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Chasing down the miles in the Clipper Race and preparing for the next VOR start

by David Schmidt 16 Apr 2018 07:57 PDT 16 April 2018
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 9: The Race to the Emerald City, Day 23 © Clipper Race

5,528 nautical miles is a lot of brine, but this is the rumbline distance between the Chinese city of Qingdao and the American city of Seattle. It is also the (ballpark) distance that the twelve teams engaged in the 2017/2018 Clipper Round The World Yacht Race are actively sailing as they burn-off the final miles that separate their bows from the delights that await them in the Emerald City, starting with as stable horizon and quickly progressing to hot showers, cold beer, and (likely) several really, really big meals. As of this writing, Dare To Lead had just a hair over 890 nautical miles of racing remaining, however five out of the 12 teams are currently operating in stealth mode, meaning that their location and AIS data is temporarily hidden to leverage strategy and tactics on the rest of the fleet.

Once across the finishing line near the western entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which separates the United States from its northern neighbor and which funnels a heck of a lot of water in and out of the Pacific Ocean, teams will motor sail to Seattle, where they will be docked at Bell Harbor Marina, located in the heart of the city's downtown.

According to the Clipper Race's literature, boats should arrive here in Seattle sometime between Thursday, April 19, and Saturday, April 21, and they will remain in town until Sunday, April 29, giving fans a great opportunity to visit the fleet, talk to some of the sailors and maybe even rub elbows with a skipper or two.

Still, with more than 890 nautical miles separating most crews from their first real rest in weeks, this leg could be anyone's game, especially considering that more than half of the fleet has now begun the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, which serves as the final opportunity for teams to rack up extra scoreboard points before the finishing guns sound on this epic leg.

"We started the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint and should hopefully reach the eastern end before sunrise," said Qingdao Skipper Chris Kobusch, in an official event news release. "We had a good start with fast boat speeds and it looks pretty promising."

"Unfortunately, quite a few boats went into Stealth Mode for the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, so we cannot compare our progress to theirs," continued Kobusch, who added that his team is also sailing under stealth mode. "Plus, the last four boats might have good downwind conditions when they enter the sprint. We will have to wait and see."

Further to the west, and amongst teams that are not in stealth mode, there's less mystery and also a bit less promise of strong meteorological conditions to help power the boats through the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.

"Light airs sailing today, 6-8 knots of breeze right behind us, not our most wished for kind of day. Currently sailing with a Code 1 and full main getting lots of gybing practice," reported Liverpool 2018 skipper Lance Shepherd, also in an official Clipper report. "The wind is due to fill in once the ridge comes over us and hopefully this should coincide with the end of the "Ice line" so we can point a little more towards Seattle."

Stay tuned for the latest Clipper news, as it unfurls, and be sure to stop by and visit the Clipper Race fleet at Bell Harbor Marina, should your travels take you through Seattle in the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) is also gearing up for the start of Leg 8, which will carry the fleet from Itajai, Brazil, to Newport, Rhode Island (USA), a distance of some 5,700 nautical miles that crosses the equator and the Gulf Stream en route to the only U.S.-flagged stopover of the 2017/2018 edition of this elite-level race. Leg 8 is set to begin on Earth Day, Sunday, April 22.

As of this writing there's still some question as to how many boats will be able to start Leg 8, as Vestas/11th Hour Racing broke their rig on Leg 7 (Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai) and Scallywag was forced to abandon racing and divert to the Chilean coast after tragically loosing a crewmember a few hundred miles west of Cape Horn.

In both cases, delivery crews are racing the clock to get boats to Itajai in time to be re-supplied (and, in Vestas/11th Hour Racing's case, fitted with a new rig and sails) and on the April 22 starting line.

Sail-World.com wishes all Clipper crews a safe passage to Seattle and all VOR crews good luck in preparing for Leg 8 of their next bluewater challenge.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt, Sail-World.com North American Editor

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