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Skipper thoughts ahead of Race 5: Sta-Lok Endurance Test

by Clipper Round the World Race 18 Dec 2023 23:59 PST
Clipper Round the World Race © Clipper Round the World Race

The eleven Clipper Race teams are now under way. Following a final briefing, tinsel stowed away and final goodbyes on the pontoon in Fremantle, it's time for Race 5: Sta-Lok Endurance Test.

As the teams set sail on one of the most mentally and physically demanding legs of the circumnavigation, and embrace the unique experience of being somewhere round the tip of Tasmania for Christmas Day, we look back on some of the Skippers final thoughts before they stepped on board...

Ineke Van Der Weijden, Perseverance: "So here we go! The next race is from here to Newcastle, about 2500 to 2800 miles. I'm going to go south first, past the southern tip of Tasmania and off the east coast of Australia. That means possibly some cold weather again. I'm going to go quite far south at some point, but not for very long. The weather forecast looks a bit challenging for the first few days, with lots of upwind sailing. Hopefully, once we get a bit further, the weather will ease up and then we can sail a bit more freely.

"I think many of us are not really in the Christmas mood yet because we're used to northern hemisphere cold weather and here, it's beautiful and the sun is shining, but some crew members are really into it. I think we have about 50 meters worth of tinsel on board! But we have a Christmas dinner planned and Secret Santa, so we'll definitely celebrate."

James Finney, Zhuhai: "The weather is not looking so wonderful, to be honest. It's going to be quite strong south southeasterly from the start and it looks like it stays on the nose for quite a long time.

"The first four days of the race could be quite hard upwind sailing, so that is going to be a challenge for the crew, the new joiners and the old hands alike. It's going to be some difficult sailing for sure, but hopefully, it will start to ease off a little bit and we get to start to bond over downwind sailing that we all enjoy. But I think it's going to be quite a tough leg actually."

Dan Bodey, UNICEF: "This leg is going to be a bit of a tricky one from a weather perspective. We've got some upwind to start, so high pressure, which means there's going to be some areas of no wind to negotiate. That is going to be a big challenge and we may see some splits in the fleet.

"As we start going north up the coast of Australia, that's going to give us some really interesting weather as well, flat seas because Australia is going to block all the swell, but we could get some southerly busters and some big wind rolling up there. It can go from like 15 knots up to 40, and almost like a solid wall coming out the way. So, it's going to be a real challenge and the crews are going to be really tested. It's going to be really interesting to see which tactics people play."

Mike Miller, PSP Logistics: "It's going to be a challenge for us all, but the chance to show what we're here for. We're going to be sailing around the bottom end of Tasmania, the southernmost tip of Australia. It's right down close to the 45-degree ice limit, so really down where the Roaring Forties are in full, full steam. I've sailed down there a couple of times before the scenery down there is absolutely extraordinary.

"It should be quite an interesting start. From a skipper's perspective, it's going to be quite a challenge as to whether or not we put up a spinnaker. It's quite difficult to manoeuvre in that type of situation when you've got to be very careful not to be blown too far downwind to get over the start line, you have to time it absolutely to perfection."

Nano Antia Bernardez, Yacht Club Punta del Este: "The first half of the race is going to be very, very difficult. It's going to be fun, and people are excited, and we need to come back higher now.

"It's a very special part of the world to sail around Tasmania, there are so many whales, dolphins birds altogether. It's one of the places I've seen more sea life in my life. It's absolutely amazing. And if we get close enough to see the Tasmanian cliffs with those amazing, very sharp edge rocks, it's just one of the most beautiful islands in the world for sure. And for the crew, it's going to mean getting out into the ocean and seeing the real the adventure."

Jeronimo Santos Gonzales, Qingdao: "The wind that we're going to get is going to be super hard from the start. We're going to have strong headwinds, so the crew is going to be well-prepared for this challenge. I think it's going to be a tactical challenge starting from the beginning.

"Wind holes, downwind and then all the way up north with the currents that we have to look into it. Qingdao needs a push of positions, we have had a fair share of misfortune sometimes, but this is ocean racing, this what this is all about.

"Christmas we will have some a special sort of menu prepared and then we are going to do a secret Santa. Everyone will be missing their families and I'm going to just keep a little bit of Christmas spirit on board."

Hannah Brewis, Washington DC: "It's going to be it's an interesting, interesting, really tactical race. A downwind start, which is notoriously a lot harder than upwind starts as we do a short seven mile run downwind past Rottnest Island. And then after that, it's back up upwind again. So yeah, it'll just be about sail changes and just keeping going. And once you get round the island and start heading south, it's going to be quite rough.

"I think with the start conditions that we have, it's probably quite likely we will be at sea for a new year. I mean, that's got to be cool. Going into the new year in the middle of the ocean on this boat is very special."

Josh Stickland, Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam: "So, it will be quite a wakeup call, quite a difference from the last race! It's a big, big decision whether to gamble south and try and go underneath dominating high pressure, or whether to go north and beat upwind for 2,000 miles. It's all tactics for this race.

"The way I look at sailing is to get from A to B and then celebrate when you're there. So, I'm not pushing the agenda for a big Christmas meal. I mean, I like a cracker and a Christmas hat. But what I want to do is just keep our boat moving, keep our crew focused, and then we can celebrate when we get to Newy."

Max Rivers, Our Isles and Oceans: "On the upcoming leg, the weather's looking quite interesting. We've got a bit of an upwind start down to Cape Leeuwin, and then turning the corner down towards Tasmania is looking a bit tricky. There's a bit of inshore upwind, or if you go further offshore you get some downwind, but in the middle, there's a high-pressure system which can be quite difficult to decide which side of it to go. Some quite interesting tactics being talked about amongst the Race Skippers, about which way to go and what weather to expect. There's going to be a lot of competition.

"Some interesting choices of sail plan about, how we go about that and what we choose to put up and what we choose to not put up."

Ryan Gibson, Dare To Lead: "There are headwinds when we leave, so its going to be tough and a bit of a rough start for the new crew, too. Once we get around the bottom of Australia, there's a big high-pressure system on the bottom of Australia falling between here and Tasmania. So, it's going to be a little bit tricky. That will take some time to tackle through a lot of headwinds. Hopefully we can get a bit of bit further south then and get into the better breeze.

"As we round Tasmania, it's quite famous around there where you can get wind that becomes a little bit different as you go up the coastline to Newcastle. The southerly buster, as they call it, brings really strong sudden winds. So, we've got to be careful with that, but we look forward to going around it and we look forward to spending Christmas at sea.

"We're in a really good position at the moment, actually leading overall. So that's good. We just have to keep consistent and keep a happy boat. That's been part of our success, a happy boat. So, we are going to keep that going and just keep getting good results."

Catch up with all the action from Race Start Day on our channels, and watch the racing unfold on the Race Viewer.

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