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Clipper Race crew embark on gruelling race across North Pacific Ocean

by Chris Harris, Clipper Ventures 23 Mar 2018 09:16 PDT
Qingdao team preparing to depart Qingdao © Clipper Ventures

The most eagerly anticipated stage of the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race got underway today from Qingdao, China, ahead of a gruelling test covering over 5,500 nautical miles across the North Pacific Ocean towards Seattle, USA. Generally referred to as 'The Big One', the eleven Clipper Race teams slipped lines at 1100 local time (0300 UTC) ahead of starting race nine of the thirteen-stage circumnavigation.

Having already sailed more than halfway round the globe since departure from Liverpool, UK, last August, the Clipper Race fleet is now gearing up to cross the planet's largest ocean where the teams are expected to battle bitterly cold temperatures and huge waves, and at times the closest people to the teams will be those above in the International Space Station.

For one of the teams, Visit Seattle, the destination will be extra special. Ahead of setting sail for her team's home port, Skipper Nikki Henderson, 24 from Surrey, UK, said: "I can't believe it's here finally. We're really excited to get there, there's just the small challenge of sailing across the Pacific in the middle.

"It's an endurance race that the crew are going into and they're definitely in a really strong mental state and I think they're ready to hit the challenge head on."

Due to fog, the start of Race 9, under Le Mans conditions, will be slightly delayed until at least first light tomorrow (Saturday 24 March morning local time) and further updates will be provided on the Clipper Race website.

After the start, and once clear of the Chinese fishing fleets, the teams will use the southern tip of Japan as their first major marker but once passed, the North Pacific awaits and will soon bring with it some very cold temperatures, big conditions and dark nights at sea. Famous for its huge Pacific roller waves, which pick up the yachts and allow them to surf along at speeds reaching 30 knots, it's being out here that the participants will really understand and appreciate the magnificent scale of our planet and their place within it.

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is unique in that it is the only event on the planet that gives non-professionals the opportunity to race across oceans and some 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 and 13 individual races.

Nearly 220 non-professional Clipper Race crew members, representing 28 different nationalities, are taking part in Race 9 of the 13 stage Clipper Race series.

Simone Talfourd, 33, a marketing manager, is a round the world crew member on board Garmin. Ahead of departing, she said: "It will be really hard, it will be challenging but we've seen tough weather before. I think this time it's more about the duration, up to possibly 28 days and through a full-frontal system which is likely to get progressively harder. That, coupled with the inaccessibility of land means it's always on your mind that you're miles away from anything, but we're ready mentally for it."

After approximately 24-29 days of non-stop racing in some of the most remote and extreme conditions of the entire circumnavigation, the Clipper Race fleet is set to arrive into Seattle's Bell Harbor Marina between 14-19 April.

It will be the second consecutive stopover in the West Coast USA city, with the Clipper Race previously visiting during the 2015-16 edition.

Explaining the reason Host Port Visit Seattle has chosen to name Race 9 as The Race to the Emerald City, Ralph Morton, Executive Director of Seattle Sports Commission explains: "The tenacious Clipper Race Skippers and crew have already been through so much in racing over halfway around the world and now they are about to take on the 'The Big One' – crossing the mighty Pacific Ocean. After the long grey days and dark nights at sea, I'm sure that they can't wait to feast their eyes on the vast green spaces and magical landscape of the Emerald City.

"The Clipper Race family can be sure of a warm Seattle welcome after one of the most challenging legs of the circumnavigation and we can't wait for all the teams to get here!"

Since departing Liverpool on 20 August last year, the Clipper Race teams have raced almost 25,000 nm through the Atlantic and Southern Oceans as well as the South China sea, taking them via; Punta del Este, Uruguay; Cape Town, South Africa; Fremantle, Sydney, Hobart, and the Whitsundays, Australia; and Sanya and Qingdao in China.

Following the Seattle Stopover, the Clipper Race fleet will depart again on Sunday 29 April when the fleet will race over 6,000 nautical miles from Seattle to Panama during the first of two races that forms The US Coast-To-Coast Leg 7. From there, the teams will race on to New York, Derry-Londonderry, and Liverpool, where the Clipper 2017-18 Race will finish on July 28, 2018.

Clipper 2017-18 Race Standings: (as of 23 March 2018)

1. Sanya Serenity Coast 98
2. Qingdao 85
3. Visit Seattle 82
4. PSP Logistics 72
5. Dare To Lead 71
6. Garmin 70
7. Great Britain 61
8. Liverpool 2018 50
9. Unicef 50
10. Nasdaq 38
11. 38
12. Greenings DSQ

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