Clipper Round the World: Californian drag race

The wind has returned on Day 5 of Race 10 – the Garmin American Challenge from Seattle to Panama, but yesterday's wind hole off the Californian coast has made a big impact, with the Clipper Race fleet more compressed than ever.

For the first time since the 4,100 nautical mile race began, there's been a change at the top of the board. In a well-timed easterly gybe, Visit Seattle sneaked ahead of Qingdao, though things remain exceptionally close, with just 6nm currently separating the top four teams.

On losing the lead, Qingdao skipper Chris Kobusch says: “We sailed past the Virtual Mark ‘Read’, but unfortunately, we lost the lead to Visit Seattle which just sailed faster over the past 24 hours. We couldn't match their speed.

“Now we are chasing them and have just under 3000nm to get the lead back. But we also have Dare To Lead chasing us and we have to be careful not to lose more ground to them.”

The top four teams, like the rest of the fleet, remain east of the rhumbline, chasing the stronger inshore winds.

Dale Smyth, skipper of the third placed Dare To Lead, comments: “Eventually we got the boat moving again out of our small wind hole and we actually have had a day of really pleasant sailing in a really flat sea. The forecast for the next few days also looks good, so it going to be a case of incremental gains or losses as we are all under a fairly similar sail plan with our spinnakers up.”

The chasing pack also was able to use the return of the wind to make up some ground, with the now fifth placed HotelPlanner.com just 15 nautical miles off the pace.

Skipper Conall Morrison reports: “A nice day in the office today. Last night saw us gybing inshore off the California coast, looking for wind further inshore, which we found this afternoon. This wind allowed us and the boats around us to close slightly on race leaders Qingdao. Racing remains tight and at present we have six boats within AIS range.

“The team is working really well together, gybes are becoming very slick, and our last spinnaker change was super smooth.”

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