The end is in sight and the kites are flying after the Clipper Race fleet rounded Fastnet Rock and began the final surge through the Irish Sea to the Finish Line in Liverpool.
The two teams gunning for the overall win – Sanya Serenity Coast and Visit Seattle – remain mid-fleet on Day 4 of the thirteenth and final race of the Clipper 2017-18 Race. Sanya Serenity Coast Skipper Wendy Tuck admits to shadowing her Visit Seattle counterpart Nikki Henderson, saying: “It's been a day of whatever Nikki does, we do. Sometimes she is ahead, sometimes we are. I'm sure if Nikki sneezed so would I.
“In a master move yesterday, when we were halfway through a yankee change (Nikki had just done hers), she tacked, so we did something you don't see often on a Clipper 70 yacht – we did a tack change. It worked well and we didn't lose any time to Visit Seattle.”
With around 24 hours racing left in the 900 nautical mile (nm) dash from Derry-Londonderry to Liverpool, there is less than 1nm between Sanya Serenity Coast and Visit Seattle. Visit Seattle went into this race 14 points behind Sanya Serenity Coast in the overall standings and whilst Visit Seattle has the Joker Card for Race 13 (which will double the race points earned) Skipper Nikki Henderson is far from complacent and is busy looking for an advantage in what has been a tight and tough race so far. She says: “Just trying to sail as fast as we can, catch up with PSP Logistics, shake our shadow – the lovely Wendo and Sanya Serenity Coast team – off our tail.
“We rounded Virtual Mark Fastnet after another pretty dismal day of bad decisions versus Qingdao's and Liverpool 2018's excellent ones. So, it's again the day of picking up our feet, digging deep for that steely determination, and trying our best to catch up for the umpteenth time.”
Qingdao, which went into the race in third place in the overall standings is still yet to drop out of the top two. Whilst the team will be hard pressed to get the overall win, the performance in Race 13 so far means a podium finish is still on the cards and Skipper Chris Kobusch says: “We just rounded Virtual Mark Scilly and finally the boat is flat again. The swap from white sails (Yankee and Staysail) to the spinnaker went smoothly and we are flying along at 10 plus knots towards the next mark.”
Liverpool 2018 remains on track for the perfect homecoming to its home port with the team in the lead for the second consecutive day. Liverpool 2018, along with Qingdao and Garmin, have managed to forge a 20nm advantage on the fourth placed Unicef. Unicef Skipper Bob Beggs comments: “We rounded Virtual Mark Fastnet in fourth place and are now screaming along on a fast reach towards Virtual Mark Scilly. In three hours from now we will be hoisting our code sails (spinnakers) for the final dash up into the Irish Sea and the finishing line situated 15 nautical miles North of Anglesey.”
Now the upwind slog has come to an end, the fleet has once again compressed with just 17nm between Unicef in fourth and the tenth placed HotelPlanner.com. HotelPlanner.com Skipper Conall Morrison reports: “The crew worked their socks off yesterday and the decisions we made going up wind allowed us to bridge the gap to some of the boats ahead. It appears Liverpool 2018 has the bit between its teeth and has stretched away from the whole fleet. I guess the team are keen to get to their home port. Right now we are flying the Yankee 2 and a reefed mainsail, and after the next waypoint off the Scilly Isles, we should be back to proper downwind weather.”