The first teams have crossed the end gate of the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint on Day 18 of Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya and have taken very different approaches to getting there, after a wind hole threatened to halt the progress of the fleet.
Qingdao retains first position for a fifth consecutive day but its lead has been cut to around 30 nautical miles after it was caught in a wind hole, which it now appears to have escaped from in order to complete the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.
Second-placed PSP Logistics also reached the western gate today after taking evasive action to avoid the wind hole by heading north, which helped the team to move up two positions on the leaderboard, closing in on the race leader.
Skipper Matt Mitchell explains: “We have been rocking along most of the night. Our northerly route got us into the strong north easterlies early and we have been in the low teens of boat speed ever since. The transition from relatively light wind to strong wind was really smooth and the guys handled it really well.”
Looking ahead, he adds: “The wind is now starting to shift further behind us so the spinnaker will be going up soon which will continue to push us on our way. With a little over 900 nautical miles to go this really is the final stage of the race and the top pack of boats are all very close when looking at distance to finish so it could be anybody's for the taking.”
Another team to have taken a northerly route is fourth placed Sanya Serenity Coast which, along with Dare To Lead currently further south in third place, is expected to complete the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint shortly. The winner will be announced once all teams have crossed the westerly gate and elapsed times declared.
Around 90nm behind the race leader is fifth-placed Unicef and skipper Bob Beggs reports: “We are sprinting along again after a few hours in nil wind going nowhere, but the wind hole was short lived than anticipated so we are currently under Code 3 (heavyweight spinnaker) surfing up to 20 knots on occasion.”
One team that has not lucky enough to escape the clutches of the lighter winds is Liverpool 2018, currently in sixth place, with skipper Lance Shepherd reporting: “We sailed crash, bang, wallop into the wind hole that we have been aiming to sneakily avoid for the past seven days.”
The wind hole is not the only obstacle the team has had to contend with and he adds: “For the past 24 hours we have been plagued by fishing buoys on our radars, it's a bit like playing real life Pacman. These buoys seem to be varying shapes and sizes, travelling at different speeds and in different directions.
“The pink boat is avoiding these buoys at all costs for fear that the crew will be listed as 'may contain the crew of Liverpool 2018' on John West tuna tins for years to come...”
Further south, Visit Seattle, Garmin and HotelPlanner.com, in seventh, eighth and ninth respectively, have started their Elliot Brown Ocean Sprints and are choosing their best tactics carefully. Garmin skipper, Gaetan Thomas, explains: “Wind hole to the north, wind hole to the west, so playing in between to at least have some speed which we had but we don't know where everybody is so the mystery is on.”
Nasdaq has slipped a position to tenth place today and is expected to start the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint later today along with GREAT Britain in eleventh. The latter’s skipper, David Hartshorn, reports: over the last 24 hours, the winds have been lighter than we had anticipated and not quite the angles we had hoped for from the forecast. Although meteorology is a science there is always going to be local variants and some practical application to be undertaken.
“With the Elliott Brown Ocean Sprint ahead of us, and the transition from the high-pressure weather influence back into the North Easterly Monsoon Trade Winds, routing is going to be a challenge over the next 24 hours.”
Clipper Race Meteorologist has good news for the fleet reporting that the North Easterlies are on their way for the teams that do not have them already and that squall activity will be less intense although some strong individual ones still to watch out for.
Keep up to date with how this affects the fleet via the Clipper Race Viewer and hear more from the skippers and crew on the Team Pages.
Nominations for the Stormhoek Social Spirit Awards are now open, so please visit the Stormhoek Wines Facebook Page to say which Clipper Race team you feel has shown the most social spirit on this race and provide a reason why.
Please note that some of the teams are currently in an area of poor signal due to Inmarsat currently experiencing an unscheduled loss of Network service in I-4 Asia-Pacific region.
The fleet still have full access to their Iridium satellite phones and are therefore still in contact with the Race Office but this does mean that there may be some delay with sending back some of the blogs from the boats; these will be posted on the Clipper Race website as soon as possible.
We have received confirmation from our airtime provider that the satellite network in the region should be back up and operational in the next few hours after a complete restart of service to the APAC I4 satellite is being carried out.
Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race will finish in Sanya Serenity Marina in Sanya, and the fleet is expected to arrive between 21 – 25 February after roughly 23-27 days at sea. Although the finish line is over 1,000 nautical miles away, crews are excited to explore Sanya and all it has to offer during the stopover, and you can find out more here.