In the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, the teams went through the 51-mile long Panama Canal, named one of the world’s seven modern wonders, in its centenary year and amidst a US$5.25 billion expansion programme.
It is one of the busiest waterways in the world, playing a vital role in world trade and transport linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.
Skipper of Jamaica Get All Right, Pete Stirling, said the transit will be one of the highlights of Leg 7 and an experience all the crew will remember.
'This was my fourth transit of the canal but it never ceases to be an awe inspiring experience. This year is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the canal and it currently employs 9,500 people and carries more than 14,000 vessels a year between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
'The six Clipper 70s were dwarfed in the locks which are each 1,000 feet long and 150 feet wide,' he added.
Skipper of Switzerland Vicky Ellis, who is also an engineer, added that three locks took the convoy of Clipper 70s up 26 metres from Pacific sea level to the inland lake and another series of three locks dropped it back down to Atlantic sea level.
'Our jolly pilot, Edgar, boarded in the early morning and guided us through the whole route. He is a senior pilot with over 20 years’ experience so usually pilots the major cargo vessels or cruise liners.
'However that day he had been put on a Clipper 70 yacht full of 20 people keen and eager to know all about the canal. Luckily he didn't disappoint and spent the whole canal transit explaining about its history, the new centenary extension plans and the role of the pilots on the route,' she added.
A Le Mans start 30 miles off the Panama coast at first light local time (around 12pm UTC Wednesday) will mark the commencement of the 590 mile sprint to Jamaica.
The short upwind race will be punctuated by easterly trade winds of 10 to 15 knots moving their way through the Caribbean Sea.
Clipper Race Director Justin Taylor added the race will be won or lost on helming skills. 'It’s possible to get round the eastern end of Jamaica in one tack and those boats that do that will do well. The race will require a lot of concentration and as the fleet will be so tightly packed, it will be pretty stressful. I don’t think the skippers will get any sleep between Panama and Jamaica.
'Every little bit counts in every race, but this one will be particularly intense and I anticipate a very close finish.'
The boats are expected to arrive into Errol Flynn Marina, Port Antonio between 17-18 May.
To read all the skipper reports, click here Clipper Round the World