One of the closest races so far in the Clipper 2017-18 Race has ended in a surprise win for Dare To Lead, after the team pulled off an eleventh hour victory in Race 10: The Garmin American Challenge from Seattle, USA, to Panama.
Race 10 was dominated by light winds that compressed the fleet and resulted in the teams being in either visual or AIS range for the majority of the race south, down the western USA and Mexican coasts.
However, a decision to remain west in the last 24 hours of the race, rather than hug the Mexican coastline with the rest of the Clipper Race fleet, paid off for Dare To Lead, with the team breaking away from the main pack whilst in Stealth Mode to cross the finish line at 1059 UTC.
Skipper Dale Smyth said: “We took a gamble in the dark going into Stealth Mode so close to Mandatory Gate 2 and really had to work hard to get ahead of the lead pack.
“After emerging from yesterday’s wind hole, we encountered a strange headwind that blew almost 18 knots. We went to our Yankee 1 and staysail for the first time on this whole race and started beating to weather. The crew worked really hard and managed to leverage some advantage over the lead pack. I’m really proud of everyone on board and they definitely deserve this win.
“It really has been an amazing race, incredible to think that after thousands of miles that the teams remained so close together for most of the race. We made and lost marginal gains on each other and it really kept us on our toes and focussed on boat speed.”
Although the original finish line for Race 10 was in an area due south of Isla Jicaron in Panama, the Clipper Race Committee today informed all eleven teams that Mandatory Gate 2 would now signal race end. As outlined in the Race 10 Course Instructions, any of the mandatory gates could have been used as a potential finish line should the Race Committee deem it necessary to conclude the race in interest of the race and crew.
Clipper Race Director Mark Light said: “We had been keeping a close eye on the weather as the fleet moved further south and watching the conditions ahead of. In between Mandatory Gates 2 and 3 we could see a big wind hole opening up with very little breeze for the next two or three days.
“Therefore, the only sensible option was to finish Race 10 at Mandatory Gate 2, rather than have the fleet drifting aimlessly and trying desperately to get to the next gate.
“The race south from Seattle to this point had been really competitive, with close racing all the way, lots of spinnaker work and really good breeze. We didn’t want the race to turn into a massive drift at the end.”
After crossing the finish line, the Clipper Race fleet will motor sail towards a scheduled re-fuel stop in Costa Rica, before continuing on to Flamenco Island Marina on the Pacific Ocean side of the Panama Canal.
After traversing the Panama Canal – one of the real highlights of the circumnavigation – the Clipper Race fleet will regroup to begin the second and final stage of the US Coast-to-Coast Leg 7, a 2,000nm race from Panama to New York, which will begin on Friday 3 June.
To follow the progress of the rest of the Clipper Race fleet, keep an eye on the Race Viewer, and you can also hear about life on board in the Skipper Blogs and Crew Diaries.