington behind, is making short work of Oregon, and will soon be into California, albeit 100 nautical miles offshore.”

The teams are working hard to get as far down the coast of the Golden State as they can before the lighter winds arrive. Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell reports the current strong gusts are set to ease over the next 24 hours, though rising winds do await off the coast of Baja California in Mexico, just in time for the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.

Published in Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge from Seattle to Panama is officially underway after the Clipper Race fleet had a successful Le Mans start off the northwest coast of the USA yesterday, Monday 30 April. 

A split emerged earlier today (Tuesday 1 May), with one group heading directly south under spinnaker while the other was headed further offshore under white sails.

Visit Seattle, who had the advantage of being the windward boat in the Le Mans start after winning the short course in-port race in Seattle’s Elliot Bay, was closely grouped with PSP Logistics, Qingdao, and Garmin, with all four boats hugging the rhumb line before making a move over the course of today to merge with the offshore group.

Though little separates the teams at this stage, skipper Nikki Henderson is pleased with her team’s start, saying: “Initially the fleet split into two main camps with four of us hoisting our spinnakers and heading south, and the other seven heading southwest under white sails. 

“The wind has now veered to the north-northwest and I would imagine everyone is now flying their Code 2 (Mediumweight Spinnaker) or Code 3 (Heavyweight Spinnaker).

“It's amazing how quickly we fan out and disappear out of view - we have already lost a few boats - just a few white/green/red lights swaying around us.”

Qingdao, which is coming off the high of winning the race across the North Pacific Ocean is currently in first place, and skipper Chris Kobusch is also happy with what he has seen from his team in the early stages of the race.

“The team worked well together, got the Staysail and Yankee 1 up quickly and we therefore had a good start into Race 10. Once the ten minutes, which restrict each team from changing course and sail plan, were up, we got the spinnaker out of its bag and shortly after we were flying along at around 12 knots boat speed on course to the first waypoint.”

GREAT Britain and Unicef are the most easterly of all the eleven teams, with both hoping the early tactical decision will pay off. 

GREAT Britain skipper Dave Hartshorn reported: “We are currently the windward side of the boats, who at the time of writing, are currently still on white sails, heading slightly west of south while another few boats appear to be heading more directly south under kites. 

“This is clearly based on the interpretation of what the high pressure currently influencing our wind will do over the next couple of days. So, it will be interesting to see who has got it right.
“At this moment we are making good speed, about 11 knots, with the full main, stay sail, and Yankee 1 on a fine reach.”

As well as providing some thrilling racing, the US Coast-To-Coast Leg 7 — which is made up of two races, Race 10 from Seattle to Panama and Race 11 from Panama to New York — will also enable the Clipper Race crew to take part in some pioneering scientific research. Visit Seattle has been fitted with a special sensor for Leg 7, which will monitor the effects of ocean acidification around the US coast.

The race to Panama is expected to take approximately 23 to 26 days, with the fleet expected to arrive between 23 and 27 May. The brief stopover will feature one of the highlights of the Clipper 2017-18 Race, the Panama Canal, which sees the teams bid farewell to the Pacific Ocean and re-enter the Atlantic Ocean ahead of the final three races of the circumnavigation.

Published in Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - Forty thousand miles over 11 months is no sweat for Conall Morrison, the Irish skipper of HotelPlanner.com, who spoke to Seattle TV news this week ahead of the Clipper Race’s next leg.

Talking with Q13 Fox’s Ellen Tailor from the deck at Bell Harbor Marina, Afloat.ie’s Sailor of the Month for Seamanship in December explained how returning to dry land after many weeks at sea is an adjustment, to say the least.

“It takes a little bit of getting used to. It’s nice to get some food and some beer and a sleep without rocking [on the waves].”

Morrison admits that taking on novice sailors “does make me nervous” but “it’s all part of the job. Everyone gets four weeks of training before coming on the yacht for the race.

“And then as we go, we have people that are experienced who are crew all the time, and we have people who come for maybe one or two legs, so there’s always a little bit of learning as we go.”

As for preparing to return to sea, the skipper knows what’s required.

“You want to make sure you’re ready. The boat has got to be ready … stuff has got to be fixed. We’ve got to buy food for so many people for so long, and [get] a good night’s sleep before we start.”

Yesterday (Thursday 26 April) saw the crew changeovers ahead of the start of Leg 7 this Sunday (29 April) with Race 10: The USA Coast-to-Coast Leg.

The fleet will be heading back out into the Pacific Ocean, this time sailing south past California and skirting by the Galapagos Islands, before crossing the Panama Canal into the Caribbean and heading north towards New York City.

Published in Clipper Race

Sunday 22 April marks 49 years since Sir Robin Knox-Johnston returned to Falmouth after spending 10-and-a-half months racing solo, non-stop around the world on is yacht Suhaili to win the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race.

Sir Robin, who went on to establish the Clipper Race to enable everyday adventurers to experience the thrill of ocean racing for themselves, reflects on that historic day in 1969.

“The night of the 21 April 1969 was not a restful one for me. I was heading in towards the Lizard, aiming to round it at daybreak on the 22 April, but my route was seriously busy with a couple of hundred French fishing boats square dancing across my path. Half of Brittany seemed to be at sea off the Cornish coast.

“The last couple of days had been busy with boats full of journalists appearing from all directions and demanding comments, a huge contrast to the solitude of the previous 310 days. At times I began to wonder whether I should not turn round and slip away and carry on being what I had become after ten and a half months alone: a creature of the sea with no need for other human company.

“The night was a long one. I did not dare sleep in case a fishing boat misread my paraffin pressure lamp, which was the only navigation light I had left working. Fortunately I had two faithful escorts: Fathomer with my friends aboard, and Queen of the Isles, the Scilly ferry charted by a newspaper. Both kept close to discourage the fishing fleet.

“At daybreak I was off the Lizard and was asked when I thought I would cross the finish line off Black Rock Beacon in Falmouth. The wind was fair and 0900 seemed a sensible ETA. But this created a problem I could not have imagined. A boat closed in and yelled would I slow up please as the Mayor and Mayoress were going to meet me and the Mayoress had a hairdressers’ appointment for 0900.

“I remonstrated. All I wanted was a cigarette (I had run out 40 days before – its will power really!) a pint of bitter, a steak, (I had lived off tinned food for the whole voyage and wanted something I could chew) and a bath, in that order.

“But after all this time away from fellow humans, and as I approached the end, I was losing my usual aggressive response to any threat and I slowed down.

“It was a disastrous mistake. At 0730 a front came through, no forecasts in those days, all I had was a barometer I had stolen from a pub.

“Suhaili does not beat to windward well (neither does her owner!) and the wind was now blowing directly from Falmouth Harbour. The Mayoress had all the time she wanted for her hair appointment, in fact too much, as I did not cross the finish line until 1525 in the afternoon of 22 April, by which time her hair do had been blown away.

“I was tired after two days without sleep but now exhilarated at the thought of getting home. I managed to avoid contact (except with the BBC launch) with the fleet of boats that had come out to escort me in and headed for the finish.

“But as I crossed the finish line at the entrance to Falmouth Harbour, which I had last passed on the 14 June 1968, a large customs launch came alongside and two immaculate customs officers jumped aboard my poor battered little boat and gave the usual greeting. ‘Good afternoon, captain,’ they said, ‘where from?’

“There was only one answer. ‘Falmouth!’ I responded.”

Nine sailors started the Golden Globe race; and amid various retirements and boat breakages plus the well-documented loss at sea of Donald Crowhurst (Robin ended up donating his £5,000 prize money to a fund supporting Crowhurst’s family), Sir Robin Knox was the only entrant to complete it.

The 30,000-mile voyage in his sturdy 32ft yacht Suhaili took 312 days, and Sir Robin returned to Falmouth on April 22 1969 as a modern hero, with his achievement remaining one of the most significant small boat sailing achievements in history.

Thursday 14 June marks the 50th anniversary of the day Sir Robin departed from Falmouth on his now historic voyage. To celebrate this achievement. a special Suhaili Falmouth 50 Parade of Sail is set to take place. 

The three-day commemorative event, organised by the Falmouth Town Team and the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club, promises to be quite a spectacle.

Sir Robin will sail in to Falmouth aboard Suhaili on Monday 11 June, joined by two other historic solo circumnavigators — Sir Francis Chichester’s Gipsy Moth IV, and Sir Alec Rose’s Lively Lady — together with the entire fleet of yachts and skippers who are preparing to take part in a 50th anniversary race, established in tribute to Sir Robin’s historic voyage.

The 2018 Golden Globe Race will start on Sunday 1 July from Les Sables-d’Olonne in France. In contrast to the current professional world of elite ocean racing, and even the corinthian spirit of the current Clipper Race, this tribute race is designed to celebrate the ‘Golden Age’ of solo sailing. 

In a solo, non-stop around the world race, via the five Great Capes, returning to Les Sables-d’Olonne, entrants will be limited to sailing similar yachts and equipment to what was available to Sir Robin.

The challenge is pure and very raw. Competitors will be navigating with sextant on paper charts, without electronic instruments or autopilots. They will hand-write their logs and determine the weather for themselves. Only occasionally will they talk to loved ones and the outside world when long-range high frequency and ham radios allow. 

It is now possible to race a monohull solo around the world in under 80 days, but sailors entered in this race will spend around 300 days at sea in little boats, challenging themselves and each other.

Published in Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - The leading Clipper Race teams have entered into what could be their final full day of the epic 5,600-nautical-mile marathon across the North Pacific Ocean to Seattle. 

But with a wind hole between them and the Finish Line, the end of Race 9: Race to the Emerald City isn’t going to be simple.

After popping out of Stealth Mode yesterday (Tuesday 17 April), Qingdao remains in the lead for a seventh consecutive day, though Sanya Serenity Coast and Unicef are close behind in second and third. 

Qingdao skipper Chris Kobusch reports: “We are still on track to Seattle and we made good progress over the past 24 hours. The breeze is softening though and the feared wind hole in front of the finish line seems to come closer and closer.

“But the mood on board is good and the motivation high to defend our current position.”

Sanya Serenity Coast managed to keep in check of Qingdao throughout the 48 hours of Stealth Mode, with the gap between first and second now just 20nm. 

Skipper Wendy Tuck says: “This last 200nm is not going to be a walk in the park. Just to keep us on our toes, there is a lovely big light patch caused by a nice-looking high coming from the land. We also have a ridge following the last low that wants to catch up to us and swallow us in a wind hole. It would be nice if it was just straight forward for once, but then, what’s the fun in that hey?”

Just 40nm astern of the lead, Unicef is also making good progress, though skipper Bob Beggs is wary of the wind hole ahead.

“The forecast promises good and reasonable wind overnight but a looming wind hole is due to drop on us about 60 nautical miles from the finish just to mix things up. The next weather forecast is due in a few hours and I look forward to seeing some change in the prognosis.”

The trio in front can’t afford to make any mistakes, with both HotelPlanner.com and PSP Logistics pushing hard in fourth and fifth respectively. 

The pair have had each other in sight on AIS for the past 24 hours and PSP Logistics skipper Matt Mitchell is also eyeing off the teams around 100nm ahead, saying: “Running some simulations on the Nav PC has suggested our finish time to be only an hour after a couple of the leaders so this race could take an interesting turn right at the end.”

As of this morning, Wednesday 18 April, four teams — Dare To Lead, Liverpool 2018, Nasdaq, and Visit Seattle — remain in Stealth Mode. After 26 days at sea, thoughts are starting to turn towards the pleasures of port, with Visit Seattle skipper Nikki Henderson commenting: “Ah Seattle, you are going to be SO popular.”

Meanwhile, GREAT Britain is due to finish its Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint today. Once GREAT Britain crosses the eastern gate, the Clipper Race Office will determine which teams were the fastest and will be awarding the precious three, two and one bonus points.

Published in Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - On Day 23 (Monday 16 April) of Race 9: Race to the Emerald City, the leading Clipper Race teams have rounded the final waypoint of the 5,600 nautical mile marathon across the North Pacific Ocean, and are now racing directly towards the finish line and Seattle.

Or that’s what they are most likely doing, as both Sanya Serenity Coast and Unicef, who were sitting in second and third place yesterday, have opted to go into Stealth Mode for 48 hours.

For the first time in the Clipper 2017-18 Race, the teams have the option to use two 24-hour periods of Stealth Mode. These can be used either separately or concurrently to give 48 continuous hours of being hidden from both public view and from the view of the other Clipper Race teams. The Clipper Race Office will remain in constant contact with all boats in Stealth Mode and receive regular position reports.

Explaining her team’s decision to go off the grid for 48 hours, Sanya Serenity Coast skipper Wendy Tuck said: “The race to the Emerald City is on. Qingdao, Unicef and us are all within cooee of each other. This is amazing after so many days and miles covered — with an uncertain forecast anything can happen.

“The boats behind us will have an advantage of seeing us if we hit a light patch and be able to avoid it, so this is anyone’s race still, no letting up at all. So, we have gone into sneaky Stealth Mode. We are creeping along and who knows where we will turn up next.”

There was similar reasoning for taking the full 48 hours in one go on board Unicef, and skipper Bob Beggs is hoping to make the most of his time in Stealth Mode.

“The mighty North Pacific just keeps on delivering mile after mile of fast downwind sailing, kiting with the swell rolling in behind us, giving surf after surf. I'm sure it won't last forever, but we are making the most of it.”

Qingdao remains in first place overall and is yet to go into Stealth Mode, though skipper Chis Kobusch is taking notice of the chasing teams, saying: “The weather forecast looks good for the next couple of days and we should clock down the miles fairly quickly. 

“We had Sanya Serenity Coast on AIS for quite a while, chasing us down, but they went off the screen (presumably into Stealth Mode after the last position reports) and only in a day or two, when they go online again, will we know if they were able to catch us or not.”

Qingdao is due to begin the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint in the next 12 to 24 hours, with the sprint to be yet another milestone for the team. 

Kobusch explains: “We passed our last waypoint before the finish line earlier today and are now sailing the shortest distance to Seattle. With less than 1000nm to go, we can almost smell land!”

HotelPlanner.com, which was in fifth place on Day 22, has also entered into 48 hours of Stealth Mode. After repairs to the mast track were completed yesterday, all is well on board, as skipper Conall Morrison reports: “Good day of sailing today. We got our spinnaker out for an airing and have been managing some fast surfs.

The back half of the fleet remains spread out. Visit Seattle, which also successfully repaired its mast track yesterday, allowing the team to fly the main for the first time in three days, is trying to stay clear of the incoming high.

As is Nasdaq, whose skipper Rob Graham comments: “The high to our south is catching us faster than we can sail away from it, meaning that the wind is slowly decreasing and we're having to point further and further from our ideal course in order to keep moving.

“It also means that the front of the fleet is stretching away from us in their stronger winds. We have nearly 1,300nm to the finish line, so there is still room for some shaking-up.”

While the boats to the west will not see any dramatic wind increase, the incoming low is due to bring steadily building south-southwest to south-westerlies of 30-40 knots, with occasional 50 knot gusts, ahead of the next front.

Published in Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - The Clipper Race fleet emerged yesterday (Friday 13 April) from some of the toughest conditions faced in the 2017-18 edition of the race to date. 

As the teams continue racing across the North Pacific Ocean to Seattle, all crew members are being praised by their skippers for their exceptional handling of what will be a storm to remember.

Less than a year ago, the majority of the Clipper Race crew were amateurs or completely new to sailing

Now, after successfully negotiating hurricane force winds and a phenomenal sea state with waves greater than 14 metres, conditions even professional sailors never get to experience, the skippers could not be prouder of their crew.

Nikki Henderson, skipper of the eighth placed Visit Seattle, said: “The sea was just like something off the 'Perfect Storm' - huge towering waves, boiling, seething, breaking, swirling. When we sailed over the top of one, it felt like we had just summited a peak in a mountain range - rolling hills as far as the eye could see. 

“But unlike bleak mountain tops, or the dark black of the films, the sea was the most beautiful mix of colours - dark deep blue, white where it had broken, and bright turquoise as the surf mixed it all up. Just breath-taking.

“But the best part was definitely the crew. Just seeing these guys and gals managing the weather, enjoying it, experiencing it was incredible. Their smiles and wide eyes are something I won't forget in a long time. These people who sign up to do this race really are one of a kind.”

While all boats got through the front without any major mishap, largely due to the professionalism shown by the skippers in making the decision to put safety above racing, the huge conditions caused a couple of headaches for a few teams. 

Spinnaker wraps and a damaged main meant a busy 24 hours on the seventh placed Garmin. Skipper Gaetan Thomas said: “The noise of the wind, the sound of the waves breaking around you, the squalls, it was very intense and I’m really proud of my pirates. 

“We were all together in it and we fixed it all. Okay, we lost ground but the priority was to keep the crew and the boat safe no matter what.

“We will remember this storm for a long time. We are all tired, the temperature is still very cold, and everything is wet, but smiles are still on faces and the boat still surfing around 22-25 knots in the right direction.”

Second-placed Sanya Serenity Coast also had to do some running repairs in the midst of the storm. Skipper Wendy Tuck reported: “The guys did an awesome job overnight.

“The steering cables on the starboard helm that connect the wheel to the rudder had come off. I check these every day for tension, but with the force of the gybe they came off. Luckily, we have two wheels, so Doc (David Sturge), who was sitting by the main could quickly jump on the leeward helm to steer. 

“Then it was a job for Glenn (I can fix anything) Manchett to break out his super-duper spanner set. He loosened them off even more, re-ran them, and then tightened them in place. Whilst down there, he also snugged up the port cables a little, they do need a little bit of play, so then all was well again.”

With the coming high-pressure system acting as a buffer zone to the next low, yesterday’s sailing was relatively calm, with Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch commenting: “This morning the wind started to ease and we are now what feels like ‘light wind’. It is still blowing 25-30 knots outside, but after the past 48 hours, this does not seem to be too daunting anymore.”

Qingdao remains in the lead for a third straight day as of this morning, Saturday 14 April, though it is tight at the front of the fleet, with just 36 nautical miles separating Qingdao from the second-placed Sanya Serenity Coast and Unicef in third. 

It’s also close in the chasing pack, with 60nm between the fourth-ranked Dare to Lead and Garmin in seventh.

In the biggest change on the leaderboard in the last 48 hours, PSP Logistics fell from second to fifth and 100nm off the lead. Skipper Matt Mitchell says: “There is still a not inconsiderable distance to go and the long-range forecast appears to have the standard end of race wind hole forming right over the finish line so it's a race against time to make sure that we don't get caught.

“We also have a bit of ground to make up as when the wind shifted late last night, I deemed it too risky to gybe in the dark as the waves were still pretty big and the wind still quite strong. It was a recipe for disaster so we waited until first light. We lost a fair number of miles though which is a bit annoying. Safety always takes precedence over racing though.”

Published in Clipper Race

#ClipperRace - The forecast big weather arrived right on schedule with the Clipper Race fleet hit by powerful winds and waves on Day 19 of Race 9: The Race to the Emerald City (Wednesday 11 April).

While the south-easterly low-pressure system moved through the teams quickly, it definitely left its mark. Bob Beggs, skipper of the third placed Unicef, says: “How the world has changed for us over the past 24 hours. We wriggled through the night with increasingly fickle winds, peeling to lighter code sails, a gybe in the night followed by preparations for the new weather to come. And come it did!

“We are now on the wind with three reefs in the mainsail and staysail only and 35-40 knots of apparent wind speed.”

After seeing the forecast earlier in the week, fourth-placed PSP Logistics decided to head south, a decision skipper Matt Mitchell feels was justified following the conditions overnight. 

“Following a period of very light wind, the expected front came on in earnest. Thankfully we had changed early to our Yankee 3 in preparation. Very quickly we were down to three reefs and 40 knots of wind on the nose.

“Spending all that time coming south was worth it though as we were able to bear off as the wind turned to the south. Now the front seems to have passed and the wind has abated somewhat. It looks like we will have a bit of a reprieve for 12 hours or so before the wind really comes back in earnest.”

Despite the gale-force winds and wild sea state, the strong safety culture across the fleet ensured all 11 teams remained on track and racing well across the mighty Pacific Ocean towards Seattle.

The importance of putting safety first was vindicated on board seventh-placed Garmin, as skipper Gaëtan Thomas explains: “The wind was supposed to turn and it did back on a broad reach facing the waves from the previous gale. The boat jumped in the air and a nasty wave when we were shaking out a reef hit us badly.

“All the team were washed down. All the lifejackets inflated and the cockpit was full of water. Dave West was on the mast to spike the handy billy and he was safely double clipped but he was projected on the mast. 

“Mei Fullerton in the cockpit received James Lawrie on her and her shoulder is quite in pain, but both of them are inside the boat now and nothing major medically is wrong - big scratch on the top of the nose and a couple of bruises but they are smiling and OK.

“Now the chaotic sea state due to the prevailing winds will come down soon and the waves will come more from the back which will be a massive relief for everyone.”

The front is yet to reach leading teams Sanya Serenity Coast and Qingdao which, due to their northerly course, could potentially experience hurricane force gusts of between 70-80 knots. 

But Sanya Serenity Coast skipper Wendy Tuck is ready. “We now have three reefs and our storm jib the ginger ninja up. It’s a bit unpleasant as its only slightly off close hauled, in the next couple of hours the breeze should come round to a nicer angle, but the gusts will increase later. The sea state is all over the shop and will get worse.

“We went a bit conservative because of the sea state, we didn’t want to risk kite, boat or people damage.”

The conservative sail plan has cost Sanya Serenity Coast its lead. By earlier this morning, Qingdao has sliced 45 nautical miles off the gap to move to within five nautical miles, and as of 1pm UTC (2pm Irish time) was half a mile in front.

Racing remains tight between first and second, but the rest of the fleet has spread out over the last 24 hours. 

Dare to Lead in fifth is some 30 nautical miles behind PSP, with Conall Morrison’s HotelPlanner.com just three few miles astern.

Things are even worse for Liverpool 2018, more than 200nm behind the leaders, and GREAT Britain another 100 miles further back in last place.

Leading the back markers, in ninth, Visit Seattle has now crossed the International Date Line and is more than halfway through the mighty 5,600nm race to its home port in Bell Harbor Marina. 

It will be a tricky day for the team, as skipper Nikki Henderson reports: “Our mast track has suffered a few bumps and bruises and will need repairing as soon as the weather calms down. Looks like it's reef three for the next 24 hours then!

“Honestly, there is some serious breeze forecasted. I'm less bothered about racing and more about keeping everyone and the boat safe and in one piece. Being confined to reef three isn't such a bad thing.”

Published in Clipper Race
Page 4 of 12

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