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#ClipperRace - A gripping race to the Scoring Gate unfolded during the third day of Race 6: The Wondrous Whitsundays Race, which ultimately saw Sanya Serenity Coast come out on top, followed closely by Visit Seattle in second and Qingdao, which has scored points in every Scoring Gate so far, in third.

For its efforts, Sanya Serenity Coast, which is also in first place on the Clipper Race leaderboard today (Monday 8 January), will pick up three bonus race points.

Skipper Wendy Tuck, who has led the team to score points in four of five Scoring Gates so far, said: “I do feel for the pink boat [Liverpool 2018], as soon as we crossed the Scoring Gate the wind changed completely making all near impossible for them to get through ahead of Qingdao.”

Visit Seattle claimed second place in the Scoring Gate and will pick up two bonus race points, but currently sits in third place on the leaderboard.

Close competition kept the team on its toes throughout, as skipper Nikki Henderson explains: “It was touch and go for a while as to who would make it through — us, Qingdao or Liverpool 2018.”

Qingdao, which has proved to excel at picking up Scoring Gate points, was the third team to cross the virtual line, earning one extra race point, but sits in fourth place on the leaderboard today.

Skipper Chris Kobusch reports: “We did it again. Another Scoring Gate, another point. This is our fifth consecutive Scoring Gate and the streak is unbroken.

“It was super close this time, though. The long downwind run allowed us to catch up with the rest of the fleet, but just before we got to the gate the breeze died and it was a struggle to get to the virtual line.”

Liverpool 2018, which holds second place today, narrowly missed out on Scoring Gate points but maintains its high leaderboard position.

Speaking from on board, skipper Lance Shepherd said: “We chose to forego all of our hard efforts in pushing slightly north east to the gate and instead chose to follow the wind and keep heading further north in an attempt to maintain our position in the fleet.

“It was a hard choice but frankly I think it was worth it as it has allowed us to stay close to the front of the pack.”

Garmin, which is the only team to have played its Joker, has dropped to fifth place even after deciding to forego the Scoring Gate in favour of leaderboard positions, in a move that Skipper Gaëtan Thomas hopes will still pay off further ahead — though he will struggle to fend off the challenge of a resurgent Dare To Lead, now in sixth place and a fraction of a mile behind as of 3pm Irish time/UTC.

The overall mood among the fleet is somewhat split during the third day of racing; some teams seem to have escaped the worst of the forecasted light winds as others feel frustration as they work hard to tackle light wind patches.

Light wind conditions have kept HotelPlanner.com, which has slipped to ninth place, and GREAT Britain in eighth from making fast progress — but the teams are attempting to make the most of the light weather.

HotelPlanner.com skipper Conall Morrison is using the light breeze and lack of boat heel to continue maintenance while Andy Burns, GREAT Britain skipper, reports: “Everyone seems to have fully forgotten about the upwind endured during the first few days and have adapted without complaint to the light wind conditions.”

Nasdaq was earlier feeling frustrated after a series of unlucky wind holes has hindered progress, though the boat has since moved ahead of GREAT Britain.

Unicef, meanwhile, was reporting somewhat different weather conditions before entering Stealth Mode till tomorrow morning.

Skipper Bob Beggs reported: “Another day of reasonable progress mainly pointing in the right direction, hurrah! The wind holes threatened in the weather forecast have yet to affect progress for Unicef so fingers crossed we will pass through unscathed.”

Further out east, PSP Logistics has some ground to make up after a strong tactical move failed to pay off. Skipper Matt Mitchell explains: “We came all this way for what was forecast to be the most stable wind-avoiding wind holes and such like but it's been anything but!

“We are to the degree where we planned to be and events haven't transpired as we thought they would, still, that's why they call it a forecast I guess!”

Looking ahead, Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell forecasts a breeze to fill in, albeit from the north, during the coming hours which will be welcomed by all and should help the fleet to progress up the coast.

With the Scoring Gate now out of the way, focus will soon turn to the upcoming Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint as this tactical race continues.

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#ClipperRace - Some divisive early navigational choices and tight racing means the leaderboard made for gripping viewing in the first hours of Race 6: The Wondrous Whitsundays Race.

PSP Logistics and Garmin both gybed towards Tasmania to stay closer to the Rhumb line before 6am Irish time this morning (Friday 5 January), while most of the Clipper Race fleet headed further offshore into the Tasman Sea.

Ahead of the gybe, PSP and Visit Seattle were under one nautical mile apart rounding Tasman Island with the lead changing hands behind them.

In her report this morning, Visit Seattle skipper Nikki Henderson said: “A tactical race down the Derwent left positions changing constantly. We had a good start and then fell right to the back of the fleet which was frustrating to say the least. We have been fighting back and now have found PSP Logistics - the race is on!”

After leading for most of Race 5 until the crucial final stage, PSP skipper Matt Mitchell is feeling determined for a strong finish in this race.

“Our start today was great and we managed to pull a few miles on the fleet during the tacking battle out of the Derwent so we are very pleased,” he said. “The guys are relishing the chance to get back out racing again and we feel that we have a bit of a point to prove on this one, so watch this space!”

The decision to gybe put Garmin in third place this morning, though they’ve since crept up to second.

After making the decision to play the Joker Card, meaning points for this race will be doubled, skipper Gaetan Thomas and his crew are giving all they can for a strong finish in order to make best impact on their position in the overall Clipper Race standings.

Sanya Serenity Coast was hot on the leaders heels in fourth this morning, and over this afternoon Irish time has taken the lead by a three-nautical-mile margin.

Skipper Wendy Tuck will also be determined to keep her excellent performance streak up in this all-Australian Leg.

Just over six nautical miles separates the first seven boats in this early stage, meaning positions are changing regularly.

Dare To Lead remains in fifth place as it heads north for the upwind battle, with Liverpool 2018 in sixth, Qingdao seventh and HotelPlanner.com in eighth place.

Reflecting on the Hobart stopover, and the start of the Wondrous Whitsundays Race, HotelPlanner.com skipper Conall Morrison said: “What a stopover, and what an honour to receive the Rani Award at the prize giving for the most meritorious performance in the Sydney-Hobart Race. It is not every day you win (your class in) the Sydney-Hobart race so you have to make the most of it!”

Morrison, who is Afloat.ie’s latest Sailor of the Month and also a nominee for the Sailor of the Year Award, added: “It is nice to be going again however it’s a marathon not a sprint and we must be well prepared for the strong Northerly forecast for tonight and tomorrow morning.”

Further back in the fleet, GREAT Britain is in ninth and Nasdaq in 10th, with Unicef trailing after a far east run and currently 24nm behind the leader, although leaderboard positions are all to play for as teams head north.

On board Nasdaq, skipper Rob Graham reports that the team’s fourth place during Race 5 has given them a psychological springboard for further successes.

“The Nasdaq crew were delighted to have crossed the line in third place in the Clipper Race fleet during the Sydney Hobart. However, the two-hour redress awarded to HotelPlanner.com for their pickup of the MOB made them the victors on corrected time, and moved Nasdaq down to fourth.

“This is in no way a negative thing: HotelPlanner.com deserved its time, and the much more important achievement of helping a fellow sailor in need. It's been great to see the recognition of their competence and seamanship (as all Clipper Race crews are trained) by RSHYR organisers and beyond in the sailing media - please tell everyone you know to vote Conall in the Sailor of year 2017.”

Graham adds: “For our part, Nasdaq is going to use its good showing in the RSHYR as a spur to greater things in the races to come.”

Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell explains that the northerly winds will intensify over the next 24-28 hours and should reach speeds between 30 and 40 knots.

This is likely to lead to some significant position changes as the fleet beats upwind and spreads out in this highly tactical race.

The arrival window for the fleet into Abell Point Marina, Airlie Beach, is Saturday 13 to Monday 15 January, when the teams can look forward to the inaugural Whitsundays Clipper Race Carnival.

Published in Clipper Race

Professional sailor Conall Morrison, from Derry-Londonderry, was given a standing ovation at the official Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race (RSHYR) Prize Giving in Australia yesterday evening after not only skippering his HotelPlanner.com team to its first race victory, in the Clipper 70 Class, but also for taking home the Most Meritorious Performance award for the famous event. As Afloat.ie previously reported the Lough Swilly skipper made a textbook retrieval of a man overboard from another boat, a feat that has already earned him an Afloat.ie sailor of the month award here.

The 35-year old Skipper said: “It’s an awesome feeling, like a little kid’s dream come true. The whole team worked so hard during the race and all our time put into safety has paid off. I couldn’t be prouder and it’s a credit not only to the crew on board but for the entire HotelPlanner.com team.”

The RSHYR, which is one of the most famous bluewater classic yacht races in the sailing calendar, doubled as the fifth stage of the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race and the eleven-strong Clipper Race fleet was among 102 boats competing in the iconic bluewater classic from Sydney to Hobart, which set off on Boxing Day. The win marked Conall and his team’s first Clipper Race podium result.

It was an eventful race and at approximately 1700 local time (0600 UTC) on 26 December, HotelPlanner.com went to the assistance of another boat after being informed of a man overboard. The HotelPlanner.com crew successfully retrieved the man in the water within 15 minutes, and after the on board medical assistant determined he hadn’t suffered any injury, the crew member was returned to his vessel and both boats resumed racing.

It was an action that resulted in the team being awarded the Rani Trophy, judged by the RSHYR Committee for the Most Meritorious Performance, by the Governor of Tasmania, Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Kate Warner AM, and the Skipper’s actions were commended by the Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, John Markos.

Despite the time lost, HotelPlanner.com managed to catch up with the Clipper Race fleet and was the tenth of eleven Clipper 70s to cross the line in Hobart after racing for 3 days, 4 hours, 31 minutes and 7 seconds, however the team emerged as the victor after redress was taken into account.

An international jury hearing arranged by the RSHYR Organising Committee awarded HotelPlanner.com with 120 minutes of redress and, as all eleven Clipper 70s had finished within 90 minutes of each other after racing 630 nautical miles, this was enough for Conall Morrison to claim victory over Wendy Tuck’s Sanya Serenity Coast, which had been the first Clipper 70 team to cross the line.

Upon receiving the plaque for coming first out of the Clipper 70s, Conall said: “I definitely feel sorry for Wendy and Sanya Serenity Coast who has had to give up their first place, but I think it is very deserved for everyone in my team. We sailed a good race, kept our eyes on the wind and changes, did loads of sail changes - especially near the end - and really pushed.”

The Clipper Race teams, which have already completed over 17,000 nautical miles of their global circumnavigation, are stopping over in Hobart for a few more days before departing for the sixth stage on Friday 5 January – this will take them up the east coast of Australia to the Whitsundays to finish off this All-Australian Leg.

After Australia, the Clipper Race fleet will race to Sanya and then Qingdao in China, before crossing the Pacific Ocean to Seattle, down the west coast of America to Panama, up to New York and then a final Atlantic Ocean crossing to Derry-Londonderry where the teams will arrive between 10 – 14 July 2018.

HotelPlanner.com Skipper Conall Morrison can be sure of a warm welcome to his hometown, which will host the Foyle Maritime Festival between 14 – 22 July 2018, before the Clipper Race fleet departs on its final race to Liverpool, UK, where its circumnavigation will be completed on 28 July 2018.

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#ClipperRace - After being last into Sydney in the fourth leg of the Clipper Race, HotelPlanner.com has been declared the winner of this week’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Clipper 70 Class after being granted a 120 minute redress for going to the assistance of a fellow competitor shortly after race start.

At approximately 5pm local time (6am Irish time/UTC) on Tuesday 26 December, the Conall Morrison-skippered yacht went to the assistance of another boat after being informed of a man overboard.

The HotelPlanner.com crew successfully retrieved the man in the water within 15 minutes — and after the onboard medical assistant determined he hadn’t suffered any injury, the crew member was returned to his vessel and both boats resumed racing.

Despite the time lost, HotelPlanner.com managed to catch the rest of the Clipper Race fleet, with all 11 yachts crossing the finish line within 90 minutes of each other yesterday (Friday 29 December).

Clipper Race director Mark Light said: “Skipper Conall Morrison and his HotelPlanner.com team did extremely well and acted very quickly under the circumstances.

“Going to the assistance of a fellow sailor or competitor is absolutely the correct thing to do and the team handled everything superbly well which clearly indicates how well the they were trained and led by their Skipper. The Clipper Race training has once again paid dividends and shows the merits of such an extensive programme.

“As such, the redress award for HotelPlanner.com is fully justified and my congratulations go to Conall and his team for their efforts and first place in the Clipper 70 class.”

The award of redress for HotelPlanner.com was decided by an international jury hearing, arranged by the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Organising Committee at 10am local time on Saturday 30 December.

The decision means Sanya Serenity Coast, which took line honours for the Clipper 70 class, will take second place while Garmin places third.

As the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race doubles as Race 5 of the 2017-18 Clipper Race, HotelPlanner.com will now receive 12 points for the win, with Sanya Serenity Coast and Garmin to receive 11 and 10 points respectively.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, Howth Yacht Club’s Gordon Maguire and his Ichi Ban crew were conformed as overall winners of this year’s Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

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#ClipperRace - HotelPlanner.com crossed the finish line in Sydney Harbour on Saturday 16 December at 20:24:50 local time (09:24:50 UTC/Irish time) to officially bring Race 4: The Clipper Telemed+ Tasman Test — and the first stage of the Clipper Race’s All-Australian Leg 4 — to a close under a glorious sunset.

Skipper Conall Morrison said: “It was tough at times but fun. We had eight new crew joining our eight round the worlders so it was really nice to have a good mix and have the round-the-worlders do some coaching for the new crew.

“We didn’t really make any mistakes, we were just a wee bit slower going downwind. When it was quite windy, we avoided the windiest bit and that slowed us right down. And then we got stuck in a few wind holes after coming round Tasmania and a couple of times we could see the boats ahead but they just got wind before us.”

The team got off to a strong start to Race 4, and featured in the top three for the first few days of racing after leaving Fremantle. But on Day 7, after heading further north than planned to avoid some seriously strong winds, HotelPlanner.com slipped down the rankings to sit mid-fleet for the majority of the race.

HotelPlanner.com narrowly missed out on collecting points again in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint after setting the fourth fastest time but there was more bad news to come, with the team falling foul of the fickle winds off the east coast of Tasmania.

A few hours ahead of the last-placed team, the ‘Pink Boat’ of Liverpool 2018 crossed the line at at 17:17:00 (06:17:00 UTC) to officially take 10th place in Race 4.

The team finished strongly after a challenging race. Skipper Lance Shepherd said upon arrival into Sydney: “It’s been tough with all the wind shifts, the wind holes and everything else. We had total steering failure on both helms at one point, which was challenging but we were able to sort it out as always.

“That set us back a little bit but we quickened the pace towards the end. I couldn’t really believe it until I saw the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House and I thought ‘Wow, we’re nearly there!’”

Unicef was the first team to arrive on a second day of boat arrivals, finishing in sixth place at 09:05:12 local time on Saturday 16 December (22:05:12 UTC on Friday 15 December).

Following its victory in Race 3 it was a steady start for Unicef out of Fremantle but the team was consistent throughout, peaking in third place on Day 3, before being caught in the grasps of the light airs after rounding the south of Tasmania.

Garmin arrived into Sydney later on in the day, and crossed the finish line at 15:28:26 local time (04:28:26 UTC) to become the seventh team to finish Race 4.

Led by Skipper Gaetan Thomas, Garmin had a strong start to the race from Fremantle, and at one stage on day three occupied the top spot of the leader board.

However, like many teams in the fleet, Garmin got caught in the frustrating light airs off the coast of Tasmania, and in doing so lost its hold on the leading pack and dropped out of contention for a podium finish.

An hour later, GREAT Britain and Nasdaq arrived neck and neck in Sydney Harbour in a finish so close it was declared a dead heat — the first ever draw in the history of the Clipper Race.

“Even down in eighth and ninth position, we’ve got to get the decision correct and I think we have done that,” said race director Mark Light.

The former Derry~Londonderry~Doire skipper even set out to the finish line on a RIB to compare with press photos of the finish.

“And after not being able to split it on board the boats, I think both teams are going to be very happy,” he added.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia hosted the prize giving for Race 4: The Clipper Telemed+ Tasman Test in the early hours Irish time of Sunday 17 December.

After a night of celebration, it will be straight back to work for the Clipper Race crews as they prepare for the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race which begins on St Stephen’s Day.

And all eyes will be on whether home skipper Wendy Tuck of Race 4 winners Sanya Serenity Coast will play her Joker Card to double her points on what will be here 11th outing on the ‘blue water classic’.

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#ClipperRace - Sanya Serenity Coast skipper Wendy Tuck has geared up for her 11th Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race by winning the fourth leg of the 2017-18 Clipper Race late on Thursday 14 December Irish time.

It was a photo finish between Sanya Serenity Coast and Visit Seattle, but Tuck used her local knowledge to cross the finish line at 21:21:18 UTC/Irish time (Friday 15 December at 08:21:18 local time) to secure the win in her home town of Sydney.

“It was the most nerve-racking race of my life,” said Tuck. “The lead changed so much, it was such a competitive race so it feels amazing to get the win. Especially with all my family and friends here watching.”

Tuck and her Sanya Serenity Coast team dominated the 2,500 nautical mile Race 4: The Clipper Telemed+ Tasman Test from Fremantle to Sydney, being in the top half of the fleet for the whole distance and occupying top position for much of it.

She was given a close run for her money by Visit Seattle, with both teams being neck and neck at 7pm Irish time with just over 21 nautical miles to go.

Visit Seattle — led by the youngest ever Clipper Race skipper, 24-year-old Nikki Henderson — claimed its first podium position of the Clipper Race when it crossed the finish line at 21:38:03 local time, less than 17 minutes after Sanya Serenity Coast, to clinch second place.

It was much deserved after being in to the top three positions ever since Day 3. Henderson said: “It was really good fun. It was really hard work but it was nice to have some inshore racing but it is a really good feeling to get a podium. And if you have to come second to someone, then I’m pretty happy for it to be Wendy.”

Later on Friday morning in Sydney, Qingdao has claimed its own maiden podium for the race by finishing third at 09:43:06 local time, just over an hour behind Visit Seattle.

“It’s fantastic, what a great way to come to Sydney, being on the podium for the first time,” said skipper Chris Kobusch.

What’s more, Qingdao will remain first in the overall Clipper Race standings after claiming four bonus points in Race 4, one in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint and three in the Scoring Gate.

It’s the third time Qingdao has been first across the Scoring Gate, and the team has picked up Scoring Gate bonus points in all four races so far.

PSP Logistics narrowly missed out on a third podium but clinched fourth place to complete Friday morning’s arrivals into Sydney.

The podium places had looked assured with a few hundred miles to go but PSP Logistics gave the front-runners cause for concern, finishing within an hour and 16 minutes of third place as the team crossed the finish line at 10:59:00 local time (23:59:00 UTC).

PSP initially opted for an early tactical move of heading the furthest south of the teams out of Fremantle, but were unable to find the favourable conditions that skipper Matt Mitchell had been looking for.

However, by Day 8, as the fleet converged around the southerly point of Tasmania the team rapidly climbed the leader board with a favourable tack round the aptly named Race Mark Mitchell.

After a hard slog up from Tasmania, Dare To Lead is now in Sydney as the fifth team to cross the finish line, at 7.12am Irish time today (18:12:27 local time), to complete the first day of arrivals.

Making it to Sydney in daylight hours was a close run thing, with the team forced to negotiate a nasty wind hole just before entering the Heads.

The team will add eight points to their already respectable 37 points overall after finishing in fifth position.

The rest of the teams currently expected in by the end of Saturday but wind hole frustration is setting in.

Unicef is in front with 49 nautical miles to the finish as at the latest tracking info, with Garmin 30nm behind in seventh, a battle for eighth between GREAT Britain, Liverpool 2018 and Nasdaq, and Conall Morrison’s HotelPlanner.com keeping up the rear some 15nm adrift of that squabble.

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#ClipperRace - It’s been another busy day on Tuesday (12 December) for the Clipper Race fleet as teams zigzag north to the Sydney finish line trying to avoid the wind holes, with some teams far more fortunate in the game than others.

Santa Serenity Coast leads the fleet, but only by a hair over Qingdao, which held the top spot for three consecutive days and also picked up three extra points after being first across the scoring gate.

The battle for the lead continues with Visit Seattle, which crossed the gate second to claim two points and has since elected to go into Stealth Mode.

Qingdao skipper Chris Kobusch, who is pushing hard for his team’s first podium finish, says he spent most of yesterday searching for wind, which filled in the late afternoon.

“With the first wind shift to the west we tacked away from Visit Seattle and managed to gain some miles on them. Enough to stay in front until the scoring gate and to score the three extra points. When we crossed the line, Visit Seattle was only four miles behind and Sanya Serenity Coast, back out of Stealth Mode, eight miles.”

Kobusch added: “Visit Seattle is in Stealth Mode, but I’m sure Nikki [Henderson] and her team are close by as well. So, as it looks it will be a drag race to the finish.”

While we won’t know the team’s precise location until it comes out of Stealth Mode at 6pm Irish time, skipper Nikki Henderson reports a positive experience.

“Just gorgeous sailing today ... as Phil and I said to each other - we were in our happy place. 15 knots, close reaching with full white sails, a wonderful flat sea, current with us, pointing in the right direction and sun out. Absolutely wonderful.”

PSP Logistics is the latest team to enter Stealth Mode and will next appear on the Race Viewer at 6am Irish time tomorrow (Wednesday 13 December).

Skipper Matt Mitchell, who had been creeping up on the leading pack yesterday, explains: “Thankfully we have picked up speed overnight as we decided to head offshore away from the Tasmanian coast. So far that is looking like the right decision as some of the other boats looked to have been struggling.”

Looking ahead, Matt adds: “We have another light wind patch on the way and we are fervently hoping that it won't last too long, and it affects others more than us! (Sorry everyone!)”

With PSP Logistics and Visit Seattle hidden, its Dare to Lead next, followed by Unicef, with both skippers reporting a frustrating time trying to make progress and finding the best routes in the light winds.

Garmin follows, having elected to take the furthest in-shore route, hugging the west coast of Tasmania, giving it a good view of land and the local wildlife.

The teams most affected by the wind holes yesterday, which resulted in some snake-like descents down to the depths of the leaderboard are HotelPlanner.com and GREAT Britain, currently occupying seventh and eighth respectively.

Skipper Conall Morrison of HotelPlanner.com explains: “Not much wind last night has made for frustrating times. We had previously gotten excited as we approached the stalled fleet from the south, more offshore from Tasmania, hoping for less of a wind shadow. Watching 10 knots of boat speed turning into 2 is tough, but that is sailing.”

HotelPlanner.com’s loss turned out to prove a gain however for Liverpool 2018 and Nasdaq, as both teams managed to get on the ladder and overtake, bettering their race hopes — though Liverpool 2018 lost some ground today, slipping back a few miles into last place.

The most positive leaderboard progress of the day, however, goes to Nasdaq, with skipper Rob Graham reporting: “After the drama of yesterday’s kitemare, Nasdaq has had a quieter day although equally busy as we try to pick our way through a light and variable patch of wind East of Tasmania.

“Significant changes to wind strength and direction mean lots of trimming and sail changes - we've lost count of the number of times the Yankee 1, Staysail and WindSeeker have been hoisted and dropped since we past our race mark 'Mitchell' last night.

“All of that work seems to have paid off, because Nasdaq has come from 30+ nm behind to right back with the little group of HotelPlanner.com, GREAT Britain and Liverpool 2018 (G'day mates) who are all blinking on and off my AIS screen as I type. We've also been lucky to have found a patch of South Westerly wind that wasn't in the forecast at all, but is certainly doing us a favour.”

With further light winds forecasted, the Snakes and Ladders game may well continue as the final stages of Race 4: The Tasman Test plays out. The current ETA for the leaders is 11pm to 3am Irish time tomorrow night Wednesday 13 December.

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#ClipperRace - As the close racing continues in the Southern Ocean, the Clipper Race leaderboard positions continue to change, with Qingdao retaking the lead on day seven of the The Clipper Telemed+ Tasman Test.

With only 22 nautical miles separating the top three teams, the next 24 hours are set to be just as thrilling as the fleet converges on the race mark at the south of Tasmania before heading north to Sydney.

This follows an excitingly close Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint conclusion yesterday — which saw Sanya Serenity Coast, Visit Seattle and Qingdao claim the bonus points with less than four minutes between their elapsed times.

On Day 7, it’s Qingdao which takes the lead but on board the team is highly aware of how close the racing is.

“Since the team sailed into first position everyone is keen to stay there and every time I come on deck, or someone comes to the nav station, the first question is: where is Sanya Serenity Coast? How far are they away?” skipper Chris Kobusch reports.

“It is really exciting racing with all the boats so close together. It is still a long way to go and the slightest mistake can cost you a position or more.”

Currently in second place, Sanya Serenity Coast has been enjoying the fast and furious downwind sailing conditions. Skipper Wendy Tuck said: “We came down south and its windy and fun. This breeze will start easing over the next 24 hours so we are making the most of the surfing, everyone is getting a go on the wheel of fortune and lots of new top speeds are happening.”

Visit Seattle, currently in third having opted for the most southerly route of the podium teams, is already looking ahead to Sydney.

But with the race mark to the south of Tasmania signalling that time in the Southern Ocean is nearly over, skipper Nikki Henderson reflects: “So, the exciting news though is that we ARE nearly at the south of Tasmania. Around a day or so and we will be turning left and turning north. It’s so crazy to think that this is the last Southern Ocean sailing we will be doing. Even stranger to think we will be heading north!”

On board fourth-placed Garmin, skipper Gaetan Thomas is also thinking about the tactics of rounding the southerly mark and the remaining decisions to be made as they route heads north to Sydney.

“Zigzagging towards Tasmania for our next waypoint called ‘Mitchell’ were things tactically will be very interesting, lots of currents, an option for scoring gate and some light winds to avoid.”

Positions are tight and continue to vary with Unicef slipping to fifth place with GREAT Britain, which moved into sixth, closely crossing its path.

Unicef Skipper Bob Beggs said: “The race tempo is exciting with all the yachts cross-tacking each other, one such meeting was with GREAT Britain a couple of hours ago it was good to talk with skipper Andy although he wasn't keen to share his tactics with me as he headed south trying to reach waypoint Michell south of Tasmania before me.”

Dare To Lead has enjoyed another fast night towards Tasmania moving up to seventh position and managing to keep at bay both PSP Logistics, currently ninth, and Liverpool 2018 in 10th. Skipper Dale Smyth said: “Another good fast night towards Tasmania, still trying to decide which gybe is best.

“We hoisted our spinnaker this morning as we are having a little tussle with Liverpool 2018 and had a couple of fast hours. We eventually ran out of space with our ice limit of 45 degrees south and had to gybe north once more.”

PSP Logistics has also been enjoying the fast spinnaker sailing conditions benefiting from a wind shift which, for skipper Matt Mitchell, came as a relief as it meant that PSP Logistics could now point exactly where he wants to go: “We continue to chip away the miles to the guys ahead and we are starting to make good gains … finally!

“With just over 24 hours to the corner it really feels like the fleet has bunched up again meaning it’s still wide open for the section up to Sydney.”

After a tough night with strong gusting winds, HotelPlanner.com chose a more northerly route to avoid some of the strongest winds but in turn sacrificed some leaderboard positions slipping from sixth to eighth place. However, skipper Conall Morrison is hopeful that the team today will have good conditions and nice speeds back under spinnaker.

For Nasdaq, currently in 11th place, thoughts have also turned to Tasmania after reaching the milestone of around 1,000 nautical miles to go until Sydney.

Simon Rowell, Clipper Race meteorologist and weather guru, reports that as fleet converges to Tasmania, the conditions are looking good to get around quickly. He added that it is looking very tactical from there on in with what looks to be a very close upwind finish in Sydney.

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#ClipperRace - The competition for the lead is heating up ahead of the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, with only six nautical miles separating the top five teams on Day 4 of Race 4: The Clipper Telemed+ Tasman Test (Wednesday 6 December).

Positions at the top of the leaderboard have been changing regularly over the last 24 hours, as skipper of current race leader Sanya Serenity Coast, Wendy Tuck, reports.

“We have a drag race going on, folks - must make for interesting watching at home. Let me tell you though it makes for tense times on board, continually asking are we faster/slower, higher/lower all the time, definitely sleeping with one eye open.”

Having recently taken the lead back, she added: “Keeps us on our toes so it’s all good. We are ready for anything. I think sometimes it’s easier to chase than to be chased.”

In third place is Unicef, just a fraction of a mile behind the youngest ever Clipper Race skipper, 24-year-old Nikki Henderson on Visit Seattle.

“’Lucky us’ and ‘lucky me’ have been the words revolving around my head today - not only the weather and the conditions but we also have an exciting match race on our hands,” she said. “This is fun and exciting and keeps the crew on their toes and pushes us all to learn and improve and sail better and better.”

Qingdao is in fourth place, completing the current podium positions, having swapped placed with Garmin (now in fifth) over the course of the day. But there is all to play for with little distance separating the teams and positions expected to change.

The Clipper Race fleet woke up to a beautiful South Australian morning only after being tested by a big cold front that came in overnight with winds increasing to 30 knots plus.

Qingdao skipper Chris Kobusch reported this morning: “We had to reef the mainsail, take the spinnaker down and change to the Yankee. We are now flying towards our waypoint under white sails with boat speeds exceeding 10 knots. The sky cleared this morning, the sun is out and it is a beautiful day sailing in the Southern Ocean.”

Northern Irish-skippered HotelPlanner.com is currently holding onto sixth position around 17 nautical miles behind the lead, while GREAT Britain is further to the north and currently in seventh place.

It has been a tough but rewarding night’s sailing for Liverpool 2018 in eighth place, with skipper Lance Shepherd reporting: “We pushed through some strong winds with very little star light or moon light. Both watches managed it well and we have pulled through to a glorious sunny South Australian morning.

“A highlight though was seeing a large pod of nearly 20 long-finned pilot whales cruise by us yesterday afternoon.”

In ninth place, Dare To Lead skipper Dale Smyth remains optimistic and is looking ahead to the next challenge.

“We are fast approaching the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint so another opportunity to gain some points. The forecast still looks good to get us to Tasmania in good time and then it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.”

It has been a busy night for 10th-placed Nasdaq, as skipper Rob Graham reports.

“We have been through a night and a morning of sail changes - reefs in and out, Staysail up and down and all three Yankees have been used. This has provided the opportunity for some good inter-watch competition as most of our racing headsail changes (from smaller to larger Yankees) are done against the clock.”

Eleventh-placed PSP Logistics has also experienced squally conditions that has kept the team busy, and they’re currently 112nm further from the finish than the lead boat.

But Skipper Matt Mitchell believes that the tactic of going further south is starting to pay off.

“We are still trying to chip away at the miles between us and the guys to the north and, so far, we have been between 1-2 knots faster on average, so the computer tells us anyway! Fingers crossed that trend continues.”

Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell forecasts that the teams keep the fast reaching conditions for about 24 hours before the wind will veer ahead of the next front which should catch up in the next 24-36 hours. In the meantime, teams can expect some squally conditions.

Published in Clipper Race
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#ClipperRace - After a short but welcome stopover in Fremantle, the Clipper Race fleet has enjoyed its initial 24 hours at sea in Race 4: The Clipper Telemed+ Tasman Test.

The fleet continued to be closely bunched as it rounded Cape Leeuwin with a difference of less than 20 nautical miles separating the 11 teams.

However, Sanya Serenity Coast has stolen the early advantage once again, and skipper Wendy Tuck has added incentive to get to Sydney as quickly as possible.

“We are off racing to my home town - yippee. It was a beautiful night sailing last night, clear skies and a nearly very bright moon, and not too cold. Everyone happy on board even if it takes a few days to get back into eat, sleep, sail, laugh, repeat.”

Tuck is certainly not resting on her laurels. “We had a good start [and] it has now been a bash up wind, we have cleared the corner of Western Australia and still heading south. Some tough calls await regarding avoiding some wind holes.”

Only nine nautical miles separates the teams between second and last place, with positions expected to change regularly over the next 24 hours.

HotelPlanner.com is currently two-and-a-half miles PSO Logistics after leading the chasing pack this morning, but Northern Irish skipper Conall Morrison is keeping the race leader in his sights.

“After making our way around the cans and getting some gybing practice in we are close hauled on our way southwards. At present we are about 40 nautical miles south west of Cape Leeuwin and we can just about see race leader Sanya Serenity Coast,” he said this morning.

After a particularly tough and emotional Leg 3 and stopover for GREAT Britain, the team has responded remarkably well and is currently in third position.

“We had an epic start out of the blocks and around Rottnest Island. The crew all had their heads in the game, making it much easier,” said skipper Andy Burns.

“The first night’s sail under moon light, starry skies, open ocean and the view of our fellow competitors’ navigation lights was a sight to be seen and one you wouldn't quite appreciate from dry land.”

Burns also welcomed three of the reallocated Greenings crew who have now joined teams across the fleet. “[They] bring with them a wealth of knowledge and a new edge of competitiveness.”

Following close behind is Garmin in fourth and Liverpool 2018 in fifth.

In seventh position as of Sunday afternoon (3 December) Irish time, Unicef skipper Bob Beggs caught up with the close-knit pack after a difficult start, but is currently in a tough battle for position with the back half of the fleet.

“A great start for spectators yesterday although our position over the line wasn't fantastic. We are now racing in a close pack of Clipper Race yachts watching each other closely.”

Rounding the second of three famous great capes earlier today, he added: “We have all cleared Cape Leeuwin and are cracking on south awaiting a wind shift. We should then see the different strategies develop.”

It was also a difficult start for eighth-placed Visit Seattle, with skipper Nikki Henderson commenting: “The first day of the race has proven challenging. Not too sure why, but we just couldn't make our boat move very well last night and struggled to stay up with the pack. Things have improved a little this morning so hoping we can remain competitive.”

To the west of the chasing pack is Qingdao in sixth, while Nasdaq in ninth is just a hair ahead of Dare to Lead. Nasdaq skipper Rob Graham reflected on the Fremantle stopover: “The maintenance team did a great job - working flat out to get all of the issues from Leg 3 resolved, and the Clipper Race Office staff somehow managed to make the schedule work.”

Looking ahead, he added: “We still have seven other boats in sight and the other three showing on AIS. A messy, unsettled patch of wind might shake things up a bit in the next day or so, but it should be a good close race all the way.”

PSP Logistics and Dare To Lead opted for similar tactics at the start by initially heading inshore. The move certainly paid off for PSP, currently within 10nm of Sanya, while Dare To Lead remain in the thick of it.

“We went inshore last night seeking some flatter water but it definitely didn’t pay off and we are squarely at the back of the fleet,” said sipper Dale Smyth. “Anyhow a long way to go.”

With a low-pressure system moving in over the next 36 hours, positions could all change.

Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell reported earlier: “The breeze should veer and also be quite variable as the ridge moves around Cape Leeuwin. It’ll be a tactical maze for the teams, but the decent breeze to the south of it is coming in anyway, so the ridge between the south/south-east ahead of it and the south/south-west behind it shouldn’t be more than a few hours.”

Published in Clipper Race
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Page 8 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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