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#ClipperRace - And they’re off! Much to the delight of the majority of Clipper Race skippers and their crews, the fourth day of Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya, China has brought about some long-awaited breeze which has allowed the pack to start making some good progress towards its destination.

With the wind speed and direction not mirroring the forecast, teams are currently experiencing much faster conditions than expected as they enter the Doldrums Corridor, and will now have to think more carefully about which tactics to use.

The upcoming moves are weighing heavily on Sanya Serenity Coast, which remains in first place and holds a 10-nautical-mile advantage on the fleet.

Sanya skipper Wendy Tuck explains: “The next big decision will be whether we use the Doldrums Corridor to motor four degrees and 36 hours, this means just an average of six knots or do we just keep sailing, where we may be able to sustain higher speeds, or may end up in a windhole. Will wait for the next weather before we make a decision, much head scratching will be taking place.”

Visit Seattle has worked up to second place today and, although the team is further east, it is more-or-less neck and neck distance-wise with third placed PSP Logistics, which is keeping the former team on its toes.

PSP skipper Matt Mitchell reports: “Progress is great at the moment. We lost a bit of ground earlier as I had the guys sail a slightly higher course than those around us meaning we were a little off the pace, however we seem to have sorted that out now and are holding our own.”

Garmin, in fourth place, continues to make steady progress and has been quietly working its way up the leaderboard during Race 7. Skipper Gaetan Thomas reports today that the team is working well and enjoying the faster paced ocean racing.

Having held podium spots for the first four days of racing, Dare To Lead is in fifth place today, and is expected to slip down the leaderboard over the coming hours.

Following a water maker issue on board ninth placed Liverpool 2018 which poses no immediate problems to crew, and under the guidance of Clipper Race director Mark Light, Dare to Lead is set to rendezvous with the pink boat today to hand over a fleet spare part.

Speaking from on board Dare To Lead, skipper Dale Smyth says: “We were happy to break free of the clutches of the windless zone. We are carrying a spare water maker onboard and are needing to stop and wait to give it to Liverpool 2018 as it is having a couple of issues with the current one.

“This is a pity as we are sitting high up in the fleet but our absolute first priority out here is to look after each other and race second. We will rendezvous with them at first light tomorrow and give them the replacement part.”

Nasdaq has also been working its way up the leaderboard and now holds sixth place ahead of Unicef, which slipped into seventh place. Qingdao has also struggled to keep its podium place and has dropped from second place yesterday to eighth.

The only two teams yet to join the party in the Doldrums Corridor are HotelPlanner.com in 10th and GREAT Britain in 11th. 

Both teams have become separated from the main pack after getting caught in a wind hole yesterday and missing out on the stronger breeze. However, as the teams head further north through the Doldrums Corridor, they will be hoping to accelerate away into the stronger winds.

Despite this, HotelPlanner.com skipper Conall Morrison reports that team morale is high and crew remain focused on the task at hand.

“Starboard Watch has done a great job going through evolutions and we now making good speed towards the southern Doldrums Corridor gate,” he says.

Looking ahead, the upcoming decision on whether to utilise the Doldrums Corridor rule will be a difficult one for teams to make but will be a tactically fascinating watch from home.

The unexpected stronger wind speeds could offer teams the advantage over a steady six knots of motor-sailing, but the fickle winds of the Solomon Sea could see some teams becalmed as competition accelerates ahead.

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#ClipperRace - A testing first 24 hours of Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race has seen the Clipper Race fleet make slow progress at the mercy of a light wind lottery.

With soaring temperatures to contend with and only a light breeze to fill the sails, teams have been working hard to try and break away from the main pack in patches of breeze.

The lack of wind, which has burdened the fleet since the race officially started yesterday, has kept teams closely together and has also brought about changes across the leaderboard.

Sanya Serenity Coast pipped Dare To Lead to take first place earlier today, and while the leading team is beginning to make some progress towards the yacht’s home port of Sanya, the light wind conditions remain testing for the crew.

Skipper Wendy Tuck says: “It’s hot, the competition is even hotter with yachts all around us, the big Code 1 (lightweight spinnaker) is up, although it had a little rest last night as the breeze was really light and the Windseeker made an appearance for a few hours.”

Second-placed Dare To Lead is being chased by PSP Logistics, now in third place, for the second consecutive day but as PSP Logistics skipper Matt Mitchell explains, progress remains slow for both teams: “So, you may have noticed that we haven’t made very good progress over the last 24 hours, well we haven’t. Wind holes galore where every point of a knot of boat speed was worked hard for.”

Slightly behind the frontrunners, Unicef has been swapping places with Visit Seattle, with the latter currently a hair ahead in fourth.

Just a mile behind them, Conall Morrison and HotelPlanner.com have been busy clawing back valuable miles and are currently sixth, in a match race with seventh-placed Qingdao, after a morning spent duelling with now ninth-placed Garmin.

However, with such fickle wind speeds, and fewer than 19 nautical miles separating first and last place, positions have been changing continuously as the fleet heads for the virtual course mark ‘Light’, where key tactical decisions will start to take effect.

With that milestone in view, Garmin skipper Gaetan Thomas is eager to start breaking away.

“This morning we were the first boat to gybe and just after PSP Logistics and HotelPlanner.com did the same and later all the fleet did,” he says. “Too bad, I was trying to do something tactical and sneaky but when we are all on AIS (Automatic Identification System) range, it seems that the fleet loves to stick like flies.”

The jostling of positions continues towards the bottom of the leaderboard but at only 16nm behind the leader, Nasdaq skipper Rob Graham is staying optimistic, reporting: “The gentle conditions have allowed everybody to find their sea legs without passing through the seasickness stage, and allowed our new joiners in particular to concentrate on learning.”

Despite slipping to last place, new GREAT Britain skipper David Hartshorn is pleased with the progress of the team in the opening stages, and has used the light airs as an opportunity for joining crew to perfect spinnaker helming skills.

Looking ahead, the next 24 hours should provide the teams with some cooler and faster conditions but Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell explains that the tropical depression which was due to bring big winds has moved further east of the course and is bringing less wind than initially forecast.

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#ClipperRace - The Clipper Race fleet had a Le Mans start for Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya, China, which officially got underway early this morning Tuesday 30 January at 4am Irish time/UTC (2pm local time).

After transiting the Hydrographers Passage, which allowed the fleet to cross the shallow waters of the Great Barrier Reef, Unicef’s Bob Beggs was appointed as the lead skipper who organised the teams into position on the start line, set the timing for the start and ran the countdown.

More about the Le Mans start can be found in the course instructions for the 2017-18 Clipper Race.

The finish order of the teams during Monday’s short race course in Pioneer Bay set the order for the start line, with winning team Visit Seattle awarded the advantage of being the windward boat.

Reporting on the start, Beggs said: “Race 7 got off to a good Le Mans start. Light winds, 6-8 knots, sunny with light cumulus clouds. Ten minutes after the start when yachts are allowed to change their sail configuration we saw a split decision, between yachts hoisting Windseekers and those hoisting Code 1 (lightweight spinnakers).

“Unicef took an initial lead for five minutes but after the first two hours of sailing, Dare to Lead is in fact in the lead with Liverpool 2018 in second place.

“This was the first start for the Leg 5 joiners and was exciting with all the yachts lined up with just three boat lengths between them on the start line. Now on our way to Sanya after completing the All-Australia Leg, it is due to get hot and humid as we approach the doldrums.”

As the teams now head north towards the Solomon Sea and then west over the top of Papua New Guinea and across the equator, temperatures are expected to soar — along with the intensity of the racing.

The race to Sanya is expected to take between 23 to 27 days, with the fleet arriving into the Sanya Serenity Marina between 21 and 25 February.

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British sailor David Hartshorn, 53, from Chepstow, is to take over as Great Britain Skipper for the remainder of the Clipper 2017-18 Race, replacing Andy Burns who has made the difficult personal decision to step down here in Airlie Beach, Australia.

Race Director Mark Light explains: “A very popular, highly competent Skipper, Andy will be sorely missed by his crew, fellow Skippers and all of us within the Clipper Race Office, however we accept and fully support the difficult decision he has made. We all have huge admiration and respect for Andy and will continue to stand by him and wish him the very best in his future journey, both professional and personally.”

Andy’s decision was made due to personal struggles following the tragic loss of crew member Simon Speirs during the Southern Ocean Leg 3. Andy and his crew were given full praise from the Clipper Race Office and wider followers for the way they reacted and supported each other.

Explaining, Andy says: “It saddens me to say that I have made the very tough decision to step down as GREAT Britain Skipper. The reality is I have struggled at times since Fremantle and no longer feel I can give my crew the competitive edge they need from a race Skipper at this point in time.
“The support offered to me by the Race Office on a professional and personal level during this tough time has been phenomenal and I will always be extremely grateful for the opportunity given to me but it’s not one I feel able to continue at this time.

“It's been a pleasure sailing with those I have to the east coast of Australia and know they will give David Hartshorn the warmest of welcomes. I will follow the rest of their race and look forward to waving the team back into Liverpool full of shared pride of what has been achieved.”

On the choice to appoint David Hartshorn as the new GREAT Britain Skipper, Mark says: “We carefully selected David as one of our original twelve Clipper 2017-18 Race Skippers so it was an easy decision to select him once again for the role of Skipper.

“David put a great deal of time and effort preparing his campaign to lead a crew around the world in this edition of the race and through circumstances outside of his control, he was unable to fulfil this goal. It is therefore fitting and highly deserved that he will now once again have the opportunity to lead a team in this race. We all welcome David back and wish he and his new GREAT Britain team huge success for the remainder of their race together.”

The former Greenings Skipper, David was medevac’d from his yacht on Day 5 of the opening Clipper Race leg after suffering a severe hand on board. Fully recovered, he had been preparing to return as Skipper for the start of the All-Australian Leg 4 in Fremantle, however the yacht’s grounding during the race to Fremantle resulted in the premature ending of the Greenings team’s campaign.

Reacting to his appointment as GREAT Britain Skipper, David says: “Having got to know Andy closely as a fellow colleague and a strong competitor, I am of course firstly disappointed for him that he does not feel able to complete this circumnavigation with his team.

“However, I am grateful for the opportunity to build on the strong foundations he has set for his GREAT Britain crew, and am proud to have the opportunity to lead them for the rest of their campaign. We all look forward to sharing a drink with Andy back in Liverpool where we’ll celebrate completing the journey we started out on together.”

Formerly one of the most senior Police Officers in the UK, David has been a keen sailor for many years, accruing more than 55,000 nautical miles of sailing experience which includes nine ocean crossings. Following retirement from his role in the Met, David decided to turn his hobby into his next profession, setting his sights on becoming a Clipper Race Skipper. In preparation for his role, he signed up as a crew member in the Clipper 2015-16 Race as he sought to gain insights and experiences to support his leadership approach.

Conrad Bird, Director of the GREAT Britain campaign, which showcases the very best of what the UK has to offer in order to encourage the world to visit, study and do business with the UK, says: “Andy Burns has been a true professional and guiding light for our GREAT Britain crew. I want to take this moment to thank him for all he has done for us and wish him all the best for the future.
“Andy will leave big shoes to fill but I’m sure our crew will do a sterling job in continuing our overall message and welcoming David Hartshorn to the GREAT Britain team.”

The Clipper Race, which is the sailing equivalent of climbing Mount Everest and is widely known as one of the toughest endurance challenges on the planet, is the only of its kind in the world. Established 21 years ago by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo, non-stop around the world in 1968/69, the race enables amateur sailors to become ocean racers. Only the Skipper who leads each of the eleven teams is professional.

The Clipper 2017-18 Race started from Liverpool’s Albert Dock on 20 August 2017 and the teams are currently in Airlie Beach, Australia, which is effectively the halfway stage of the circumnavigation as 20,000 nautical miles of the 40,000-nm course are now complete. The GREAT Britain team currently sits in seventh place in the overall race standings.

Teams will depart on January 29 for Race 7 of the 13 stage Clipper 2017-18 Race, which will see the fleet race over 4,000nm to Sanya, China. From there teams will race onwards to Qingdao, also in China; across the North Pacific Ocean to Seattle, and through the Panama Canal to New York. The fleet will then head back across the Atlantic to Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland, marking the last ocean crossing ahead of the final sprint back to Liverpool where the Clipper 2017-18 Race will complete on 28 July.

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#ClipperRace - Conall Morrison’s HotelPlanner.com has retrospectively been given a six-hour time penalty for breaching the two-nautical-mile exclusion zone as stated in the Clipper Race course instructions for Race 6.

At 11.30am Irish time/UTC on Tuesday 16 January, HotelPlanner.com breached the exclusion zone by passing within 1.75nm of Snare Rocks off the coast of Mackay, south of the Whitsundays.

A full declaration of the breach was made by the skipper on the official Post-Race Declaration document and handed to the Race Office upon arrival in the Whitsundays. This information was subsequently put forward to the Clipper Race Committee, who was unanimous in its decision to retrospectively apply the six-hour time penalty.

Clipper Race director Mark Light says: “Full credit must go to the skipper and team of HotelPanner.com for acknowledging and declaring the breach, but in the interests of safety and fair play, the application of the time penalty is absolutely the correct decision.”

The net result of the time penalty means that HotelPlanner.com will now be recorded as finishing in 11th and last position at 15:06:16 local time (05:06:16 UTC) on Wednesday 17 January. The result also means Nasdaq changes to 10th position for Race 6 in the overall standings.

Earlier this week, Sanya Serenity Coast also received a six-hour penalty for crossing within 2nm of Waddy Point on Fraser Island, bumping it down to seventh place despite being the third boat to cross the line.

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#ClipperRace - After one of the most challenging races so far in the 2017-18 Clipper Race, Visit Seattle held off a strong challenge from three other teams to chalk up a thrilling maiden victory in Race 6: The Wondrous Whitsundays Race.

Skippered by 24-year-old Brit Nikki Henderson, Visit Seattle crossed the finish line off the coast of Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays at 15:05:36 local time (05:05:36 Irish time/UTC), completing the 1,600-nautical mile sprint up the east coast of Australia from Hobart in 11 days.

Arriving into Abell Point Marina, where the Clipper Race fleet will be berthed, Nikki said: “It’s such a good feeling. I’m finally a bit more relaxed than I have been during the last 48 hours. It’s been exhausting!

“This race has been really, really tough in so many ways. So many different types of conditions and sail changes. The tactics have been really hard but we pushed all the way through. The crew loved the Southerly Busters, it was exciting. We had experience of similar conditions in the past and we’re used to that kind of thing. The crew handled it really well.”

The Visit Seattle team had to work hard for the win. The 11th and final morning at sea saw Visit Seattle off the coast of Mackay and just five nautical miles ahead of the second placed PSP Logistics.

Sanya Serenity Coast was only another mile astern, with just seven nautical miles separating Visit Seattle from the fourth placed Liverpool 2018.

The win caps off what has been a brilliant All-Australian Leg 4 for Visit Seattle. The team achieved its first podium after finishing a close second behind Sanya Serenity Coast in the opening race from Fremantle to Sydney.

Visit Seattle also picked up Scoring Gate bonus points for a third time after being second through the gate in Race 6.

Less than half an hour behind the winning boat, PSP Logistics once again claimed a place on the podium after crossing the finish line in second place at 15:30:05 local time (05:30:05 Irish time/UTC).

“It feels great to be back on the podium,” says PSP Logistics skipper Matt Mitchell. “We have been very close in the last couple of races in the All-Australian Leg 4. We were leading for most of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race and then got knocked out by a wind hole so it’s great to be on the podium again.”

This is the third podium for PSP Logistics, which placed third in both the opening race from Liverpool to Punta del Este in Uruguay, and also in Race 3 from Cape Town to Fremantle.

Arriving into Arlie Beach 21 minutes after PSP was the crew of Liverpool 2018, who claimed their first podium result of the Clipper Race.

Skippered by Lance Shepherd, from Blackpool, Liverpool 2018 crossed the finish line at 15:51:44 local time (05:51:44 Irish time/UTC) as the fourth team.

However, Sanya Serenity Coast, which was the third boat to arrive, was handed a six-hour time penalty after inadvertently closing within two nautical miles of Waddy Point on Fraser Island two days ago, breaching the exclusion zone as laid out in the Race 6 course instructions.

On the result, Skipper Lance says: “That was challenging, very challenging, it was a very technical race but it was good, very good!

“Coming into the finish here in the Whitsundays was very tight. It was unbelievably close; the pressure was really on. We were leading for a lot of the race, but then lost a couple of miles to two boats.

“We went into the race with the mentality that we want to win – and we want to win every race in 2018.”

After emerging from Stealth Mode in first place on Day 8, Liverpool 2018 jostled back and forth with Sanya Serenity Coast for the lead for three consecutive days, at times within close sight of each other.

Just last night the team was in sight of winners Visit Seattle but suffered an unfortunate spinnaker drop, which saw it slip down three positions as it pushed for the finish.

The win is a huge turnaround for Liverpool 2018, whose previous best finish in the Clipper 2017-18 Race was fifth in the South Atlantic Leg 2 from Punta del Este to Cape Town.

Sanya Serenity Coast officially crossed the Race 6 finish line at 15:45:49 local time (05:45:49 UTC) but due to the six-hour penalty, the team had to settle for seventh place on the leaderboard as Garmin (18:08 local/08:48 UTC), Qingdao (20:56 local/10:56 UTC) and Dare to Lead (21:32 local/11:32 UTC) all bettered its corrected time.

Only HotelPlanner.com — skippered by Afloat.ie Sailor of the Month for December, Conall Morrison — and Nasdaq are still racing to decide the final two places, and are expected to cross the finish line late this evening Irish time.

The Clipper Race fleet will be berthed at Abell Point Marina, the first global 5 Gold Anchor accredited marina in the world, during its stay in the Whitsundays.

And the stopover will be one to remember, with the crew to be welcomed by the inaugural Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival – a two-weeklong celebration of events and activities showcasing the beauty of the islands.

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#ClipperRace - Dramatic weather systems that have dominated much of Race 6: The Wondrous Whitsundays Race continue to make conditions challenging for the Clipper Race fleet during the 10th day of racing.

While the fleet is enjoying some long-awaited downwind weather conditions, it had to endure another ‘Southerly Buster’ weather front first, which brought winds of up to 78 knots, electrical activity and squally downpours.

Visit Seattle managed to use these conditions to its advantage and has began a drag race during what is predicted to be the final 24 hours of the race.

However, skipper Nikki Henderson, who is no stranger to fighting for first place right up to the finish line, knows that anything can still happen.

“So, we have arranged another close one for all you supporters. This last bit is SO nerve racking. Constantly looking over our shoulder and hoping we don't make any mistakes. Let's hope it works out.”

In second place is Liverpool 2018. After an impressive consecutive three-day lead, the pink boat is only two and a half a nautical miles behind the leader and the crew will be pushing hard to try and achieve its best leaderboard finish to date.

Speaking from on board Liverpool 2018, skipper Lance Shepherd says: “Being stuck in a storm for 90 minutes meant that all the other boats were able to catch us up and now we are in the drag race with PSP Logistics, Visit Seattle and of course, Sanya Serenity Coast.”

The drag race at the front of the fleet also includes PSP Logistics, which has done remarkably well to claw back from 11th place during the early days of the race to third, and is now fourth a fraction of a mile behind Sanya.

Speaking from on board, PSP skipper Matt Mitchell thinks the team could see more progress during the final 24 hours: “Now we are making good speed, not quite directly where we want to go but a forecast favourable wind shift later on should solve matters there.”

Sanya Serenity Coast sits currently in third place and skipper Wendy Tuck has been impressed by her competition, reporting: “It was fast and furious, but we weren’t the fastest. We are now playing catch up again with Visit Seattle.”

Elsewhere, there has been further changes to the leaderboard with Garmin gaining a place and sitting in fifth place, with Qingdao now in sixth and Dare To Lead in seventh, just a fifth of a mile behind in the latest positions update.

For Garmin, which played its Joker during Race 6, this is an all-important gain. Skipper Gaetan Thomas says: “Now we are zig zagging in between reefs and islands for the last round, the leaders had the southerly winds before us and finally they passed ahead, but it is not over!”

Change continues further down the fleet with Unicef, which was in seventh yesterday, in eighth place today and GREAT Britain, which was in fifth yesterday, now sitting in ninth place.

Despite its fall on the leaderboard, the GREAT Britain crew remains on top form and skipper Andy Burns praised his team’s ability to handle the tough Southerly Buster fronts.

There has been little change at the back of the fleet, however, with Nasdaq and Conall Morrison’s HotelPlanner.com in 10th and 11th place for the third consecutive day.

According to Clipper Race meteorologist, Simon Rowell, the fleet should continue to keep spectators guessing right up to the finish line and with localised squalls coming off the hot land, there could still be changes to the Race 6 leaderboard.

While it’s difficult to predict which teams will secure podium finishes just yet, its guaranteed to be a close, exiting and nerve-wracking finish in the Wondrous Whitsundays tomorrow.

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#ClipperRace - The Clipper Race teams have been continuing their upwind slog as they tack up the Queensland coast, and positive thinking finally looks set to pay off as the latest weather forecast predicts a front will shortly pass over which should leave behind southerly winds.

Race meteorologist Simon Rowell has suggested that the first of the teams will be soon be experiencing the front which will pass over the whole fleet within the next few hours.

After that, it should be a slightly faster and flatter race as the teams look to close the last 400nm of Race 6: The Wondrous Whitsundays Race.

Liverpool 2018 and Sanya Serenity Coast have been swapping the lead between them following some intense racing in close proximity.

Lance Shepherd, skipper of Liverpool 2018, reports: “We’ve been tacking our way up around Fraser Island for what seems like forever now and along the way we've been trading places with our mate, Wendo, and her crew on board Sanya Serenity Coast. We're not playing games on AIS either, we've literally crossed within metres of each other.”

PSP Logistics reached third place after making what it hopes is its final tack of the race before the wind shifts, but has since slipped to fourth behind Visit Seattle, whose skipper Nikki Henderson is working on keeping the team upbeat during such a mentally and physically demanding race. She explains: “On board, we have decided to focus on positive thinking and optimism to will our way there faster.

“We are waiting anxiously for the dreamy front to arrive bringing its luscious flat fast downwind conditions.”

Garmin, which is playing its Joker, is in fifth place and further offshore than other race leaders, and GREAT Britain follows in sixth. Like the rest of the fleet, the two teams looking to make the most of the upcoming front which should leave southerly winds behind its squalls.

One team, however, is slightly more hesitant about the forecasted front. In seventh place, Dare To Lead skipper Dale Smyth reflects on the last front that brought a notorious Southerly Buster to the fleet: “The sailing at the moment is tough with hard upwind sailing.

“Looking forward to having the Southerly winds later tonight although with some trepidation about its initial arrival as the last one gave us a hiding.”

Race 6: The Wondrous Whitsundays Race has served up some of the most dramatic and mixed weather conditions of the 2017-18 Clipper Race so far. During an impressive electrical storm overnight, Qingdao, in eighth place ahead of Unicef in ninth, was hit by a lightning strike which has affected some of its on board electrical systems and instruments.

All crew are safe and well, the yacht is fully under control and the team is still racing. Qingdao is currently utilising battery powered navigation lights at night and is able to charge the boat batteries via the main engine in neutral, which does not contravene any race rules.

It also has GPS functioning normally on the Garmin chart plotter for navigational use, and a handheld GPS as a backup, but it is unlikely that the crew or skipper will be able to send back any blogs or emails for the remainder of this race.

Towards the back of the fleet, last place is being traded between Nasdaq and Conall Morrison's HotelPlanner.com, the latter having the upper hand by less than two nautical miles in the latest positions update.

In a bid to escape strong currents, Nasdaq has changed its tactics over the last 24 hours, with skipper Rob Graham explaining: “Nasdaq has finally got fed up of short-tacking close inshore to avoid the East Australia Current, and last night we headed further out from the coast in search of more stable wind.

“Things look good so far, although we know we will have to cut back West again at some stage so we're sailing as close to North as possible.”

After each of the 11 teams completed the frustratingly slow Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, it was revealed earlier today that Unicef, PSP Logistics and GREAT Britain came out on top to claim three, two and one bonus race points respectively. Despite the slow progress, less than 12 minutes actually separated the top two teams.

Andy Burns, skipper of GREAT Britain which is currently in sixth place in this race, says: “Coming second in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint has certainly given the crew that little boost they needed for the final push.”

Liverpool 2018 and Sanya Serenity coast are currently expected to be the first boats arriving at Arlie Beach on Wednesday 17 January between 2am and 8am local time (Tuesday 16 January between 4pm and 10pm Irish time/UTC).

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#ClipperRace - On Day 7 of Race 6: The Wondrous Whitsundays Race, the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint has turned into a marathon.

Wind holes have halted the progress of the Clipper Race fleet as it battles against the strong East Australian Current, which has even taken some teams backwards at times.

While frustrating for skippers and crews, it has been fascinating to observe the race viewer with regular changes in position.

It appears that Liverpool 2018 has played the tactical game best and took the lead before entering Stealth Mode at 6am Irish time/UTC today, Friday 12 January.

Skipper Lance Shepherd explains: “By taking us inland we were now in a position to hug the coast and try to utilise an element of sea breeze to take us north. So that's exactly what we've been doing all morning. It's been great fun sailing up and seeing the sights of Byron and the famous Gold Coast.”

With Liverpool 2018 under the invisibility cloak, it is Sanya Serenity Coast which, once again, is the official race leader, although skipper Wendy Tuck has been frustrated by the lack of progress.

“If you went to bed and woke up and we are still in the same place, do not adjust your computer … It is still working, it’s just that the wind has not been working. We have sort of just been zig zagging with not much forward motion happening.”

In second place, Visit Seattle skipper Nikki Henderson remains philosophical. “Sailing is one of those tough sports where you don't really know when the hard work is going to end - it could be a week, it could be double that - the endurance required is phenomenal at times.”

Third-place Qingdao has slipped back to just over 15 nautical miles behind the race leader. Skipper Chris Kobusch reported earlier: “We misjudged the East Australian Current and now have to play catch up with Visit Seattle, Sanya Serenity Coast and Liverpool 2018. Still 600nm to go, but the game just got harder.”

The top three teams have followed Liverpool 2018 on more of an inshore route, but the next five teams have headed further offshore.

Leading the eastern pack, but in fourth place overall, is PSP Logistics, and skipper Matt Mitchell has explained that it was a painful night at times: “We were drifting backwards with lots of current against us and very little wind.

“The guys did a great job pulling through though and the outcome could have been a lot worse! We appear to be out of the current now and although speed isn't sensational, we are moving a lot better than we have been!”

Unicef is in fifth and Garmin, which recovered well to reached sixth position having initially re-appeared from Stealth Mode at midday yesterday in tenth, has just been pipped by GREAT Britain by just over a mile.

Having played Garmin’s Joker Card on this race, skipper Gaëtan Thomas has not given up hope of a strong finish: “Nothing is finished until we’re across the line in Airlie Beach! We are working hard here on trimming, on driving, on tactics to get back in the lead.”

Dare To Lead is furthest offshore, currently in ninth position, with skipper Dale Smyth reporting: “We made the massive error of being too far out in the East Australian Current in a dying wind and drifted backwards for a grand total of 17 miles last night.

“I have been trying to head inshore for the last three days but have always found favourable velocity on the tempting offshore tack and would have had to suffer major loss to go inshore.”

Further inshore and around 64nm behind the race leader in eighth place, is Nasdaq. Skipper Rob Graham says that between the wind holes, headwinds and gyres (swirly bits) of the East Australian Current, the team has hardly been moving and at times been going backwards.

“I don’t know how much detail the Race Viewer gives of our track, but looking at our screens onboard, Nasdaq seems to have traced a picture of a whale in the ocean with all of our meanderings.”

In 10 place, and slowing over the course of this morning to almost 100 miles behind the current leader, HotelPlanner.com skipper Conall Morrison is preparing for stronger winds after quite some time in a wind hole.

“This north-easterly breeze that has filled in is forecast to be stronger than what we have experienced of late. Looks like there will be sail changes and reefs required and more upwind sailing than I would normally choose,” said the nominee for Afloat.ie Sailor of the Year.

Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell confirms that the breeze should back for the teams and will be ‘on the nose’ until sometime on Sunday night, when the next front should catch up, before a final good run to the finish in Airlie Beach.

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#ClipperRace - The UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has issued a Safety Bulletin on the “use of safety harness tethers on sailing yachts” following the tragic fatality of GREAT Britain crew member Simon Speirs on Leg 3 of the latest Clipper Race.

Clipper Race management has been working in co-operation with the appropriate authorities to understand the reasons as to why Speirs’ safety tether did not keep him on board.

Race founder and chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “We continue to be deeply saddened by Simon’s loss and it is important that we learn the lessons from this tragic accident.

“The Safety Bulletin from the MAIB reinforces what we have said to crew at our Sydney stopover and we have taken steps to prevent a situation like this ever occurring again.

“Sailing is essentially a safe sport but when we see something like this happening, we need to put our heads together to see what we can do to remove the problem.”

As explained at the crew brief in Sydney before the start of Race 6, initial investigations established that the cause of the failure was a very unusual tether clip angle, owing to the clip being pulled sideways against a hard object.

This resulted in the clip failing at well below its straight test strength and measures have been taken to eliminate this risk.

Following further testing of the original tether, which is top of the range, the Clipper Race and the safety committee of each boat unanimously agreed to return to using it at the Sydney stopover subject to these additional measures being put in place.

Sir Robin explained in a recent interview that these measures include wrapping 10mm rope around the cleats to the point that the tether now slides over them, and the Clipper Race will stop at nothing to further improve the safety measures wherever possible across the fleet.

The MAIB has said it will publish a full report on the fatality of Simon Speirs — including all identified contributing factors — on completion of the investigation, which is currently ongoing.

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Page 7 of 12

The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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