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#ClipperRace - Day 4 of Race 9 (Tuesday 27 March) has been a case of ‘Groundhog Day’ as the light winds that had been a feature of the previous 24 hours continue to frustrate the Clipper Race teams. 

Despite not making much progress towards the southern tip of Japan, before facing the North Pacific, the racing continues to be close with less than 45 nautical miles separating the 11 boats.

It is even closer at the top, with new race leader Qingdao less than one nautical mile ahead of second-placed Visit Seattle, although neither has managed more than 20nm over the past 12 hours.

Qingdao skipper Chris Kobusch reports: “The wind is gone. We are pretty much becalmed and started a drift race with Visit Seattle which is within sight on our starboard beam.

“Every time the boat speed exceeds one knot the crew cheers and it sounds like fireworks are going off on deck. The water is so calm one can hardly see where the sea ends and the sky starts. It seems the weather forecast was correct and we are sitting in the eye of the high and will be here for another day or so.”

Third-placed Unicef was less than 8nm off the lead this morning with Skipper Bob Beggs explaining: “Light wind sailing requires lots of concentration with ever shifting winds between 0 and five knots - we are getting lots of practice at this.”

However since the team’s blog, Unicef has reported a malfunctioning watermaker and due to the light airs and current lack of progress of the fleet, Race Officials have made the decision to arrange a rendezvous with PSP Logistics to collect a spare unit it is carrying. 

Unicef is now motoring to carry out the exchange which will have minimal effect on PSP Logistics’ position and course before motoring back to its original position, where the team will then re-join the race.

The chasing pack, consisting of teams positioned from fourth to ninth, is closely bunched together and is just over 20nm off the top three. 

Dare To Lead is currently in fourth but skipper Dale Smyth is concentrating on his own team’s progress rather than being too concerned about the others.

“I don’t have very much to say about the current grand ‘drift off’ that we are all having against each other. The overwhelming thought is that it is going to take an awful long time to reach Seattle in this fashion,” Smyth says.

“Not the most exciting sailing on earth although it is pretty exciting when the boat gets a zephyr and creeps forwards at 3 knots! We are however slowly creeping across the chart and will get through this eventually.”

Many of the teams have been using the opportunity of being becalmed to clear the underside of their boats with PSP Logistics and Sanya Serenity Coast, in fifth and sixth respectively, clearing netting and weed. Both teams are now in sight of Garmin — which had climbed to seventh after clearing its rudders, keel and prop — and Conall Morrison's, a fraction of a mile behind in eighth and which has gained some miles in the fickle winds.

Meanwhile, Liverpool 2018 has lost a few positions today. Skipper Lance Shepherd explains: “It has been an extremely frustrating time aboard our little pink boat. After becoming catch of the day for a Chinese fishing boat two nights ago we have struggled with boat speed and we have steadily slipped back through the fleet to ninth position.”

Towards the back of the fleet, just over 40nm from the leader, the racing remains close. 

Nasdaq skipper Rob Graham, currently in 10th, reports: “Nasdaq managed only 90nm in the past 24 hours, having seen a maximum wind strength of just 7 knots and frequently too little to register in the instruments. Oh well, at least 84 of those 90nm were on course towards Seattle, which seems a very, very, very long way off right now.

“As I type we are neck-and-neck with GREAT Britain [11th] under Windseekers, and are close enough to have Sanya Serenity Coast, PSP Logistics, Liverpool 2018, Garmin and all showing on our AIS so although the racing is certainly not fast, it is close.”

Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell says the high-pressure cell is pretty much over the fleet now but heading down to join the ridge along the south coast of Japan. During the next 24 hours, the teams should gradually get more breeze — not much, and likely on the nose — but at least a bit of breeze.

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#ClipperRace - Things are starting to look up for the Clipper Race fleet on Day 2 of Race 9: The Race to the Emerald City today, Sunday 25 March. 

Glorious sunshine has emerged after a challenging 24 hours for the teams trying to navigate their way through the notorious Chinese fishing fleet, and its many obstacles, in pea soup fog conditions.

Qingdao skipper Chris Kobusch describes the conditions: “Since yesterday we have been sailing through thick, thicker and even thicker fog. At one stage the helm was not even able to see the bow anymore.

“This morning the fog lifted, the sun came out and we have been sailing along in flat waters and sunshine at around nine knots over the ground. It is still a bit fresh, but quite pleasant on deck. Champagne sailing in the Yellow Sea!”

Kobusch’s team retains the lead for a second day and he adds: “Somehow we managed to take the lead and even though it is still early days in the race, this is great for the crew morale. 
“The next few days will be quite challenging, as the weather forecast suggests very light to no winds and we will need a bit of luck to make it through without losing positions. Time will tell.”

The top six teams are within around 10 nautical miles of the lead, with PSP Logistics once again in second place. And as the fog lifts, the teams are starting to see just how close the racing continues to be. 

Unicef skipper Bob Beggs, currently in fourth place, reports: “Today the sun has burnt through and the horizon is now visible, we can clearly see PSP Logistics (good morning Skipper Matt) five miles ahead; earlier this morning we couldn't make out our own bow from the helm.”

Nikki Henderson, skipper of third-placed Visit Seattle, says the sun has lifted spirits on board her boat. 

“About two hours ago we sailed out of the pea soup and into the most glorious day - sun shining, flat seas and a happy crew - the payment for this of course is lighter winds. But we are moving at the moment and every mile we make towards Seattle makes for a happy skipper and crew over here. We are going home!”

Liverpool 2018 has slipped to fifth place today but skipper Lance Shepherd says that the light winds have provided an opportunity for the new crew.

“The team are all fine and dandy and we’re taking advantage of the kind weather to run through a bit of wind theory and boat prep for the rest of the crossing.

“Although as frustrating as the low wind and flat seas have been, it has been great to get the leggers and rest of the crew to be able to establish the ship’s routine and really get into life on board.”

Rounding out the top six is Dare To Lead, which has made up a lot of ground this morning as skipper Dale Smyth is contemplates the next challenge ahead.

“We are all settling in well but almost don't feel like the race has even started till we round Japan and start getting some proper weather.

“The enormity of the North Pacific is actually beyond comprehension and probably best not to think too hard about. I've always found a good approach is to break a trip down into manageable mental portions. At the moment getting around Japan is our goal.”

Sanya Serenity Coast and, in seventh and eighth respectively, have lost some miles due to encountering obstacles in this busy area. skipper Conall Morrison reports: “Sanya Serenity Coast recently did a little donut to clean their rudders and we have spotted a scrap of abandoned fishing net just floating recently, so it is important to keep a sharp lookout.”

Around 36nm behind the lead, GREAT Britain has climbed a place to ninth, with Garmin in 10th and Nasdaq 11th, and skipper David Hartshorn has been describing some of the challenges.

“As the afternoon progressed we found a few wind holes, more fog and fishing and commercial shipping who appeared to like playing music over VHF Chanel 16 more than talking about collision avoidance.

“So, having watched the fleet slip away, we are now playing catch up and although there is still over 5,000nm to go, every mile gap between us and the runners in front seems equally challenging.”

While the fleet is enjoying the sunshine for now, the visibility for the next 24 hours is forecast to be patchy due to the fog, and Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell says that the high-pressure system isn’t showing any sign of going anywhere in a hurry.

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#ClipperRace - Yesterday was a day to remember at Wanda Marina and Yacht Club in Qingdao as the full Clipper Race fleet berthed at the brand-new facility, following the arrival of last-placed just before 11pm Irish time/UTC.

Crew member Tom Parker from New York received one of the the loudest cheers from the locals when he put his impressive Chinese language skills on show to make a speech along with his skipper Conall Morrison.

In what was yet another consistently high-performing race, the team finished just 31 hours after the Race 8: Sailing City Qingdao Cup winners Visit Seattle, and had its nearest competition, Unicef, in sight on the horizon just two days out from the finish.

Watch leader and circumnavigator Roseann McGlinchey said: “It was a real race of mixed conditions. We had extreme heat, extreme cold, lots of wind then no wind, upwind conditions then downwind conditions, just everything. It was brilliant!”

Having experienced the highly anticipated Qingdao welcome first-hand, the entire Clipper Race crews were treated to fresh food and drinks inside the grand Wanda Yacht Club building. With the Qingdao stopover now underway, the host of events will kick off with an arrival press conference and prizegiving ceremony today, Friday 16 March.

As reported yesterday, the Clipper Race teams will remain in Qingdao until next Friday 23 March when they will set sail across the North Pacific Ocean to Seattle on the sixth leg.

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#ClipperRace - Visit Seattle has pulled off a sensational victory after a dramatic twist in the tale of Race 8, swooping past PSP Logistics to steal victory in the final few miles of the race to Qingdao, China.

PSP Logistics, which had led the Clipper Race fleet for eight successive days and were 25 nautical miles ahead at 9am Irish time/UTC yesterday (Wednesday 14 March), succumbed to a wind hole just 30nm from the finish line, allowing Visit Seattle to sneak up on their eastern side to take the race win.

Visit Seattle, led by 24-year-old British skipper Nikki Henderson, crossed the finish line off the coast of Qingdao at 00:04:11 local time (16:04:11 UTC) to complete the 1,700 nautical mile race stage from Sanya in 10 days, 9 hours, 34 minutes and 11 seconds.

After her team crossed the finish line, Henderson said: “This reflects the hard work and determination and grit displayed by everyone on this boat - naturally a lot of luck and whilst we do feel for PSP Logistics, we can’t hide our elation.”

This is the third podium in eight races and a second victory for Visit Seattle, who went into Race 8 in third place in the overall standings, just four points behind the race leader.

The team is also yet to play its Joker Card, a bonus tactic, which each team has the ability to ‘play’ for one of the thirteen race stages, which doubles the number of race points earned for that chosen race.

Commenting from on board the boat shortly after finishing was crew member Chrissie Laming, a photographer who joined the Visit Seattle team for Leg 5 and 6.

“I am in total shock and am completely blown away at managing to come in at first position - we were keeping everything crossed for second place and had been driving hard through a tough 10 days. It had always been my dream to come into Qingdao as a winner - and it’s just come true - what a lucky lady I am, and team we are!”

Just over an hour later, there was further agony for PSP Logistics, which was left bobbing around in no wind less than five nautical miles from the finish line, as two other teams overtook in the east.

Sanya Serenity Coast took second place after crossing the line at 01:12:58 local time (17:12:58 UTC). Skipper Wendy Tuck said: “I didn’t know that we had got second till about 90 minutes, after we had finished. I really feel PSP Logistics’ pains as we have been there after losing from a 200nm lead in Race 3.”

Sanya’s fourth podium position of the 13-stage Clipper Race series is an especially big result as the team had chosen to play its Joker Card in this particular race, which means its 11 points are doubled to 22, extending its lead over the 10 competing teams in the race. The team also won two points in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint part of the race.

Liverpool 2018 crossed the finish line in third place at 2.25am local (6.25pm UTC) to take the team’s second podium position. Skipper Lance Shepherd said: “It has been a very tactical race with every weather you could imagine - except snow.....but that might come yet.

“The racing has been very close and we have been playing cat and mouse with Sanya Serenity Coast and Visit Seattle. It’s always exciting when one gybe or tack can make all the difference. It is also fantastic to get our second podium, with a third place.

“The crew have performed amazingly and they should be very proud of themselves having achieved something special. Really looking forward to a cold beer and a warm bed. Bring on the mighty Pacific.”

PSP Logistics ended up finishing Race 8 in fourth place, eventually crossing the finish line at 7.43am local (11.43pm UTC).

Taking to the stage at the team’s arrival ceremony, skipper Matt Mitchell, who was clearly disappointed, explained: “It was a very difficult race. We were leading from the start but in the last five miles the wind just died on us and we watched our competitors sail around us. That last five miles took us twelve hours to complete.”

However, the PSP skipper added: “It might have been a tough experience but we’re still very proud of ourselves, we had such a good race together until that last part and the welcome here has been absolutely fantastic as always so thank you for making us feel so welcome.”

The race leaders are the first vessels to arrive at the new Wanda Yacht Club in the West Coast New Area of Qingdao, which is hosting its seventh Clipper Race and is now the event’s longest serving host port partner.

Boats will remain in the city until Friday 23 March, when the fleet embarks on the Mighty Pacific Leg 6: a 5,600 nautical mile race across the North Pacific from Qingdao to Seattle.

Meanwhile, two more boats crossed the finish line overnight Irish time: home team Qingdao (10:40:42 local/02:40:42 UTC) in fifth even after redress was applied, and Garmin (13:38 local/05:38 UTC) in sixth.

Behind them the battle for race points continues with less than 10nm separating GREAT Britain, Nasdaq and Dare To Lead, currently in seventh, eighth and ninth respectively – although Nasdaq, like Qingdao, has 1 hour 45 minutes of redress to be applied.

GREAT Britain is leading the final charge this morning with around only two and a half miles to go to the finish line as of 10am Irish time/UTC.

After a busy night of gybing to avoid fishing nets, skipper David Hartshorn reports: “We are expecting the winds to back from south to the north-east as the next low, with the associated front, comes across the race track and dominates the weather. So, after a number of days under the kite, the last push is expected to be an uphill beat in 30 knots of wind.”

Nasdaq skipper Rob Graham, whose vessel is less than a mile astern, has also had a tense night of gybing. “It’s still very close between us, GREAT Britain and Dare To Lead. The fog is thicker and colder than ever this morning, as the wind has switched into a building icy north-north-easterly after a light and fickle phase full of sail changes. We're hoping to get in before it starts blowing too hard and the sea state builds.”

The conditions have certainly started to turn chilly as the teams head north, with Dare To Lead skipper Dale Smyth, currently 5.5nm from the finish line, explaining: “We are beating upwind in 35 knots of very, very cold wind to make the finish line. We actually had a little bit of snow when it first came through. To make it even more exciting the visibility is virtually nothing in thick fog. This has truly been a very tough interesting leg.”

Arriving into Qingdao will be a welcome return for Unicef skipper Bob Beggs, whose team is just 30nm away. “The team are as always upbeat and are looking forward to arriving tomorrow morning,” he said. “I am looking forward to catching up with all the familiar faces from our tremendous welcome two years ago when, as Qingdao crew, we sailed into our home port.”

A little over 80nm finish this morning is, which has had close encounters with the world’s largest fishing fleet. Skipper Conall Morrison reports: “Now we are in thick fog and becalmed… This is not forecast to last for long and soon we expect 30 knots from the north-east. This will bring colder and drier air to blow the fog away and we will be living at an angle for the last few miles.”

Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell says that the strong north-north-easterly winds being on a weather shore will at least make for reasonably flat seas as the teams make their way to the finish line and the wind is forecast to say much the same for the next few hours before gradually veering and easing.

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#ClipperRace - As the Clipper Race fleet pushes north up the eastern Taiwanese coast, a real contrast in wind and conditions have been reported over the last 24 hours, resulting in a vast range of fortunes and emotions for the teams.

One thing for certain is that the air temperature may be dropping, but the competition level in this race to Qingdao is properly starting to heat up.

PSP Logistics has extended its lead and is now around 50 nautical miles ahead of nearest competitor, Visit Seattle, though it hasn’t been plain sailing, skipper Matt Mitchell reports.

“What a frustrating 24 hours we’ve had! The wind has been so fickle, massive wind shifts and a huge range of wind strength. It made the sailing very tough, in a different way than that we experienced just a few days ago. Keeping the boat going was a real challenge and choosing sail plan was also difficult.”

Behind the leaders, five teams are spread from east to west with less than 25 nautical miles separating them, making for an intense chase to reach the podium.

Visit Seattle has moved up into second place, and skipper Nikki Henderson has detailed the change in conditions that the fleet has experienced over the last 24 hours, saying: “We could not have had a more dramatic change of scene.

“This time yesterday we were thrashing around in a confused sharp sea state and 30 knots of wind (water consistently spraying in your face, horizontal rain, noisy, leaned over, yellow dry suits etc) and now there is not a cloud in the sky – bright, bright blue above us - and calm flat water below - with (unfortunately...but with some relief) not a whole lot of wind.”

After a bold tactical move, Henderson added: “We headed out east last night and made no ground to our destination in an attempt to avoid the forecast wind hole off of Taiwan. As the wind dropped this morning my heart sunk - hopefully the miles in the wrong direction will pay off or we have just thrown our podium position out the window (hatch).”

The biggest winner of the day is Qingdao, furthest west of the five chasing teams and up to third after continuing its steady climb up from the bottom of the leaderboard.

The team is well placed now following a brief diversion to rendezvous with Nasdaq at the beginning of the race for the transfer of an essential watermaker spare part, and the race committee has verified redress times for both teams.

Qingdao skipper Chris Kobusch says: “Somehow we got a bit lucky with the wind and caught up with GREAT Britain, Sanya Serenity Coast and Liverpool 2018. In ocean racing you really go through lows and highs. One day you ask yourself ‘What am I doing here?’ and the next day you think ‘It’s actually not too bad. Quite enjoyable in fact.’ See how we feel tomorrow on the good boat Qingdao. Today we are definitely on the high.”

Liverpool 2018 is currently fourth, in the centre of the chasing pack, and while the team’s podium position is still within sight in this race, skipper Lance Shepherd is feeling frustrated after missing out on a point in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint by the narrowest of margins.

“It’s been a day of highs and lows for the crew of Liverpool 2018. Today we found out that we came fourth in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, by two minutes. It’s crazy to think how close it can be, that’s one round up, a slow tack, or just a tiny mistake. However, our crew are full of praise for all on board Garmin, Sanya Serenity Coast and Dare To Lead as we know how tough it was.”

Tucked in closely behind Liverpool 2018 are Sanya Serenity Coast and GREAT Britain in fifth and sixth position, and around 19 nautical miles further behind is Garmin, hot on the pursuit in seventh place and spurred on by its first place result in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.

Garmin skipper Gaëtan Thomas is delighted with the result, explaining: “I opted for a fine reach than a close haul and it did pay as we won it! Well deserved, we worked very hard on it and I'm proud of my pirates!”

Nasdaq, in eighth, is 13nm behind after managing to maintain good progress in the light winds, resulting in a 30nm gap being opened over ninth placed Dare To Lead, though that since been halved in the last few hours.

Dare To Lead skipper Dale Smyth says: “We are now finally through Luzon Strait with a straight run north ahead of us. We were pleased to hear that we at least scored a point on the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint so that slightly helps us to feel better about our awful position at the moment.

“We have a wind hole close in to the coast of Taiwan that we are trying at the moment to avoid and this has required us to yet again do an offshore tack with no progress forward, but rather that than get stuck!!”

At the back of the fleet, Unicef (10th) and Conall Morrison’s (11th) are a fraction of a mile apart, both hoping to play catch up in the remaining miles.

Relief has been reported across the fleet that the gale-force headwinds are over for now and that life has returned to more normality in the flatter waters, but now crews will have to battle hard again as they look to avoid wind holes.

The good news is that they are at least aided by the Kuro Shio current, also called Japan current: a strong surface oceanic current which flows between Luzon of the Philippines and the east coast of Japan and provides a natural push, which should keep teams from standing completely still.

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#ClipperRace - After a tough and wet couple of days for the Clipper Race fleet, the sun came out on Day 6 of Race 8 (Saturday 10 March), bringing plenty of positive attitudes as the teams make better progress up the east coast of Taiwan after the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.

Having abandoned its own attempt to gain up to three bonus points in the sprint, PSP Logistics continues to lead Race 8, from Sanya to Qingdao, for a fourth consecutive day.

Skipper Matt Mitchell has been enjoying the change to more pleasant conditions: “What a difference a day makes! The sun is shining and the wind has eased to a much more manageable level. We are still tight on the breeze though so we can't have everything in life.”

Sanya Serenity Coast is around 30 nautical miles behind and has leapfrogged Liverpool 2018 into second place.

Although the wind is still on the nose, skipper Wendy Tuck reports: “The crew on board the mighty Sanya Serenity Coast have come through all the lumpy stuff unscathed and the smiles and sunshine are back. This crew just get on with it and it is a real pleasure to sail with all of them.”

Hot on her heels is Visit Seattle and skipper Nikki Henderson. “We are match racing Liverpool 2018 and Sanya Serenity Coast at the mo,” said the race’s youngest skipper. “Last night we made a few good tacks and made some ground on them, but now they are slightly overhauling us with boat speed. It goes in roundabouts. Things will get interesting I'm sure, when the Scoring Gate gets in reach.”

Dropping a couple of places to fourth is Liverpool 2018. Skipper Lance Shepherd reports: “With hindsight maybe we should have gone further north before crossing, who knows (well Matt did probably from being here before - good call Matt), and now we are playing catch-up with the lead three boats.”

GREAT Britain continues to be in fifth place today but lost some miles on the leaders after a mistake with tacking cost them dear, and sixth-placed Qingdao is now only around 10 nautical miles behind the team.

Qingdao skipper Chris Kobusch remains upbeat, despite a bout of seasickness among his crew, saying: “The crew keeps the morale up and fights our way through the waves. Lots of us watching the GRIB files again and again though, hoping the forecasted change in wind direction comes sooner the more we look at it.”

The big climber of today, however, is Nasdaq, up to seventh from 11, and skipper Rob Graham credits the change in conditions for a change in morale.

“The sea state has calmed a little, and the wind is slightly less. More importantly the sun is shining again which makes everyone on deck feel happier about things, even if it makes living below deck uncomfortably hot again.

“Nasdaq now has Taiwan in sight, having tacked east shortly before lunch in close company with Dare To Lead, and also visible on AIS. It's good to have some company and other boats to pace ourselves against.”

Also moving up a couple of places is Dare To Lead, in eighth. Garmin is currently in ninth, having chosen to go further offshore compared to the other teams.

Further back in the fleet, and around 120 nautical miles from the race leader, a close battle is being fought between Conall Morrison's and Unicef, currently in 10th and 11th place respectively.

Unicef skipper Bob Beggs also remains positive, saying: “Soon we will be clear south of Taiwan and will be able to head north at last. At these latitudes it’s still very warm and I'm looking forward to the colder climates as we climb up to Qingdao.”

For the next 24 hours the wind pattern is not expected to change that much, but the teams will find that the wind will ease the further north they get.

The results of the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint will be announced later following verification by the race office.

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#ClipperRace - It’s been a busy 24 hours in the Clipper Race onboard, according to Derry-Londonderry skipper Conall Morrison.

“As the wind has freshened significantly we are now on Yankee 3, staysail and reefs in and out of the mainsail,” said’s Sailor of the Month for Seamanship in December earlier today, Wednesday 7 March.

“The night also saw quite a bit of commercial traffic as we passed 70 miles south of Hong Kong (hello to sister Ruth, nephew Kieran and brother in-law Simon!). We have also encountered a fair few fishing vessels.

“Today the sun has poked its head out again and we find ourselves the most northerly boat of the fleet. Here’s hoping the wind backs as forecast and helps us make up a few miles to the boats ahead.” was part of the chasing pack this morning though it was slipped from seventh to ninth place as its northerly bearing puts it further away from destination Qingdao.

Elsewhere, there’s been a reshuffle at the top after the fleet spent another busy night avoiding fishing vessels and dealing with strengthening winds.

PSP Logistics regained the lead on Day 3 of the 1,700 nautical mile Race 8: The Sailing City Qingdao Cup, with Skipper Matt Mitchell enjoying the change in conditions.

“During the day and overnight last night, the wind picked up nicely giving us a little taster of things to come. At one point we were even down to three reefs!

“Our northerly route seems to be paying off, tacking just outside Hong Kong was quite interesting as it was pretty busy up there, however we've had a nice lift and are more or less making the little virtual mark that we have to leave to port, before making our way up to Taiwan.”

Sanya Serenity Coast, which in contrast to PSP Logistics has deviated south of the rhumb line, dropped from first to second place after experiencing an action packed last 24 hours.

Skipper Wendy Tuck explains: “We just used up two more of our get out of jail cards. Eagle eye young Michael Davis just noticed that the top two slides on the main sail had just come off.

“A second get out of jail card was used whilst Michael and I were up sewing and sitting on the main. We saw a fishing boat acting strangely, and before we could do anything, we saw his drift net. Somehow we managed to sail straight over the top of it and not pick it up. Huge sigh of relief by all on deck.”

GREAT Britain made the most of the arrival of the Northeast Trades to cover the most nautical miles overnight Irish time and retake third place, with Liverpool 2018 dropping to fourth.

However, Liverpool 2018 skipper Lance Shepherd is more concerned about the conditions, reporting: “It would seem at present the weather is pretty much doing as forecast if a little breezier than expected at times.

“However, we are heading as planned to waypoint ‘Howard’ then across to the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.”

The leading pack is approximately 100 nautical miles from beginning the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, which will earn the top three fastest teams up to three crucial bonus points.

Nikki Henderson, skipper of the fifth placed Visit Seattle, is feeling good about where her team is at after seeing how the crew handled the building breeze.

“We had our first taste of upwind sailing with gusts of 40 knots - not forecast - and quite a shock. It was good fun - great to have some action after quite a mundane race from the Whitsundays in Australia. Wind has now subsided and we are making good ground to the next waypoint.”

Unicef is in sixth place again today but did make some gains overnight, climbing as high as fourth place at one point. Dare To Lead is just a mile behind in seventh, while Garmin and continue their duel some 25nm behind them.

Qingdao in 10th and Nasdaq in 11th are around 100 nautical miles behind the lead boat. After a day spent battling a confused sea state, Nasdaq skipper Rob Graham comments: “We had originally planned to make a long tack north before heading east, but with more fishing boats the closer we came inshore, we felt we were losing too much hard-earned ground by having to dodge around them.

“So instead we’ve made some shorter tacks further south where there is less fishing activity and the deeper water seems slightly less lumpy.”

The upwind battle is set to continue for some time yet. While the winds are expected to ease over the next 24 hours, Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell is predicting the Northeast Trades to begin building tomorrow afternoon, local time.

As they approach the southern tip of Taiwan, the teams can expect strong gusts of between 40 knots to the low 50s, particularly if they are in the midst of a north-going current.

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#ClipperRace - Skippers in the Clipper Race were reporting relief this morning (Tuesday 6 March) as winds and boat speeds picked up — though with the high level of fishing fleets around, teams are also on high alert in this opening stage of Race 8: The Sailing City Qingdao Cup.

Moreover, with the entire fleet headed north of the rhumb line in search of the best conditions, the key decision this morning focused on when to tack and which teams would go first.

Unicef started the day in sixth place despite being one of the most northerly positioned teams as it was one of the furthest west — but has since jumped into pole position thanks to its hard turn to starboard, a move in which it was joined by Dare to Lead.

Unicef skipper Bob Beggs reports: “The last 24 hours have been idyllic, flat seas, sunny, with just 10 knots of wind. The spinnaker run came to an end overnight as the wind started to back easterly and head the fleet. We now have perfect Yankee 1 conditions, with a gentle 25 degrees angle of heel.

“Some evasive action was taken during the night to avoid a ten-mile-long fishing net. Skipper Matt Mitchell on PSP Logistics called up on VHF radio to warn the fleet behind him (unfortunately all of us) of the danger, as the team was caught up in it. They were however able to free themselves from the net with little effect on their lead.

“Matt is no stranger to these waters, it’s his third race to Qingdao and he knows a trick or too when escaping these massive nets. Thanks for the warning Matt.”

PSP Logistics led the push north this morning but lay in fifth place. By virtue of their position further east and closest to Qingdao, Sanya Serenity Coast were second with Liverpool 2018 in third and Visit Seattle in fourth.

Skipper Matt Mitchell onboard PSP Logistics reports: “Another day goes by and it’s actually been quite pleasant with a light headwind and warm sun. The breeze is starting to pick up now though and life is definitely on the lean again!”

GREAT Britain was in sixth this morning, on the same heading as PSP Logistics, and with a more positive report from skipper Nikki Henderson: “The wind finally came — with PSP Logistics and Sanya Serenity Coast reappearing on the AIS which was a boost for the crew.

“We are now sailing upwind in a smooth sea and bright sunshine — both things that I expect won’t last for long, so we are soaking it in and enjoying the day. Liverpool 2018 are just ahead of us and sailing very well. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be able to quite keep up with them but we are definitely trying our best!”

Conall Morrison’s and Garmin were neck-and-neck in line with each other, in eighth and ninth place respectively. On Garmin, skipper Gaëtan Thomas reports today that his team are feeling frustrated in seemingly lighter winds, doing all they can to increase boat speed.

“The pirates (Garmin crew) are trimming and trying different things to see if our speed will increase but we are still going slower than all the fleet. We checked if our keel and rudders are trawling some nets which would explain our lack of speed, but it is all clear down there.

“The race is just at its beginning though so we will keep sailing and see the result later but for the moment, it's all in the same direction, same wind, same angle, so we will find out why we are so slow … hopefully!”

At the back of the fleet, a boat-to-boat transfer took place this morning, as Qingdao skipper Chris Kobusch, in tenth, explains: “This morning we finished our first fresh water tank, wanted to start the watermaker and discovered that the bleed screw on the pump was missing. Without it the water maker can’t build up the required pressure and therefore we would not be able to make any fresh water.

“Luckily Nasdaq, who had the required spare on board was close by and we deviated from our course to meet up with Rob and his team to do the transfer a few hours ago. All went well and we now have a working watermaker again. Thanks to the Nasdaq team for helping us out!”

Eleventh-placed Nasdaq skipper Rob Graham adds: “Everything went smoothly and I think both crews enjoyed the novelty of putting into practice something which we had trained for. Both boats have now resumed racing, and (in our case at least) dodging trawlers as we go. We managed to safely pick our way past an oil field overnight — the huge platforms look like a scene from Blade Runner when they are lit up at night.”

The race committee will convene to decide on the awarding of redress and an announcement will be made on this shortly. Meanwhile, the wind is forecast to build further today before easing off tomorrow, before coming in pretty strong on Thursday into Friday as the fleet approaches the south end of Taiwan.

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The final section of the Asia-Pacific Leg 5, officially known as Race 8: The Sailing City Qingdao Cup, has got underway following the inaugural Clipper Round the World Yacht Race Stopover in Sanya, China.

Sanya, which made its debut on the Clipper 2017-18 Race route, lived up to its reputation for putting on a spectacular show with a final departure ceremony for the Clipper Race fleet that included three performances, including the lion dance, and a speech from Sanya’s Deputy Mayor, Mayor Xu. She said: “Sanya’s tropical climate and clean, warm waters make it the perfect place to host large international yacht races like the Clipper Race and these events will help the popularity of sailing flourish.

“The Sanya Government has spared no efforts to ensure the Clipper Race partnership is a big success and we look forward to welcoming the Clipper Race back in the future!”

After slipping lines at Sanya Serenity Marina, the only Asian Marina to hold the Marina Industries Platinum Five Gold Anchor status, and the highest possible level of accreditation, teams geared up for the race start in a steady breeze in front of Sanya’s iconic Phoenix Island., Skippered by Irish Yachtsman Conall Morrison, who was recently named the Irish Sailor for December by, got off to a solid start to the 1,700 nautical mile race to Qingdao.

Speaking shortly before Race Start, Conall said: “I’m really looking forward to this race to Qingdao though the crew probably doesn’t enjoy upwind conditions the best, so there are a few changes we’ve made from the last race, which was largely downwind light conditions, to accommodate that.”

After completing a short inshore route, which passed the Nanshan statue, the Clipper Race fleet raced away from Sanya and will navigate the Kuroshio Current as it heads north, where the scorching heat will be replaced by freezing conditions.

ClipperRace Director Mark Light said: “The majority of Race 8 is likely to be upwind conditions, certainly as they race off the East coast of Taiwan, and there is the North flowing warm Kuroshio current as well.

“The predominant north-easterly winds combined with the Kuroshio Current heading in the opposite direction, there will be wind over tide and that can create quite heavy seas and short but sharp waves.

“As the teams head further north, the heavy weather tends to be replaced by fog and that will provide a different challenge for the fleet.”

The race to Qingdao is expected to take between ten to twelve days, with the fleet expected to arrive into the Wanda Yacht Club between the 13 and 16 of March.

This will be the seventh time the Clipper Race has included Qingdao on its global racing route, with the city the longest serving partner of the race. For the first time, Clipper Race crews will berth at the newly constructed Wanda Yacht Club, a state of the art facility in western Qingdao which demonstrates how the sailing industry continues to expand in China’s Sailing City in the ten years since hosting the Beijing Olympic Games Sailing Events.

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is unique in that it is the only event on the planet which trains non-professional sailors to become ocean racers. Approximately 40 per cent of crew members have never sailed before they sign up. 40,000 nautical miles in length, the circumnavigation is divided into eight legs.

Around 200 people representing 22 different nationalities and all walks of life are taking part in the race to Qingdao, including four Irish crew on board

Since the Clipper 2017-18 Race began on August 20, 2017 in Liverpool, Roseann and her team have crossed three oceans and taken part in seven races, the highlight being a win in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Clipper 70 Class, which doubled as Race 5.

Following the Qingdao Stopover, the Clipper Race fleet will depart again on March 23 for the Mighty Pacific Leg 6, a 5,600 nautical mile race across the world’s biggest and remote ocean to Seattle. From there, the teams will race on to Panama, New York, Derry-Londonderry, and Liverpool, where the Clipper 2017-18 Race will finish on July 28 2018.

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#ClipperRace - The full Clipper Race fleet is now berthed at Sanya Serenity Coast Marina following an exciting finish to Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya, in China.

All 11 teams came into port within 21 hours, led by leg winners PSP Logistics, with Dare to Lead taking second place from Qingdao after redress for its diversion earlier in the leg; home team Sanya Serenity Coast in fourth; and Unicef and Visit Seattle completing a busy night.

Liverpool 2018 kicked things off in the daylight hours, crossing the line at 10:41:22 local time (02:41:22 Irish time/UTC) on Friday 23 February.

Skipper Lance Shepherd said: “Race 7 was very technical – lots of wind holes but we enjoyed it. Crew morale was high, so it was good overall. It was a little bit frustrating watching the fleet catch us up from behind but we kept all but Nikki and her Visit Seattle team away. She played a blinder in coming round the outside.

“Sanya looks beautiful and I’m looking forward to enjoying all the activities it has to offer.”

Two hours later, Nasdaq and Garmin both rounded the peninsula at virtually the same time. Both teams had eighth place in their sights but in the end, it was Nasdaq which crossed the line first, five minutes ahead of Garmin.

Nasdaq skipper Rob Graham said: “That was great, exciting right down to the last three-and-a-half minutes or so. It was very close for the last 20 miles. We had an issue with getting our spinnaker down so we sent our hobbit (Tom Boys) up the mast and we got the kite down and we just made it over the line ahead of Garmin.

“We’re really pleased with the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint result – we did get lucky with the weather. Some of the earlier boats had very light winds. We managed to time it just right for the best winds. And shot across the sprint. We had to work really hard to make the most of the luck with the weather but we’re really pleased with the result."

Graham added: “Having my face up at Times Square for my birthday was a huge surprise – I’ll have to take a look at the photos once we’ve got the boat sorted out.”

The inshore victory capped off what has been a very solid race for Nasdaq, with the team going from 11 to eighth in the final 24 hours of racing, and it also adds four crucial bonus points to its overall total after being the quickest in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, and the third team through the Scoring Gate.

Nasdaq’s nine total race points equals its previous best haul from when the team came fourth in Race 5, from Sydney to Hobart.

Garmin also earned two bonus points in Race 7 after being second through the Scoring Gate. The bonus points were a welcome reward for the team after what was a tough race.

Arriving into port, Garmin circumnavigator Gerardo Injoque, from Peru, spoke of his thoughts on the race: “It was really good, we had great weather, really nice sailing most of the time but the heat was something really hard to cope with. In my opinion it was the hardest challenge it was really tough, even when you try to get to sleep it was so hot down there.

“We made it though, we are here, I am thrilled. My first time in China so really looking forward to it here. I thought we were just arriving to a small island a few beaches and buildings, but this is huge. The skyline is huge, and with all the boats it looks very nice. I’m really looking forward to walking around the city and seeing everything.”

Forty-eight minutes behind Garmin was, which crossed the finish line in 10th place at 14:17:46 local time (06:17:46 UTC) with novice sailor Roseann McGlincheyRoseann McGlinchey among its celebratory crew.

Skipper Conall Morrison said: “It was really tough. We didn’t have the best start but we are all here in good health and happy to here. We had a nice race there at the end with Nasdaq, Garmin and GREAT Britain so it was pretty close, pretty tight with that.

“Over the last couple of days bringing the wind with us and catching the leaders, closing in the miles, was fun. It’s nice to be here in Sanya all at the same time. It’s really cool, I love the mountains and the big city.”

Greg Glover, circumnavigator, added: “It was tough, you know it was hot but it was beautiful sailing. The weather was fantastic. It was great we had a lot of fun.

“I was really impressed by the coastline as we came up here, it was quite a rugged skyline then the high-rise buildings started popping up around the place. Sanya looks a bit like Hawaii, it feels really cool to be here.”

GREAT Britain completed the arrivals, crossing the line at 09:07:21 UTC (17:07:21 local). While the team will only collect two race points for the 11th-place finish, it will finish with a respectable four points after setting the second fastest time in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.

Next up for the Clipper Race crew will be the official Race 7 prizegiving on Monday 26 February. As well as the presentation of pennants and awards, the crew will be entertained by traditional dancers and treated to dinner on the lawns of the Sanya Serenity Coast Marina Club Garden. Weather permitting, the prizegiving will be shown on the Clipper Race Live page on Facebook.

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