And they’re off – much to the delight of the majority of Clipper Race skippers and their crews, the fourth day of Race 7: The Forever Tropical Paradise Race to Sanya, China, has brought about some long-awaited breeze which has allowed the pack to start making some good progress towards its destination.
With the wind speed and direction not mirroring the forecast, teams are currently experiencing much faster conditions, as they enter the Doldrums Corridor, than expected and will now have to think more carefully about which tactics to use.
The upcoming tactical moves are weighing heavily on Sanya Serenity Coast, which remains in first place and holds a ten nautical mile advantage on the fleet.
Serenity skipper Wendy Tuck says: “The next big decision will be whether we use the Doldrums Corridor to motor four degrees and 36 hours, meaning just an average of six knots, or do we just keep sailing, where we may be able to sustain higher speeds, or may end up in a wind hole. Will wait for the next weather before we make a decision, much head scratching will be taking place.”
Visit Seattle has worked its way up to second place today and, although the team is further east, it is more-or-less neck and neck distance-wise with third placed PSP Logistics which is keeping the former team on its toes with skipper Matt Mitchell reporting: “Progress is great at the moment.
“We lost a bit of ground earlier as I had the guys sail a slightly higher course than those around us meaning we were a little off the pace, however we seem to have sorted that out now and are holding our own.”
Garmin, in fourth place, continues to make steady progress and has been quietly working its way up the leaderboard during Race 7. Skipper Gaetan Thomas reports today that the team is working well and enjoying the faster paced ocean racing.
Having held podium spots for the first four days of racing, Dare To Lead is in fifth place today but is expected to slip down the leaderboard over the coming hours.
Following a water maker issue on board ninth placed Liverpool 2018, which poses no immediate problems to crew, and under the guidance of Clipper Race Director Mark Light, the fifth placed team, which is carrying a fleet spare part, is set to rendezvous with the pink boat today.
Speaking from on board Dare To Lead, skipper Dale Smyth says: “We were happy to break free of the clutches of the windless zone. We are carrying a spare water maker on board and are needing to stop and wait to give it to Liverpool 2018 as it is having a couple of issues with the current one.
“This is a pity as we are sitting high up in the fleet but our absolute first priority out here is to look after each other and race second. We will rendezvous with them at first light tomorrow and give them the replacement part.”
Nasdaq has also been working its way up the leaderboard and now holds sixth place ahead of Unicef which slipped into seventh place. Qingdao has also struggled to keep its podium place and has dropped from second place yesterday to eighth.
The only two teams yet to join the party in the Doldrums Corridor are HotelPlanner.com in 10th and GREAT Britain in 11th. Both teams have become separated from the main pack after getting caught in a wind hole yesterday and missing out on the stronger breeze. However, as the teams head further north through the Doldrums Corridor, they will be hoping to accelerate away into the stronger winds.
Despite this HotelPlanner.com skipper Conall Morrison reports, the team morale is high and crew remain focused on the task at hand: “Starboard Watch has done a great job going through evolutions and we now making good speed towards the southern Doldrums Corridor gate.”
Looking ahead, the upcoming decision on whether to utilise the Doldrums Corridor rule will be a difficult one for teams to make but will be a tactically fascinating watch from home. The unexpected stronger wind speeds could offer teams the advantage over a steady six knots of motor-sailing, but the fickle winds of the Solomon Sea could see teams becalmed whilst competition accelerates ahead.