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Selden USA Newsletter: Clipper boats in Seattle, VOR en route to Newport


Clipper boats in Seattle, VOR boats bound for Newport, Rhode Island

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Qingdao claims its first victory in the Mighty Pacific Leg of the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race - photo © Jean-Marcus Strole

Dear [recipient name]

If you've ever visited Seattle, odds are good that your travels took you across the Alaskan Way Viaduct, an elevated highway that was constructed in 1953 and offers sweeping views for northbound traffic (read: from the upper deck) of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains to the west, as well as a foreshortened view of Seattle's skyline to the east. While I've lived in Seattle for a long time, I still look forward to the views of Puget Sound and the saw blade-like peaks, however I'm happy to report that when my wife and I drove this stretch of highway late Sunday afternoon, my eyes were riveted on the fleet of 12 Tony Castro-designed Clipper 70s that arrived in town over the weekend for the Clipper Round The World Race's Seattle stopover.

Luckily, my wife was driving, giving me a handful of precious seconds to study the boats that have carried sailors from the United Kingdom, by way of Australia and most recently, Qingdao, China, all the way to the Emerald City. While I was some distance above and to the east of the Clipper fleet, the boats looked to be in surprisingly good condition after having just sailed 5,528 nautical miles since their last pit stop, and I didn't spot (again, from my removed vantage point) any of the snapped bowsprits or the sheered-off helming station that were the calling cards of this same fleet's 2016 Seattle visit.

Sunset in Seattle featuring the Westin Hotel Seattle and the Monorail - Clipper 2017-18 Race - photo © Clipper Race
Sunset in Seattle featuring the Westin Hotel Seattle and the Monorail - Clipper 2017-18 Race - photo © Clipper Race

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Mind you, this certainly doesn't mean that teams didn't experience a proper Northern Pacific soup fight getting here, as most boats encountered ferocious conditions as they crossed a body of water whose moniker evokes mental images of tropical breezes and gently swaying palm trees.

Instead, it just means that the fleet made a darn good sight in downtown Seattle, a town with a strong sailing and maritime tradition but one that's geographically isolated from other sailing hotbeds. Stir in Seattle adventure-loving culture and its tech-heavy industries (read: discretionary income), and the Clipper Race is a natural fit a town where many residents want to broaden their horizons, be it in the context of a start-up venture or an ocean crossing.

Qingdao Clipper Race Skipper Chris Kobusch - photo © Clipper Ventures
Qingdao Clipper Race Skipper Chris Kobusch - photo © Clipper Ventures

After 5,528 nautical miles of racing, Qingdao took line honours in the Clipper Race's Mighty Pacific Leg, followed by Sanya Serenity Coast and Unicef. "It was a good race, I think we just sailed really well and it paid off in the end," said Qingdao's skipper, Chris Kobusch, in an official press release, of their passage which included 80-knot winds and 45-foot seas. "It was a bit nerve wracking when we ran out of wind about 80 miles of the finish line, but luckily Sanya Serenity Coast and Unicef didn't manage to catch up, which was good."

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The Clipper Round The World Yacht Race fleet will be in Seattle until Sunday, April 29, so if your travels take you to Seattle (or across its soon-to-be demolished Alaskan Way Viaduct), be sure to swing by Bell Harbor Marina and visit the fleet. If you run into any sailors, odds are excellent that you will hear some wild-haired tales of offshore sailing involving hurricane-force winds, massive seas and wide open horizons.

Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 9: The Race to the Emerald City, Day 26 - photo © Clipper Race
Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 9: The Race to the Emerald City, Day 26 - photo © Clipper Race

Speaking of big offshore passages, the fully crewed Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) fleet enjoyed a great weekend in Itajai, Brazil, that included inshore racing on Friday, April 20, and culminated with Sunday's start of Leg 8, which will take the seven-strong VOR fleet from Itajai to Newport, Rhode Island, which is the only U.S. stop during this year's edition of this classic race.

This leg also hold special significance for Vestas/11th Hour Racing, the American and Danish-flagged entry that's being skippered by Newport native Charlie Enright. Despite a strong and promising start to the 2017/2018 edition of the VOR, Vestas/11th Hour Racing has suffered a series of catastrophes that ranged from a fatal collision with a fishing boat as the team neared Leg 4's finishing line, some 30 miles off of Hong Kong, to a dismasting near Cape Horn that forced the team to retire from racing and (eventually) motor sail their stricken steed from the Falkland Islands to Brazil.

Charlie Enright, Vestas 11th Hour Racing - Leg 2, Volvo Ocean Race - photo © Martin Keruzore / Volvo Ocean Race
Charlie Enright, Vestas 11th Hour Racing - Leg 2, Volvo Ocean Race - photo © Martin Keruzore / Volvo Ocean Race

"Newport is a sailing mecca of the United States," said Enright in an official VOR release. "People are passionate about their sailing there and it will be an amazing experience. We want to get a great result sailing into Newport and I'm really looking forward to it."

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As of this writing, Turn The Tide on Plastic is leading the chase, followed by Team Brunel and Scallywag, however only 0.4 nautical miles separate these top three boats, while only 1.7 nautical miles separates Turn The Tide on Plastic from Team AkzoNobel, who is currently acting as racecourse sweeper.

Leg 6 to Auckland, day 6 on board Turn the Tide on Plastic. Drone shots. 12 February,. - photo © James Blake / Volvo Ocean Race
Leg 6 to Auckland, day 6 on board Turn the Tide on Plastic. Drone shots. 12 February,. - photo © James Blake / Volvo Ocean Race wishes a fast and safe passage to all VOR teams, and the U.S. office is looking forward to sailing with the Clipper boats tomorrow as part of the event's official media day.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt, North American Editor

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