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Skipper and AQP thoughts ahead of Race 7 to Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam

by Clipper Round the World Race 27 Jan 10:49 PST
Happy faces from the AQP's ahead of their next adventure © Brooke Miles Photography

Race 7 is the first instalment of Leg 5:Asia Pacific Challenge which sees the eleven Clipper Race teams embark on a 4,515-nautical-mile marathon to Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

This race will see the teams navigate the Coral Sea and dip into the immense Pacific Ocean and is anticipated to take approximately 28days. This stage of the circumnavigation is one of the most tactically challenging sections on the Clipper Race circuit serving up varying conditions, intense heat and a long time at sea.

Leg 5 will be a test of skill, endurance, and the unyielding determination of the crew. In this part of the world, crew will contend with the doldrums and witness breath taking storms, with squalls offering both a relief from the heat and the potential for trickier conditions. It's a show of seamanship, resilience, and the ability to navigate through unpredictable weather patterns, and will demand a profound understanding of the elements and an unwavering commitment to the spirit of adventure.

As the fleet charts its course through this demanding leg, a significant milestone awaits; a second Equator crossing. This nautical rite of passage signals the return of the legendary King Neptune, accompanied by a time-honoured initiation of more Shellbacks among the crew. It's a momentous event, steeped in maritime tradition and eagerly anticipated by both seasoned sailors and those new to the world of offshore sailing.

Every decision made on this leg will echo in the overall performance of each team. From navigation to seamless cooperation among crew members, this leg encapsulates the true essence of ocean racing.

Here's how the Skippers and AQPs are feeling as the 24-hour countdown to Race Start begins...

Dare To Lead AQP Charlie Warhurst:

"There's going to be light winds, we've got the Doldrums Corridor coming up, so that'll be a big tactical move again, and it will be interesting how that plays out.

"There should be a nice strong power reaching in that way, so, it should be quite quick to get through the doldrums. That said, there is also plenty of room for big mistakes, and big mistakes can be quite costly in time."

Max Rivers, Our Isles and Oceans Skipper:

"We're going to go in with an enthusiastic crew. They're going to be prepared and I'm ready to go. They've learned a lot over the past couple of races, culminating with a lot of learnings over the last one.

"After a technical issue on the last race, we're happy to be at full fighting force again and I'm happy to see what she can do now the boat is back up to speed. The crew is enthusiastic and ready to go, and we hope to be able to show that it wasn't just a once-off and that we can maintain that sort of pace.

Tom Newsom AQP added: "What I'm excited about for the race ahead is going to the Luzon Strait and then going into the bay area with China and Vietnam because it's going to be busy. It's frantic, with a lot of collision avoidance, and quite a bit of stress. And I enjoy that sort of thing."

James Finney Zhuhai Skipper:

"I'd love to say we'd win again. We've got a new team, so it's just settling them all in. Then I just keep doing the basics right, and hopefully we can get another good result.

"In terms of conditions, it's going to be incredibly hot, with very little wind. I remember this being a surprisingly tough leg, to be honest, the conditions are tough. They're not big or scary, but it's just long. It's hard and it's dealing with each other. That's the real challenge on this leg."

David Hartshorn, Bekezela Skipper:

"What we're about to go through, heat-wise and humidity-wise is going to be tough. Down below deck will be awfully hot.

It'll be hot, sticky, and very humid. You get some big squalls, and you also get some big weather. And I think that's what people forget. You get some really big winds especially towards the Luzon Strait and some quite sporty conditions. The mixture of the heat and humidity will really test the crew on this race..."

Ineke Van Der Weijden, Perseverance Skipper:

"The next race, part of Leg 5, is going to be hot with very light winds. It's going to have some tactical elements to it, like the Doldrums Corridor and a Scoring Gate that is just off the line, which could be either into a wind hole or maybe good winds. It's going to be highly tactical but it's also going to be quite slow.

"Any tactical decisions will probably take a while to show the results. It will be interesting! I have done this race before. What I remember is the heat and the light winds at times can be quite draining on everybody. So, it's also really important to keep the morale up."

Joss Creswell AQP added: "I think spirits are high. We've got very strong round the worlders, and we've got a crew of 50:50 men and women, which is really exciting.

"We've got our ambassadors on board, Sonja and Natalie, sailing with us on Leg5. They've just come out of their training and are great friends with one another, and they bonded very well with the team in this Airlie Beach stopover. And I'm excited. I think we've got a strong team and a good chance of winning."

Nano Antia Bernardez, Yacht Club Punta del Este Skipper:

"The heat and the sun will become super, super, super hot. And the challenge will be to stay cool, to stay fresh, to keep everybody hydrated, to be able to geta good sleep, you know, so we are alternating our watches. And then just very squally. We are a downwind boat; we are a lighter boat and it's a long leg.

"You can still make, you know, half one mistake and get it back into it. And we just want to see what we can do."

Henry Hallatt Qingdao AQP:

"There are two main challenges; one being the doldrums and the heat, and the other being squalls. Squalls in that part of the world come thick and fast so recognising them early and changing sails will be key, and then in the doldrums we just need to think of reasons to stay positive and stay happy."

Dan Bodey UNICEF Skipper:

"The most challenging part of the race to navigate will be the Doldrums Corridor. We have a section where we are allowed to motor and judging that right can make a big difference to our race depending on where the winds are and where the winds aren't. If we can get through that section better than the other boats, we can do much better".

Laura Hampton AQP added: "We are looking to see a lot of hot conditions. We are going to be going through the Doldrums Corridor so we will have no wind at some point. Then we will be looking at some downwind white sails work which will be really nice."

Mike Miller, PSP Logistics Skipper:

"This is one of the most exciting races. It throws everything at us. Light winds, strong winds, cruising downwind and right at the start it's some interesting strong upwind. The challenge for us it to get through the Doldrums Corridor as soon as possible and get into the downwind and whoever does that first will likely win the race."

Hannah Brewis Washington, DC Skipper:

"It's going to be hot which I think will be a challenge for sure. But we know that! I will probably be dreaming of snow, I'm sure, at some point."

AQP Ella Hebron: "We've got the back end of the cyclone. So hopefully we can, for the first day or two, have some pretty decent winds to get us out to the doldrums.

"Then we've got flukey, uncertain winds up through the doldrums and then from then on, it should be steady winds again."

Josh Stickland, Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam Skipper:

"We're reaching the midway point, and It's been five years in the making for me to get to Vietnam. So, I just hope we finish in a good position and do the partner justice.

"As a team we have had a lot of ups and downs which has shown in our results, the team have grown and become self-sufficient at running the boat, which is all I can ask for. I'm really happy with where they are and how they are managing the boat, so hopefully we can show that in the results".

AQP Cameron McCracken: It's probably the toughest race on the whole of the Clipper Race, just because of the heat. It'll be exhausting. It's a very long way. It's tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It does require a decent, healthy bit of character."

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